AT&T has just announced it is making good on its promise to allow devices like the iPhone 4S, as long as it's on a tiered or data share plan, the ability to utilize Apple's FaceTime video calling service on its cellular network. The rollout is slated to take several months and will be applied automatically by AT&T for eligible customers. Still, those out there like myself who have a kung-fu grip on their unlimited plans are left out in the cold. AT&T did state in their blog recently that they would assess FaceTime impact for unlimited users on its network. So, hopefully, the AT&T network isn't as fragile as they are alluding to and can hold up enough so that their most loyal customers, like myself, won't be out of the loop for too long. Fingers crossed.
When FaceTime over Cellular launched in September 2012, we explained that we wanted to roll it out gradually to ensure the service had minimal impact on the mobile experience for all of our customers.
As a result of ongoing testing, we’re announcing AT&T will enable FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge for customers with any tiered data plan using a compatible iOS device.
This means iPhone 4S customers with tiered plans will be able to make FaceTime calls over the AT&T cellular network. AT&T previously made FaceTime over Cellular available to customers with a Mobile Share plan and those with an LTE device on tiered plans.
Of course, FaceTime over Wi-Fi remains available for all customers who have a compatible iPhone or iPad.
We have already begun updating our systems and processes and expect to start rolling the update out to customers on an ongoing basis beginning in the next couple of weeks. Customers do not need to do anything—the update will be applied automatically over the next few months.
Only AT&T offers benefits like the ability to talk and surf at the same time, the fastest download speeds using AT&T 4G LTE, and a variety of flexible plan options to meet customers’ needs. - AT&T
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AT&T has announced on its public policy blog that FaceTime over cellular will be available to iPhone and iPad users with several caveats. Users must have LTE versions of iPads and iPhones and must be on a tiered plan. Previously FaceTime on AT&T was only available for customers on mobile shared plans. However, the rollout is not immediate. AT&T expects it to take 8-10 weeks, which is unusually slow. The decision has come after much pressure from customers, public advocacy groups, and the media.
Still, AT&T's policy change is a half-hearted attempt as it doesn't fully cave in to demands. It omits a larger group of customer that are not on LTE from using FaceTime over cellular on 3G and "4G." Also, it continues its hostility toward customers of grandfathered unlimited data plans on any cellular mode. The FCC has warned that discriminatory practices on citizen owned spectrums will not be tolerated in accordance with net neutrality regulations. AT&T is cherry picking customers based on monetary gains and not necessarily reasons of management of network congestion.
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The fine folks over at FreePress are asking the public to take action in an attempt to convince AT&T to reconsiders its position on blocking iOS 6 feature FaceTime over Cellular for all customers unless they switch to a Mobile Share plan. It's an obvious money-grab, a way to encourage its unlimited data users to leave those plans behind, and it shows preferential treatment on how users can use their own data plans. We're signing, and we encourage you to do the same. According to Public Knowledge:
“By blocking FaceTime for many of its customers, AT&T is violating the FCC’s Open Internet rules. These rules state that mobile providers shall not ‘block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.’ Although carriers are permitted to engage in ‘reasonable network management,’ there is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime, and another not. ‘Over-the-top’ communications services like FaceTime are a threat to carriers’ revenue, but they should respond by competing with these services and not by engaging in discriminatory behavior.”
Read More | FreePress
The other day we talked about how AT&T charging for FaceTime over Cellular is consumer robbery, and today we've gotten word from Sprint that it agrees, and therefore will not be charging customers extra to use the new iOS 6 feature. When iOS 6 goes public this fall, owners of the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, the next-generation iPhone, iPad 2, and the new iPad will all have access to FaceTime when on 3G and LTE connections. According to Sprint, it's "committed to our unlimited data, and that means not charging for data consumption based on the application." Good on them for that. Now we're just waiting on Verizon to make the same move.
With the release of iOS 6 beta 3 yesterday, a disturbing "feature" was uncovered. Some users on with AT&T iPhones are reporting that, when they attempt to enable FaceTime over Cellular, a prompt pops up that tells the user to contact AT&T in order to enable the feature. Many are assuming that this means that AT&T will be looking to charge a premium for customers to use FaceTime over its data connection, and if that is the case, it is straight up consumer robbery.