January 17, 2013
FaceTime Unchained: AT&T Opens The Popular Service To More Users
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
It´s a story that never seems to end. AT&T announced yesterday that they will begin allowing all eligible customers with a tiered data plan to use FaceTime over their cellular network. While this announcement opens up the availability to use this service a little more, it also keeps certain customers out in the cold, namely customers with grandfathered unlimited plans.
In a blog post yesterday, Mark Collins discussed AT&T´s decision to make FaceTime calls available to iPhone 4S and 5 customers with any tiered data plan.
“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,” explains Collins. “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.”
Apple opened a can of worms when they announced iOS 6 would allow for FaceTime calls over 3G and 4G. Carriers such as Sprint and Verizon had no qualms with allowing their subscribers to take advantage of this new feature. As you may remember, AT&T made their customers ditch their grandfathered and other tiered plans for their new “Mobile Share” plans if they wanted to use FaceTime over the cellular network.
This brought plenty of criticism from consumer advocacy groups like Free Press, Public Knowledge and New America Foundation. These groups claimed that AT&T´s actions violated net neutrality laws by forcing their customers into plans with fewer options and less data.
AT&T´s Bob Quinn called these accusations “another knee-jerk reaction” and insisted that his company hadn´t violated any net neutrality laws. According to Quinn, the fact that AT&T sold the iPhone intact — meaning they didn´t block the FaceTime app from working with WiFi — meant that they hadn´t violated any laws.
The company later stopped fighting these companies and began offering FaceTime over cellular to 4G customers on a tiered data plan, stubbornly refusing to open this service to those customers with a grandfathered unlimited plan. Several days later, some members of the MacRumors forums with unlimited AT&T data plans began to notice that they were able to use FaceTime on their iPhone 5, a quiet improvement which AT&T never really addressed.
Now, it seems the eligibility pool has been limited to iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 users (as well as 3rd and 4th generation iPad with cellular and iPad mini with cellular) with a tiered data plan. Previously, AT&T only allowed the video chat service over 4G, limiting it to iPhone 5 users. Now, 3G customers also have access to the service, bringing in iPhone 4S users. Though iPhone 4 and iPad 2 have FaceTime installed, Apple has restricted them from using the service over cellular.
While unlimited customers had previously been able to make use of FaceTime calls, it seems AT&T has since fixed this hole, allowing only customers with a tiered data plan to take advantage of the popular service.