AT&T responds to FaceTime, network flap; You'll use Wi-Fi anyway

AT&T responds to FaceTime, network flap; You'll use Wi-Fi anyway

Summary: Using FaceTime over AT&T's network may sound like a great idea---until you get the data bill. In any case, AT&T says the FaceTime flap has nothing to do with net neutrality.

TOPICS: Mobility, 4G, Apple, AT&T

AT&T has responded to a good bit of hubbub over its decision to limit FaceTime over its network in select instances. In a nutshell, AT&T said its management of FaceTime usage over its mobile broadband network isn't a net neutrality issue.


Although I understand that some folks are dying to use FaceTime over AT&T's mobile broadband network, the reality (Net neutrality or otherwise) is that the flap is overblown.

In a blog post, AT&T's public policy chief Bob Quinn said the complaints by groups like Public Knowledge are overblown. Quinn said:

Although the rules don’t require it, some preloaded apps are available without charge on phones sold by AT&T, including FaceTime, but subject to some reasonable restrictions. To date, all of the preloaded video chat applications on the phones we sell, including FaceTime, have been limited to Wi-Fi. With the introduction of iOS6, we will extend the availability of the preloaded FaceTime to our mobile broadband network for our Mobile Share data plans which were designed to make more data available to consumers. To be clear, customers will continue to be able to use FaceTime over Wi-Fi irrespective of the data plan they choose. We are broadening our customers’ ability to use the preloaded version of FaceTime but limiting it in this manner to our newly developed AT&T Mobile Share data plans out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience.

OK fine. In summary, AT&T will allow FaceTime to be used over its 4G network and on shared data plans. AT&T will monitor FaceTime usage largely to ensure its network doesn't crumble.

Also see: The future of mobile calls is VoIP and video

Needless to say, AT&T's response has caused some angst among tech's chattering class. Here's the reality:

  • FaceTime usage over AT&T's mobile network will be a non-starter once you get your first bill and burn through your data caps.
  • AT&T wants you to use FaceTime so it can charge you more for data.
  • The company has a right to ensure its network doesn't unravel completely as long as it’s transparent about it.

In the end, I'm willing to bet that most FaceTime usage will be over Wi-Fi anyway simply due to personal cost. 

Topics: Mobility, 4G, Apple, AT&T

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  • Those with grandfathered unlimited plans

    wouldn't have to worry about the data charges.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • That's the catch...

      Notice they say "shared data plans." I'm not 100% about AT&T, but I know that Verizon is "encouraging" users with grandfathered unlimited data plans to switch to a shared plan. How? Well in Verizon's case, they won't sell you a subsidized new phone when you're eligible. You pay full price (e.g. $649 for the iPhone 4S 16 GB) if you don't give up you're unlimited data plan.

      My guess is the use of "shared data plan" isn't accidental as it's my understanding grandfathered unlimited data plans are on a per line basis. So, if you want Facetime over 4G, say goodbye to unlimited data.
      • That's the point

        They don't want people using unlimited data, they never did.

        They're just using this to try and get some of them to pay out the nose for their data like everyone else.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • Those grandfathered plans dont include 4G. You want 4G you have to

      abandon the unlimited data. No 4G, no facetime.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Good for them

        But I was talking about using it over 3G.

        What does 4G have to do with using it over 3G?
        Michael Alan Goff
      • 4g and FaceTime

        Not true. I have the original unlimited data plan and have 4g on my iPhone 4S and don't pay extra at all. And I got my iPhone 4S for the $199 upgrade price only
        Sarah Gutting
  • Good bye AT&T

    I want to use FaceTime over cellar. If I am over the limits, I'm willing to pay for more. That'll be my choice. I don't need AT&T to choose for me. I'll be switching to another carrier. I am loyal to Apple not AT&T.
  • Deliver what you sold

    AT&T sold a lot of earlier adopters unlimited data service. They should just build out their infrastructure, deliver the services they sold and get on with their life.

    Sure, this probably means a cell tower every 50 feet on every street in every metropolitan area. So what? They have wires going to all those buildings already - they're the phone company! The FCC needs powers similar to the FDIC. They should be able to take over, and if necessary run, failed telcos just as the FDIC does failed banks.
    • That's a pipe dream...

      And why are they "failed"? Because you don't like their policies? That's quite different than the banks failing financially because of the home loan shell games they got burned on.