When Apple announced that iOS 6 would bring FaceTime over cellular, the iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular-owning world rejoiced at finally being free from the shackles of local wireless Internet. When AT&T announced that it would only be unlocking those shackles for certain users, the world said, “That’s the final straw, AT&T. I’m switching to Verizon.”
Today, the Internet provider announced that it has changed its mind… sort of. AT&T will allow users to make FaceTime calls over cellular without requiring their Mobile Share plan, but it is limited to LTE-enabled devices on tiered data plans. Obviously, this is another way that AT&T is trying to get subscribers to relinquish their unlimited data plans from years gone by.
AT&T is the only mobile phone company on contract with Apple that restricts users’ FaceTime capability. The company has never tried to explain why, but consumers have cried fowl since the announcement was first made. Due to public outcry, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started looking into whether AT&T was violating net neutrality rules. The company may have decided to loosen its restrictions in order to avoid any more attention from the FCC.
AT&T’s lift on FaceTime over cellular ban will roll out over the next week or so. It is only available on the iPhone 5 and the third and fourth-generation iPads with cellular capability. Additionally, it is only available for subscribers on a tiered plan. So, if you were smart enough to stay on your unlimited data plan when AT&T tricked people into switching to limited data plans, you can’t use FaceTime over cellular either. Ironically, people with unlimited data are the ones who would benefit the most from the service.
If you were thinking of switching from AT&T to another Internet provider because the company seems to be taking advantage of its customers, this news probably won’t change your mind. However, if you are already a tiered subscriber with an iPhone 5 or third-generation iPad with 4G LTE capability (fourth-generation iPads and iPad minis with 4G LTE will be out later this month), then you are in luck. You can FaceTime with your mom without consequence. Have at it.