AT&T has drawn complaints from some subscribers and pundits for its decision to block those who are on its grandfathered unlimited data plan from using the FaceTime video chat app over its cellular-wireless network.
FaceTime has been around for years, but it has been restricted to Wi-Fi connections. That’s going to change soon, though: a version that can run over a cellular connection will be part of iOS 6.
AT&T announced a few days ago that it won’t charge an additional fee for its subscribers who want to access this service, but it will require them to be on one of its Mobile Share plans — these are a set of tiered data plans that will debut tomorrow.
A statement from the company reads, in part:
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.
Too Many Users, Not Enough Bandwidth
Ever since the iPhone and other smartphones took off in popularity, AT&T has struggled to meet their users’ demands for wireless access to the Internet. Clearly, the company feels it could not support large numbers of iPhone owners using FaceTime to frequently make video calls.
That said, at a time when text messages are replacing voice calls, video chatting via phone has yet to become a mainstream activity.
Mobile Share Only
While much of the hoopla has surrounded shutting out those with an unlimited data plan, another group will also be closed out of using FaceTime on their iPhone: those who have one of AT&T’s older tiered plans. The only AT&T subscribers who will be able to use this video-conferencing service are those with a Mobile Share plan.
The older tiered plans enable users to pick how many voice minutes they want to use, but Mobile Share will automatically unclude unlimited voice minutes. Therefore, these plans cost more than tthe ones many AT&T subscribers have currently.