Since the introduction of the iPhone 4 in the summer of 2010, Apple has offered a feature called FaceTime, which allows users to make video calls between iOS devices. There was one catch however- FaceTime calls could only be conducted over Wi-Fi. Presumably this was to save carrier bandwidth, as video data could have potentially chocked cellular networks. In iOS 6, the forthcoming release of the mobile operating system, Apple plans to make FaceTime calls 3G compatible as well.
Since iOS 6 beta 3 was released developers, many have been at work digging around to find what has changed in this latest build. MacRumors is now reporting that evidence has been found suggesting that AT&T will at a minimum restrict, if not outright charge, for the privilege of using FaceTime over cellular data.
In the latest build of iOS 6, a popup notification, very similar to the notification presented when activating data tethering, is displayed to the user when trying to activate FaceTime over cellular data. If one reads between the lines it seems that AT&T will be redirecting users to their website to purchase access to FaceTime on their network.
This behavior seems to be limited to AT&T, at least for now, as 9to5Mac is reporting that when trying to access FaceTime over Verizon’s 3G network, no such notification is presented to the user. Lastly, AT&T has released a statement, similar to the one they released in June regarding FaceTime functionality on their network:
We’re working closely with Apple on the new developer build of iOS 6 and
we’ll share more information with our customers as it becomes available.
To my mind, the only thing that saves AT&T from a mass customer exodus is the speed of their network. They are unquestionably faster than the other big carriers in here in the US. That said, they seem to nickel and dime customers more than the other carriers, while having a pretty feeble network (better now than it once was though).
[UPDATE] AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was confronted with these rumors, and simply stated that they are continuing to work with Apple and the technology. He also noted that it was “too early” to discuss pricing.
At this juncture, it seems that AT&T will indeed be charging for the service. Typical.