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Summary:

A new “Wi-Fi Plus Cellular” feature appears in the latest beta build of iOS 6. This should allow background synchronization for certain native applications but appears to include FaceTime as well, indicating that iOS 6 will support seamless FaceTime calls moving from Wi-Fi to mobile broadband.

wi-fi-plus-cellular

The eagle-eyed crowd at Apple Insider spotted a new setting in the latest iOS 6 beta called “Wi-Fi Plus Cellular”. When enabled, the feature should allow iOS 6 devices to keep synchronizing data when initially on a Wi-Fi network that either slows down or loses signal. Interestingly, FaceTime shows as one of the apps that can be synchronized on Wi-Fi or cellular.

This feature isn’t as dramatic as the one from Connectify, which bridges both Wi-Fi and mobile broadband to be used as a single, and presumably faster, data pipe, but it’s still useful. The description of the feature on my iPhone, for example reads, “Allow apps having trouble with Wi-Fi to use cellular data.”

Of course, the iPhone — and all other smartphones, for that matter — transition to cellular networks when not in range of Wi-Fi or if the Wi-Fi radio is turned off. The difference with this new feature is for app synchronization; the settings for which are directly underneath the new Wi-Fi Plus Cellular setting.

As I understand it then, this seamless connection transition applies to synchronization of iCloud documents, iTunes, Passbook updates, and your Safari reading list. FaceTime also appears here and although we don’t “sync” much data on FaceTime, this could mean that FaceTime calls started over Wi-Fi could transition automatically to mobile broadband networks.

Sounds great, but then again, FaceTime over cellular may be a premium service offered by carriers. We have speakers from two of the four top U.S. cellular operators at our Mobilize 2012 event next month where video calling over mobile broadband is sure to be a hot topic.

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  1. if it’s a premium service they’re going to use a VPN which seems like the wrong move here.

    I would much rather see SCTP (RFC 2960) pushed instead as it allows for multi-homed connections with different IPs. So you could have seamless handoffs without having a cell provider VPN.

    Apple could implement SCTP on all of their iCloud servers and FT clients.

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