Little by little AT&T is backing off its initial policy of enabling Apple’s FaceTime service over a cellular connection to only certain customers. On Wednesday, the carrier said it would open the capability to iPhone or iPad users on tiered data plans. The update will be rolled out sometime over the next couple of weeks.
AT&T explained the decision on its corporate blog:
As a result of ongoing testing, we’re announcing AT&T will enable FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge for customers with any tiered data plan using a compatible iOS device.
This means iPhone 4S customers with tiered plans will be able to make FaceTime calls over the AT&T cellular network. AT&T previously made FaceTime over Cellular available to customers with a Mobile Share plan and those with an LTE device on tiered plans.
FaceTime has always been available to any subscriber for use over a Wi-Fi connection, but AT&T came under fire this summer when Apple enabled it for cell networks and the carrier said only customers who subscribed to one of its new Mobile Share plans could use it. Several open internet groups threatened to file complaints with the FCC, saying AT&T’s action was a violation of net neutrality.
In November, the carrier opened the service to anyone with an LTE device. Now the only AT&T customers who are still blocked from the service are those still using one of its older unlimited service plans. If you’re still grandfathered into an unlimited plan and waiting for FaceTime you may be waiting a while, however. AT&T is trying to move unlimited customers onto capped data tiers so it will be reluctant to give those customers access to a video chat service guaranteed to consume even more 3G and 4G network capacity.