AT&T (NYSE:T) has announced it will allow users of all Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) LTE-capable devices to access the FaceTime video-calling feature over its cellular network, as long as they are on a tiered data plan. Compatible devices include the iPhone 5, the iPad mini, and the third- and fourth-generation iPads running Apple’s iOS 6 operating system.
The data provider said in a statement on Thursday that the feature will be rolled out in another eight to ten weeks. However, users of older iPhones will still have to be on one of AT&T’s mobile share plans to use the Apple video chat program on a cellular network. Those with LTE devices but on the old grandfathered unlimited data plans will also be excluded.
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AT&T was criticized and threatened with regulatory complaints by several consumer rights groups when it previously announced restricting FaceTime to Wi-Fi. Public interest groups Free Press and Public Knowledge also expressed dissatisfaction with the latest change, saying in statements made on Thursday that they would take the issue to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission unless AT&T brought FaceTime to all its customers in a “timely manner.”
AT&T’s senior vice president Jim Cicconi wrote on the company’s blog that the initial FaceTime over cellular rollout was restricted to mobile share plans so the company could assess the impact on the network. He added that AT&T expected to be able to offer the feature to more customers on other billing plans in the “near future.”
Rivals Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint (NYSE:S) allow the service to LTE devices on their respective cellular networks without an extra charge and also don’t limit access to shared data plan customers. Verizon even allows the free video calls on legacy unlimited plans.
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