Apple’s FaceTime Goes Democratic on AT&T

overview_facetimeAfter months of user complaints and warnings from advocacy groups, AT&T (NYSE:T) has decided to allow subscribers of all data plans to use Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) FaceTime video chatting feature over a cellular connection. The feature will still require a compatible device using iOS 6, which includes iPhone 4S and upward and the third-generation iPad and ahead.

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“We have already begun updating our systems and processes and expect to start rolling the update out to customers on an ongoing basis beginning in the next couple of weeks,” AT&T senior vice president Mark Collins wrote on the company’s blog on Wednesday. “Customers do not need to do anything — the update will be applied automatically over the next few months.”

Until now, the wireless provider only allowed users of its new data share plans to use the feature outside of Wi-Fi connections. However, its restrictive decision attracted censure from several advocacy groups, which even threated the company with U.S. Federal Communications Commissions action. At the time, AT&T’s Jim Cicconi said concerns about network performance under the increased load from FaceTime had forced the company into a slow rollout.

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However, users of AT&T’s grandfathered and now-nonexistent unlimited data plans will still need to switch to a new tiered data plan to get access to the feature. Rivals Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint (NYSE:S) already allow FaceTime over cellular for all customers, including those on unlimited data plans, with no restrictions.

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