AT&T Plans to Block 3G FaceTime for Non-mobile Share Customers

FaceTime on iPhone 4S

Source: FaceTime on iPhone 4S | Apple

Last Wednesday, AT&T published a public letter which defends its decision to block FaceTime calls over 3G for customers who haven’t switched to their new shared data plans. The telco further pointed out that its policy is in compliance with the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules. That’s because the network carrier does not offer its own competing pre-load video chat application.

AT&T Defends Its Plans

AT&T representative Bob Quinn stated in the public letter that people’s criticism to the carrier’s decision to block 3G FaceTime is a “knee jerk reaction.” Some of them have “rushed to judgment” that their move is anti-consumer.

On the other hand, the representative explained that FCC’s net neutrality rules require that carrier policies should be transparent, and it also prohibits them to block services that compete with their own. Since AT&T doesn’t have the same service that competes against Apple’s FaceTime, Quinn said that the carrier believes that its action is a violation to the commission’s rules.

The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones. Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps. Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete without voice or video telephony services.

The representative also added that AT&T still allows customers to download video chat applications from the iOS App Store and other mobile application stores. However, the Cupertino-based company’s FaceTime comes built in to the iOS mobile operating system on the iPhone.

Although the rules don’t require it, some preloaded apps are available without charge on phones sold by AT&T, including FaceTime, but subject to some reasonable restrictions. To date, all of the preloaded video chat applications on the phone we sell, including FaceTime, have been limited to Wi-Fi.

AT&T’s Mobile Share Data Plans

As soon as Apple launches its iOS 6 this fall, owners of iPhone 4S will be capable of making FaceTime calls over 3G. However, AT&T announced last week that this feature will only be available for customers who signed up for its upcoming Mobile Share data plans.

AT&T’s Mobile Share plans will be launched later this month, beginning with a monthly price of $45 per smartphone and an extra $40 for 1 GB of data. The more data a subscriber adds to his or her plan, the less cost per gigabyte and the cost per additional smartphone.

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