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No Charge for AT&T FaceTime over 3G, Shared Data Plan Required

AT&T has just announced that it will not be charging separately for the new FaceTime over Cellular feature. This is in contrast to what was discovered six months ago, which indicated that additional cost would be imposed to the FaceTime cellular feature so AT&T customers could use it.

AT&T on its official statement said that the FaceTime over Cellular feature they are about to offer serves as added benefit for the company’s latest Mobile Share data plans. Such data plans were created in order to meet the customers’ increasing data need at a reasonable cost.

The Mobile Share Data plan is AT&T’s version of shared data pool which can be utilized in different devices under the same account. Subscribing to Mobile Share plan likewise indicates that customers can use more and save more.

Meanwhile, the new Mobile Share plans are expected to become available on the 23rd of August, this year. Customers however, are not obliged to upgrade. Apparently, AT&T’s scheme is only to allure their customers to be on this Shared Data plans.

Sprint as well, announced that they will not be imposing extra charge for FaceTime over Cellular service by the time iOS 6 ships this fall. Unlike AT&T, Sprint will still be allowing their customers to keep their unlimited data plans. Verizon is also expected to follow AT&T’s led, considering the company’s history with add-on features. Nevertheless, Verizon has yet to comment on this matter.

Practically, the savings were not that great for many users, especially for a solo Tablet and Smartphone users. While AT&T guarantees no extra charge for its FaceTime over 3G services, an upgrade to such feature can still cost customers more.

John Bergmayer, a Senior Staff Attorney at Public knowledge, in his statement said that, “By blocking FaceTime for many of its customers, AT&T is violating the FCC’s Open Internet rules. These rules statement that mobile provider shall not block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services. Although carriers are permitted to engage in ‘reasonable network management’, there is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime, and another not.”

AT&T further stressed that the requirement does not break any FCC rules. In fact, the FaceTime is made available to all of their customers over Wi-Fi. AT&T’s spokesperson further stated that the company is now expanding the accessibility of the service even further solely because such is an added benefit to their new Mobile Share data plans. But then again, the company has made it clear that an upgrade is not compulsory to its customers. Yet, those who are interested to make use of the new FaceTime over 3G offer would first need to sign up for AT&T’s Mobile Share plans to qualify.