A Few Thoughts on FaceTime

Posted by: Jim Cicconi on November 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm

As most observers are aware, Apple’s FaceTime application is currently enabled on AT&T’s popular Mobile Share plan as well as on Wi-Fi, though not at this time on our other billing plans. This approach has raised questions and some concerns. We decided to take this cautious approach for important reasons.  AT&T has by far more iPhones on our network than any other carrier. We’re proud of this fact and the confidence our customers have in us. But it also means that when Apple rolls out new services or changes, as it did in iOS 6, it can have a much greater, and more immediate, impact on AT&T’s network than is the case with carriers who have far fewer iPhone users. 

In this instance, with the FaceTime app already preloaded on tens of millions of AT&T customers’ iPhones, there was no way for our engineers to effectively model usage, and thus to assess network impact. It is for this reason that we took a more cautious approach toward the app. To do otherwise might have risked an adverse impact on the services our customers expect – voice quality in particular – if usage of FaceTime exceeded expectations.  And this is important for all our customers regardless of which smartphone they may use.

In the meantime, we are announcing today that we will support FaceTime, not only on our Mobile Share plans, but also on all of our tiered data plans with an LTE device.  We expect to roll out this functionality over the next 8-10 weeks.  In addition, we are informing our deaf and hard of hearing customers that, as of October 26, we began rolling out several new billing plans designed to allow them to make use of FaceTime. This is part of our ongoing commitment to our customers with disabilities, and it’s a commitment which is very important to us.

We will continue to gather and assess the network data on this issue over the next few months and anticipate that we will be able to expand the availability of FaceTime to our customers on other billing plans in the near future.

Comments (60)

I will NEVER give up my unlimited plan. Bring it ATT the more you pull this crap the more data I will use. I would be cool and just use it normally but the more you pull this stuff the more I stream video and download stuff over my 4g instead of wifi. I bought UNLIMITED I want unlimited.

TBsr November 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Are you kidding me, how much more money do you need to make, I have unlimited data, I pay for it and have been for years, I have 5 phones on my plan of which only 2 are unlimited data, now I cant use Facetime because I am being singled out due to an Unlimited plan. I smell ILLEGAL here, wonder what an attorney would say to a class action suit!! I sure hope you change your mind on this ridiculous decision as I assure you this will not be the last of the complaints, I am sure the Media would also have a heyday with this, so why punish your long term customers?

Jack November 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Love how you refer to the mobile share plans as “popular…” Popular, according to who?

I have unlimited data, I have for years, and this is really about getting me to give that up. I’d have more respect for you for you sould just admit that.

Also, you claim that Portland, OR has LTE. I live in downtown Portland, and the LTE signal dies a block away. So, AT&T, do you ever tell the truth?

Jay November 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm

1) Your Mobile Share plans are not “popular”. Most of your customers despise them.

2) Not all iPhones on your network can utilize FaceTime over the cellular network. Only iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 can. It is disingenuous to say, “Oh! We have too many iPhones that can do FaceTime! Boo hoo!” when only a fraction of your customers’ iPhones even support it.

3) You already have a mechanism for dealing with overuse of data: throttling. You’ve been using this network management tool for years and there is no reason why it won’t continue to work even with customers using FaceTime.

4) There are other apps that can use *far* more data than FaceTime. Spotify, Pandora, Sirius XM. Those are just a few examples among *many* others. Few customers are going to be using FaceTime for hours each day. But we can easily run Pandora 24/7 sucking up far more data than we ever would with FaceTime. Yet these other apps are not blocked. Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because, unlike FaceTime, they don’t compete with AT&T’s voice services.

5) Explain how switching to a Mobile Share plan magically makes the AT&T network suddenly able to handle FaceTime better.

6) I’ll grant you one argument you make that just might be valid: it’s possible that the AT&T network might not be up to the task of handling a large volume of FaceTime calls.

Dan Moulding November 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I’ve paid for “unlimited” data. At this point I’m seeking damages for fraudulent sales practices and failure to deliver services purchased. *See you in court AT&T. Folks, fight this corporate thuggery… These guys already have it easy, they sell bandwidth that doesn’t really exist at high rates. Don’t stand by why they gauge ONLY iPhone customers simply because our demographic is more capable of paying!

-File a State Corporation Commission Complaint
-File an informal FCC complaint
-File a complaint to your state attorney general’s office
-File a complaint with Better Business
-There are 3 pending class actions that you can attach to as well.

Fight for your rights as a consumer and get informed!

David November 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm


John December 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

It’s been over 8 weeks, where’s the FaceTime?
Hopefully in the next 2 weeks!!

James Jackson December 31, 2012 at 12:44 am

Ten weeks from this announcement would be Jan.17th 2013. Hope I have Face Time!!!

James Jackson January 15, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Today, 1/17/13 at&t has said that it will enable face time to those on tiered data plans “within the next few months”
On 11/7/12 at&t said that face time would be rolled out to those on tired data plans within 8 to 10 weeks, with those on other/unlimited data plans to come in the near future!!.
Basically, at&t didn’t roll out anything from 11/8/12 to 1/17/13 as they stated. They basically made the same announcement again but this time, they didn’t mention anything about other/unlimited users outside of the fact that facetime would not be enabled.

James Jackson January 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Why are you being so abrasive to your best customers? Why use a stick to browbeat “unlimited” data customers? You already throttle “unlimited” data users at a ridiculously low threshold. Your rentseeking and anticompetitive actions are not even hidden, they just reveal more and more the power of the duopoly you have engaged in with verizon.

J W January 16, 2013 at 10:25 pm

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