Enabling FaceTime Over Our
Mobile Broadband Network

Posted by: Bob Quinn on August 22, 2012 at 8:56 am

Last week, we confirmed plans to make FaceTime available over our mobile broadband network for our AT&T Mobile Share data plan customers. 

FaceTime is a video chat application that has been pre-loaded onto every AT&T iPhone since the introduction of iPhone 4.  Customers have been using this popular app for several years over Wi-Fi.  AT&T does not have a similar preloaded video chat app that competes with FaceTime or any other preloaded video chat application.  Nonetheless, in another knee jerk reaction, some groups have rushed to judgment and claimed that AT&T’s plans will violate the FCC’s net neutrality rules.  Those arguments are wrong. 

Providers of mobile broadband Internet access service are subject to two net neutrality requirements: (1) a transparency requirement pursuant to which they must disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of their broadband Internet access services; and (2) a no-blocking requirement under which they are prohibited, subject to reasonable network management, from blocking applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.

AT&T’s plans for FaceTime will not violate either requirement.  Our policies regarding FaceTime will be fully transparent to all consumers, and no one has argued to the contrary.  There is no transparency issue here. 

Nor is there a blocking issue.  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 with our voice or video telephony services.   AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems. (I won’t name any of them for fear that I will be accused by these same groups of discriminating in favor of those apps.  But just go to your app store on your device and type “video chat.”)  Therefore, there is no net neutrality violation.

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 phones we sell, including FaceTime, have been limited to Wi-Fi.  With the introduction of iOS6, we will extend the availability of the preloaded FaceTime to our mobile broadband network for our Mobile Share data plans which were designed to make more data available to consumers.  To be clear, customers will continue to be able to use FaceTime over Wi-Fi irrespective of the data plan they choose.  We are broadening our customers’ ability to use the preloaded version of FaceTime but limiting it in this manner to our newly developed AT&T Mobile Share data plans out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience. 

We will be monitoring the impact the upgrade to this popular preloaded app has on our mobile broadband network, and customers, too, will be in a learning mode as to exactly how much data FaceTime consumes on those usage-based plans.  We always strive to provide our customers with the services they desire and will incorporate our learnings from the roll-out of FaceTime on our mobile broadband network into our future service offerings.

Comments (369)

Wow he basically just told us how to fix this problem, he said “AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems.”

Easy fix..Just like we had to download a You Tube app someone just needs to create a Facetime application that we download from the App store.

Matt Brown September 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm

So if I want to use FaceTime, I have to downgrade my unlimited data plan to a tiered one, why? I purchased the unlimited data because that was a service your company was providing and it was the best option for me, and now that there’s a phone that YOUR company sells that allows me to make video calls, I’m NOT allowed to use it over the service that I pay for? And your remedy for this is to drop my unlimited plan and pay more for a capped one? Really? I pay for this service! I pay just like the everyone else for the same service! And you’re telling me that its not the same thing because I was fortunate enough to be your customer before you decided to change your plan?! So you deny me the access?

Walt Alva September 27, 2012 at 4:29 am

Thanks, AT&T, for taking into consideration of my years as a loyal customer and paying for an “UNLIMITED” data plan. Now I am asked to simply pay more to go into a LIMITED data plan or else I will not enjoy the benefits of sharing Facetime with my family and friends overseas.
Good riddance and as soon as my contract expires, I AM OUT!!! Sayonara, Adios, Auf Wiedersehen!

German G September 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I’ve already mentioned how this is a *clear* violation of the FCC’s Open Internet rules. It’s now only a matter of time before the FCC forces AT&T to comply and unblock FaceTime. After that happens, this whole episode will have motivated me enough to whip the Internet crowds into a new frenzy over your blocking of the Mobile Hotspot app (which competes directly with your DataConnect services for laptops and other “non-phone” devices). Thanks to your shenanigans with FaceTime, you will now also lose out on Mobile Hotspot. Let this be a lesson to not be so greedy in the future.


Dan Moulding September 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I do agree with everybody that this AT&T decision is ridiculous and it will cost them some customers. But I do have to remind everybody of a couple things:
1. If you do go to Verizon you have no choice but to purchase one of those new mobile share plans that AT&T is requiring in order to use face time. Those are the only plans Verizon offers. It’s kind of dumb to complain and say your going to Verizon b/c you gain nothing out of it.
2. Verizon will screw you even worst then AT&T. At least AT&T allows existing customers to keep their existing plans when they upgrade their device. If you want to keep your existing plan w/ Verizon then you have to pay full retail price for the device. If you want the discount then you have to change your plan to one of the new mobile share plans.
3. Sprint offers it b/c they have no choice. They are trying anything they can just to stay in business and even then they can’t gain new customers.

Tony Garcia October 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm

While this might be ‘legal’, it’s unethical and sleazy as hell. Once my contract is up, AT&T is losing a customer.

Paul Zeman October 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I’ve ran a company for 40 years. I would never treat a customer of mine so poorly. To deny a feature to customers that have been with your companysince the beginning of the entire iPhone experience, you should be ashamed. My plan is to stream my iPhone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except when I am using it. I hope all other unlimited data plan holders will do the same or come up with a better idea.


It is also sad that one of your reps tried to tell me that is was because of Apple. Why would Apple care if I used the data that I pay for??
I wasn’t born yesterday! Why would your rep need to lie. Why can’t they tell the truth?

Greg October 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm

It is a veiled attempt to make those customers, like me, who have been with you so long and signed up for your “unlimited plan” which is no longer available, switch to a higher cost plan.
You will likely not only lose this fight, but in reprisal lose out on your fight against the “hot spot” issue, which according to your now listed argument, is no longer valid. “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 with our voice or video telephony services.”
I do believe I can download an app for that!

Matt M October 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I used to love AT&T they were the best, I left T-mobile to use this fabulous new gadget called the iPhone as me and many others realized it was a ground breaking little gadget. As time passed and restriction upon restriction came, AT&T slowly took advantage of its coustomers need for this new product, and they soon realized they could take advantage of there coustomers and started gauging, scheming, and manipulating, to there best effort to turn the evil greedy hands of profit. We all know company’s have to turn a profit they have to make money it’s the natural order of business, but ther is a line, a balance that must be met to satisfy the needs of both coustomer and company. AT&T wriight now, belive it or not does not care for the coustomer due to the fact every one is locked into there contracts. AT&T will soon see what we all feel “dissatisfied”. They will lose there coustomer base it will happen, just simpy due to the fact just like me, we all believed once in this company and now feel betrayed and have no other option then to leave and try somthing better. Just I alone me and my family have over 19 accounts with friends and family. One friend has already left to Verizon and is beyond happy I belive that we all will follow its sad but our unhappiness will spread like a virus and AT&T will see there greasy greedy little hands empty.

Noe Gand October 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Anyone with half a brain can see through this. You’ve been trying to find ways to take our unlimited plans from us for years. This new lie is just sad. I only came here because I had to in order to have an iPhone when it first dropped (and lets not forget that I was FORCED to have an unlimited plan at an unheard of $30 addition to my bill). I stay because you haven’t rocked my boat. Well, boat rocked. I’m jumping off. I’ll be satisfied to see your stock taking a few dents when thousands of users drop your service to the tune of $100 a piece. Oh, ps – I don’t even use FaceTime.

Ted Winkworth October 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I am seriously considering upgrading my 3 iPhones 3GSes to iPhone 5s or something better–it’s questionable whether this is the best handset on the market, but AT&T’s position on Facetime and tethering for customers with an unlimited data plan–a plan that was over-priced from the beginning– and the fact that their LTE service does not reach my area, is providing me with compelling reasons to evaluate the their competition.

Thank you for encouraging me to do what is best for me.

Steven Jones October 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm

This is silly.

AT&T – just add a $15/month charge onto the cost of an unlimited data plan with Facttime and Mobile HotSpot, and be done with it. If you really put billions of dollars into network upgrades, then things as silly as this won’t make a big difference.

Remember what happened last time AT&T got uber arrogant and tried to “run the show” – you met Judge Green.

Just stop making it feel like you are ripping us off with the data plans.

Paul Raulerson October 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Even if it technically is legal, it’s highly unethical to treat long-lasting customers with such disrespect. I suppose the restriction to mobile hotspot and throttling after 5gb are perfectly legal as well? Why don’t you add insult to injury and post a letter about that as well?

I wonder home many customers you can lose in one post…

Humbert October 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm

This is such a joke. Yet another example of AT&T using it’s marketplace muscle to squander more money out of its customers.

Everyone should write the FCC or join the petition to let them know that this is a blatant contempt of the Net Neutrality rules.

Apple should just remove the app from iOS6 and add it as a downloadable app to give AT&T the metaphorical FU.

Bob Quinn: the face of shame.

Benjamin November 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm

They shot them selfs in the foot. 1. It says nothing about preloaded apps. This is not a loop home because it is fully covered by 2. May not disable or denie access over network any voice or video telephone app which directly competes.
Someone further up said that unlimited plans don’t have to be given access because this means a modification to the plan. I started with the original 2g with 350 min and unlimited data and a basic SMS service. Then I skipped the 3G and 3GS and got a 4 because AT&T no longer supported voice calling (constant call drops even during 911calls)..,, so I go the 4, had to updated unlimited $20 2g to the $30 unlimited. Now this plan had to be modified in another way. How you ask? Mms. That “proverbial switch” had to be turned on, there for modifying the data plan. Now I have an IPhone 5. I have all the same stuff but my data is not called unlimited LTE. AT&T just simply chooses to NOT flip that switch on to see how many more are willing to pay more. AT&T can’t with this argument. I spent 4 hours with customer support on this and got hung up on twic, told once “I’m trying to find someone that will take your call” and eventually was told I would receive a call back at a specific time. Guess what at the time I was told I would be call, I receives none. 12hrs later I got a call.

Tommy Miller November 15, 2012 at 12:27 am

Thanks Bob, so let me get this straight. You make extra money off of me for an unlimited data plan since 2008. I haven’t used enough data each month to pay for the unlimited part since I’ve been a customer. So now a long awaited perk to the iPhone comes along (that will use more data) and the only way for me to use it is to drop my unlimited plan? So less data but more data usage? Are you sure it’s about protecting your network and not trying to get more money out of me? I think your sales rep should have explained this to me when they were looking at my account and selling me 700.00 worth of new iPhones!!! Way to show you care about long time customers Bob, I hope you lose a law suit and at least have to let me out of my contract. Your not the only player on the field, I believe one of your competitors bills them selfs as ” truly unlimited”.

Jay Moore December 2, 2012 at 2:46 am

I am, as of today an X-Customer of AT&T because of this very issue and many like it. After your “billions in network upgrades” and “fastest LTE network” you continue to restrict what I do with the data bandwidth that I pay for and should be free to do with as I choose, when I choose.

Goodbye. I really hope you lose in court.

Mick Waygard January 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I have filed a complaint with the FCC. This is corporate ridiculousness at its best.

Joel February 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Glad to hear T-Mobile will finally sell the iphone. I will be moving over to T-Mobile with my unlocked iPhone 4s.. Here I come FaceTime:)

Goodbye AT&T

Richard Velez April 3, 2013 at 6:10 pm

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