In 8-10 weeks iPhone 5 users on AT&T on tiered data plans will gain the same functionality that users on Mobile Share Plans already have. The change likely won’t affect iPhone 5 users with grandfathered unlimited plans, however. Those users will still need to downgrade their plans to use FaceTime or only use it in Wi-Fi hotspots.
As part of the new FaceTime over Cellular rules AT&T will also roll out new data plans for its deaf and hard of hearing subscribers that will let them use FaceTime over Cellular. It’s not clear if AT&T will require those customers to have the 4G LTE-enabled iPhone 5, or if they can use older iPhones with 3G and “4G” connectivity.
The new rules will also let users with a 4G LTE-enabled iPad use FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge.
On the carrier’s Public Policy Blog AT&T says that because FaceTime is a part of iOS 6 its engineers had no way of testing it fully before users were able to actually use it. That’s the reason the carrier gives for putting the restrictions on the service. The new rules are still more restricting than the rules placed on the service by Sprint and Verizon.
Neither Sprint nor Verizon restrict the use of FaceTime over Cellular no matter what iPhone the users have. FaceTime does cut into data, however, so Verizon and AT&T users have a limited amount of time they can use it before they hit a data cap. Sprint has no data cap, so it’s not an issue for its customers.
AT&T’s original stance on FaceTime over Cellular caused a number of people to cray out against the carrier. Many claimed the rules violated the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules, despite AT&T’s insistence that its restrictions didn’t break the FCC’s rules.