AT&T On FaceTime Over 3G: Free For Mobile Share Users, Unavailable For Everyone Else

More than a few AT&T customers got worked up a few weeks back when a peculiar pop-up in iOS 6 Beta 3 pointed to the possibility that the carrier would charge people to use FaceTime over its wireless data network.

Well, that’s officially not that case — AT&T just confirmed in a statement that it won’t be charging its subscribers to video chat over the air. That would normally be great news, but there’s a catch: some people won’t be able to FaceTime over AT&T’s network at all.

Customers who subscribe to one of the carrier’s newfangled Mobile Share plans (which, heads up, don’t launch until the 23rd) will be able to use the service free of charge. Anyone who doesn’t decide to make that switch is out of luck though, and they’ll just have to continue FaceTiming over Wi-Fi as usual.

I can see a few reasons why AT&T would opt to try something like this — company brass probably wanted to try and keep the network as unstressed as possible — but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. When AT&T first announced that it would offer shared data plans a la Verizon, I gave the carrier a pat on the back for leaving its new customers with more plans choices than its rival. After all, they’re great in certain situations, but the fact is that some customers are better served by their tiered or (gasp!) unlimited data plans.

Now those particular users are being shut out of a great new feature in iOS 6 just because they like the plan they already have. There are bigger questions at play now — say, whether or not AT&T should be allowed to do this in the first place — but just on it’s face this is a tough break for everyone who still has an older data plan. Whether or not Verizon plans to try something similar with its own shared data plan customers remains to be seen, though there isn’t much indication of it so far — the same test that prompted AT&T users to contact the company regarding FaceTime over 3G did nothing when attempted on Verizon hardware. I’ve reached out to Verizon though, and I’ll be sure to update if I hear anything.

Here’s the AT&T statement in full:

AT&T will offer FaceTime over Cellular as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans, which were created to meet customers’ growing data needs at a great value. With Mobile Share, the more data you use, the more you save. FaceTime will continue to be available over Wi-Fi for all our customers.