ATandT Opens FaceTime Over Cellular to More iPhone Users

AT&T promised to extend Facetime over cellular to LTE-enabled iPhones, but users are reporting that a new, more generous policy has taken effect. 

AT&T, widely criticized for its policies around Apple's FaceTime video-conferencing app, earlier this month promised changes. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems the carrier has gone even a step further toward pleasing customers than it suggested it would.

AT&T announced Nov. 8 that it would support the use of FaceTime over a cellular connection on Apple devices with iOS 6 and Long Term Evolution (LTE) capabilities. Late Nov. 20, however, owners of non-LTE-capable iPhones found themselves with the option, MacRumors first reported.

On a MacRumors forum thread, iPhone users celebrated the good news.

"I just noticed today that I have Facetime over cellular and I have an unlimited plan on my [iPhone 5]," wrote forum user kre62. "I just turned on my other phone, a 4S, and turned it back on, only to find the switch flipped to ON for facetime over cellular. ... I also checked a few coworkers' phones, all now have FT over cellular."

Forum user bluedukie8 added, "Confirmed for me. iPhone 5 with grandfathered unlimited plan. Just restarted my phone after seeing this article."

"Maybe all the FCC complaints paid off," wrote forum user Applejuiced. "Christmas may come early this year for AT&T customers." Or, that holiday for giving thanks.

While iPhone owners in New York and California reported success, in Colorado and Pennsylvania, others reported being "still locked out."

AT&T didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Consumer-interest groups Public Knowledge, the Free Press and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge have come down hard on AT&T, threatening to report its practices to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and accusing it of "double dipping."

"Subscribers pay for their data connections, and that's enough," John Bergmayer, a senior staff attorney with Public Knowledge wrote in a September blog post.

Earlier this month, Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood gave AT&T's promises of change some guarded applause.

"AT&T's course correction is a move in the right direction, but until the company makes FaceTime available to all its customers," he said in a Nov. 8 statement, "it is still in violation of the FCC's rules and the broader principles of Net Neutrality."

In a Nov. 14 blog post, the Free Press again pushed on AT&T, calling on consumers to make their voices heard.

"You spoke out about how AT&T's latest power grab hurt its customers—and violated Net Neutrality. The protest is paying off ... But our work isn't over yet," wrote Internet Campaign Director John Levy, going on to explain that while AT&T was opening up FaceTime over cellular to more customers, those with older iPhones or "grandfathered" unlimited data plans are "out of luck."

Levy concluded, "If AT&T takes too long to make FaceTime available to all of its customers, we will go forward with our formal complaint at the FCC."

It looks like it won't need to.