While Apple was still working on iOS 6, we caught wind of an unpleasant development in how FaceTime over cellular connections would work. While iOS 6 would bring the feature to many users, the presence of an error message revealed AT&T’s plans to restrict how FaceTime would operate on its network, limiting access to subscribers on the carrier’s new shared data family plans. Sure enough, AT&T confirmed the restriction, and despite vocal protests from its user base, defended the policy, arguing that it was well within the FCC’s net neutrality rules. We can’t say if those complaints finally got the best of AT&T, if it saw that FaceTime was having a minimal impact on its network, of if it just had a simple change of heart, because now the carrier is reportedly easing-back on its FaceTime restrictions.
This isn’t quite a perfect, storybook ending, as while users on regular tiered data plans will now be able to use FaceTime over their cellular data connections, the same won’t be true for users on grandfathered unlimited data plans. We’re also not sure if FaceTime will be allowed over 3G connections, or if it will be limited to only LTE, making this change a whole lot less interesting for users with older iOS gear.
Supposedly, AT&T will start enabling FaceTime usage for these non-shared-data users over the course of the next eight to ten weeks.
Update: So, it looks like you still need a phone that supports LTE in order to use FaceTime over cellular, but you won’t have to necessarily always be connected over LTE.