Verizon Confirms Free Access to FaceTime via Cellular Data

| Product News

Verizon Wireless will not charge customers extra or require that customers purchase specific data plans in order to use FaceTime over its cellular data network, the U.S.-based mobile carrier stated late Wednesday in a press release. FaceTime over cellular networks will also be available for U.S. iPhone customers on Sprint, although AT&T has controversially restricted the feature to its shared data plans.

FaceTime over Cellular

Originally announced during WWDC in June, Apple’s new iOS 6 mobile operating system will officially allow FaceTime video calls to be placed over cellular data networks for the first time. Mobile carriers have the ability to limit this feature, however.

Data used by FaceTime calls over cellular networks will count against a user’s data allotment, but carriers have the option to charge extra for using that data, as some do with “mobile hotspot” features, or limit FaceTime cellular use to certain customers or plans.

Sprint was the first U.S. mobile carrier to explicitly state that FaceTime calls made via its 3G data network will be available to customers without additional charge, an announcement it made in July. “We are committed to our unlimited data and that means not charging for data consumption based on the application,” a Sprint spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal at the time.

More recently, AT&T took the opposite approach to that of Sprint, by stating that FaceTime over its cellular data network will only be available to customers of its new Shared Data plans, notably excluding early iPhone customers who remain grandfathered into “unlimited” data contracts. AT&T’s “reasonable restrictions” on FaceTime access drew the criticism and ire of many longtime iPhone users.

Following Apple’s special media event Wednesday, Verizon, the last major U.S. iPhone carrier, joined Sprint by stating in a press release that it, too, will not charge customers extra or require specific service plans for FaceTime access over its 3G and LTE data networks: “...customers wanting to use FaceTime on their iPhone 5 can do so using any Verizon Wireless data plan allowance,” the press release states.

It should be reiterated that the debate among mobile carriers about FaceTime access applies only to video calls made over cellular data networks. All iPhone customers, regardless of carrier, can place and receive unlimited FaceTime calls while connected to a WiFi network.

Of note, Apple has not identified a specific time at which online preorders of the iPhone 5 will begin on Friday via its own store, although the Verizon press release states that customers can pre-order the iPhone 5 from the carrier’s website Friday, September 14, at 3:00 a.m. EDT.

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The debate over access to FaceTime calls via cellular data networks is the same one that customers and carriers have been engaged in since the smartphone era began. Data is data, and the notion that carriers can charge a different rate, or restrict access to, certain types of data runs afoul of a basic understanding of fairness for consumers.

An appropriate analogy would be a town’s water department charging one rate for water that a resident uses to cook with or drink and another rate for water that resident uses to bathe.

Thankfully, as more consumers purchase smartphones, and as those phones become more capable, carriers are feeling the pressure from customers and government regulatory agencies to change their discriminatory data practices. With new services such as iMessage replacing SMS and MMS texting, it is likely only a matter of time before all carriers switch to an application-neutral data usage model.

The only question is how long it will take for carriers to get the picture, and how painful they will make the transition for consumers.

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Comments

Casey4147

“The debate over access to FaceTime calls via cellular data networks is the same one that customers and carriers have been engaged in since the smartphone era began. Data is data, and the notion that carriers can charge a different rate, or restrict access to, certain types of data runs afoul of a basic understanding of fairness for consumers.”

The thing is, data is data.  And voice calls?  They’re data too.  Text messages?  Yup, that’s just data, too.  So, why separate voice and data still? Why charge for texts separately?  It’s all data, has been for years.  When are the carriers going to catch up to their technology?  Facetime isn’t adding anything to this, if it’s okay to stream a two hour movie on your phone a two-minute conversation shouldn’t break anything.

What’s sad is, this doesn’t seem to be retroactive to the 4S or 4.  FaceTime Over Cellular (so far, at least) is being reported as an iPhone 5 feature only.  Why won’t iOS6 let older iPhones FToC…?

skipaq

I agree with the “data is data” argument totally. But at our home away from home in Florida the water district charges more for some water than other water. We have two water meters. I still say “water is water” just as “data is data”.

Lee Dronick

Skipaq, are they from two different water sources? Here in San Diego you can buy potable water and recycled water. Being only partially treated the recycled water is cheaper, but not certified for human or animal consumption. However, it is widely used by businesses for industrial uses and landscape irrigation. Most homes are still only on potable water, but the City is installing recycled water lines to most areas, eventually it will be widely available.

skipaq

One water source; but they charge extra for outdoor water uses like sprinkler systems. Our lot is so small that any outdoor water needs can be met by hooking up a hose to a line on the main meter. So we never use the more expensive water that comes in on the same water line and is split at the meters.

Mockingbird

ATT does this blatantly because they know their network sucks. FT will just collapses their network. I can see alot of people will flock to Verizon when their contract with ATT expire.

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