AT&T opens up FaceTime to more users – but not all

AT&T’s finally started offering FaceTime over cellular at no extra charge for all customers with tiered data plans – although not for those on unlimited data plans.

Until now, the feature’s been available only to iOS users with a Mobile Share plan and those with an LTE device on tiered plans. Customers on unlimited datya plans, though, still won’t be able to make FaceTime calls.

The move follows a promise made by the company last November, after protests from consumer groups that blocking the facility violated net neutrality and FCC rules.

“This means iPhone 4S customers with tiered plans will be able to make FaceTime calls over the AT&T cellular network,” says Mark Collins, Facebook’s senior VP for data and voice products, on a company blog.

“We have already begun updating our systems and processes and expect to start rolling the update out to customers on an ongoing basis beginning in the next couple of weeks.  Customers do not need to do anything — the update will be applied automatically over the next few months.”

The company’s dragged its heels over offering the service, with the about-turn coming only after strong opposition from consumer groups. And they’re still not all that happy.

” It is good that AT&T is reducing this unnecessary and possibly illegal restriction. Unfortunately, it appears this new policy only applies to “tiered” plans – customers with unlimited data plans are still blocked from accessing FaceTime over their cellular connections,” says John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge.

“Even though unlimited plans are no longer available for new customers, AT&T sets itself apart from some of its competitors by allowing its customers who upgrade their phones to keep those plans. However, this does not grant it license to unlawfully prevent those customers from using certain applications – especially given that AT&T’s own testing seems to have shown that FaceTime does not have a significant network impact.”

Campaigners plan to keep up the pressure.