|(Updated with Free Press intention to file a Net Neutrality complaint for unlimited data plan omission) Following up on a silent rollout, AT&T has formally announced plans to enable FaceTime calls with any tiered data plan. The carrier previously lifted a policy restricting FaceTime to Mobile Share plans, but still required a device with a tiered plan and LTE, blocking out the iPhone 4S. "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," reads a blog post by AT&T's senior VP for voice and data, Mark Collins.
The iPhone 4 and iPad 2 won't be supported, but only because Apple itself prevents FaceTime from working over 3G on those devices. AT&T is continuing to block FaceTime use with grandfathered unlimited data plans, regardless of the device a person owns.
Consumer advocacy group Free Press' Policy Director Matt Wood said in a statement that "AT&T's announcement is another step in the right direction," but added that "until AT&T makes FaceTime available to all of its customers, it is still in violation of the law and the broader principles of Net Neutrality. We remain ready to bring our complaint unless AT&T finishes the job and stops blocking this application altogether."
AT&T may have twin reasons to lift FaceTime barriers. While the Mobile Share limit was in place the carrier was widely criticized for possibly violating FCC rules; opening up FaceTime could deflect any investigations or more negative publicity. AT&T's main competitors, Sprint and Verizon, have meanwhile left FaceTime largely unrestricted, and a similar approach will probably be used by T-Mobile later this year.