updated 04:13 pm EST, Thu November 8, 2012
Still restricted to tiered-plan, LTE-equipped devices
AT&T has changed its mind and will allow FaceTime calls over cellular without a Mobile Share plan, according to an announcement. The option will still be relatively restricted however, limited to LTE-equipped devices on tiered data plans. This excludes people with grandfathered unlimited data, as well as owners of any Apple hardware older than the third-generation iPad; exceptions are being made for people on special plans for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Cellular FaceTime should open up within the next eight to 10 weeks.
The decision to funnel FaceTime users toward Mobile Share may have been aimed at simultaneously increasing profits and controlling bandwidth. That brought sharp criticism, though, with some people charging that AT&T was violating FCC net neutrality rules. The turnaround could be linked partly to a desire to avoid FCC attention.
Another major issue though is competitive pressure. Verizon has let iPhone 5 owners make cellular FaceTime calls since the phone's launch, and on any tier, including legacy unlimited plans. Likewise, Sprint doesn't have any FaceTime restrictions.