A new analysis is pointing towards FaceTime as a major gobbler of 3G and 4G bandwidth, when Apple starts to offer the service over cellular networks. In contrast to the current restrictions, Apple will lift the Wi-Fi only limitation on FaceTime which is currently imposed, and allow users to make FaceTime calls over a 3G or 4G connection when it releases iOS 6 in the Fall. MarketWatch (via MacRumors) makes the case that, in the case of high FaceTime use, 1 GB of wireless data can be consumed very rapidly (2 hours and 15 minutes of Facetime talktime at the most stringent estimate).
Certainly, the analysis estimates that FaceTime can consume up to 1.5-7.5 megabytes of data per minute, a figure which is slightly higher than some previous tests which have estimated 3MB per minute on an iPhone 4. At 3 megabytes per minute, that would equate to around 5 hours or so of FaceTime calls to use up 1 gigabyte of data (the typical monthly allowance given to iPhone users by several cellular providers).
It is worth noting, however, this analysis is nothing new and will certainly stimulate scaremongering headlines like “FaceTime Will Use All Your Monthly Data!!!!”. It stands to reason that if you are streaming high quality video over a cellular data connection, you will certainly use bandwidth. The same is equally true for streaming movies or music. In essence, common sense for data use will most likely prevail.
The one important aspect of this, however, is that it is certainly not a given that carriers who offer the iPhone will actually sign up to offer FaceTime over 3G. They can, and may very well, restrict FaceTime use, particularly for those on unlimited data tariffs. However, it is without question that for those users on limited data packages, the responsibility for FaceTime cellular data use should lie with them, not with the carrier.
Lets hope carriers make the right decision about this.