A new report has suggested this morning that AT&T, one of the biggest wireless carriers in the US, could be planning to restrict usage of FaceTime over 3G, or else planning to charge for it. The report comes from 9to5Mac who spotted that an error message pops up in Developer only builds of iOS 6 requesting users to contact AT&T to enable FaceTime over a cellular connection. The same error message pops up when trying to use data tethering, a service which should be free, but which AT&T charges a premium for. While this could, of course, change in the time interval up until the release of iOS 6, it sets a disturbing prescedent for what AT&T is planning to do.
FaceTime over a 3G connection is one of the highly touted features in iOS 6, and certainly isn’t something that AT&T should be charging extra for, particularly since iPhone users are already paying through the nose for a pitiful data allowance. It’s like being charged $300 to top up the tank of gas in your car, only to be told that you can only use the gas to go shopping, and that you weren’t allowed to drive to work or the cinema.
Given that FaceTime will use 3G data that comes as part of a data plan paid for by the user, is it then reasonable to assume that AT&T could place surcharges on other ways of using data. Perhaps they should add a 10 cent tax on to iMessage data? They could also charge $1 per month to enable YouTube usage as the data consumption incurred by streaming YouTube can certainly be comparable to that of FaceTime?
Luckily, there are alternatives available, so if AT&T do end up charging extra to use FaceTime, in addition to their personal hotspot tethering charges, then ditch them and go to Verizon, Sprint, Appalachian Wireless, or indeed any other carrier apart from AT&T.