AT&T; has kept its unlimited-data iPhone users from making FaceTime calls over its cellular network for eight months, but that could change in just a few weeks.
The Texas-based carrier on Tuesday announced it will give software and smartphone makers the ability to enable cellular video calling on apps that come preinstalled on devices, such as Apple’s FaceTime feature, for unlimited-data users.
AT&T; said it will begin enabling cellular video calls to preinstalled apps by mid-June and will then continue to do so throughout the rest of 2013 -- so it’s unclear when exactly each app will be enabled.
“Throughout the second half of this year, we plan to enable preloaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device; that work is expected to be complete by year-end,” the carrier said.
AT&T; has been the sole network to ban its unlimited-data users from accessing the video calling feature on its cellular network. Since the feature was released by Apple for its iPhone users in September, Sprint and Verizon have allowed it for their customers, but AT&T; was very strict about who could use it. At first, the carrier only allowed users on its shared data plans to access such features and apps, but it has slowly extended the ability to other users. Currently, only users who are grandfathered into AT&T;'s services with unlimited data plans are excluded.
“We currently give all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share or tiered plans,” AT&T; said. “Apple, Samsung and Blackberry have chosen to enable this for their preloaded video chat apps. And by mid-June, we’ll have enabled those apps over cellular for our unlimited-plan customers who have LTE devices from those three manufacturers.”
The company’s announcement also means Android users may soon be able to make video calls using Google’s new Hangouts app. That app launched Wednesday and came with the promise of unifying users’ communication through Google’s services, but AT&T; Android users quickly found out that they were not allowed to make cellular video calls through it just yet.