AT&T 'working to restore' FaceTime for GoPhone unlimited customers on cellular

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It isn’t clear whether AT&T is actively blocking FaceTime to minimize traffic on its network or whether the problem is simply a technical bug.

AT&T said it is working to enable FaceTime for customers of its new GoPhone unlimited plan on the cellular network. But the carrier offered no explanation why Apple’s video call offering isn’t working in the first place.

The nation’s second-largest carrier last week launched a $60-a-month “unlimited” data plan for users of its prepaid GoPhone service, which includes talk, text and data, but caps speeds at 3 Mbps. The move was another salvo in an escalating war between carriers that began when Sprint and T-Mobile introduced unlimited plans in August and has recently spilled over into the prepaid market.

But some GoPhone customers with the unlimited plan have complained that their new service doesn’t support FaceTime use on the operator’s network, PrepaidPhoneNews reported yesterday. Users have taken to message boards such as Reddit and AT&T’s own community forum to report that when they try to launch FaceTime using the cell connection, they get a message informing them to use a Wi-Fi connection rather than cellular.

An AT&T representative declined to say why Apple’s app isn’t available to at least some customers, but suggested users should contact the carrier’s customer care department.

“We are currently working to restore FaceTime functionality for the limited number of AT&T GoPhone customers who are experiencing issues,” the representative said via email.

As PrepaidPhoneNews noted, it isn’t clear whether AT&T is actively blocking FaceTime to minimize traffic on its network or whether the problem is simply a technical bug. Blocking access to FaceTime could be seen as a violation of net neutrality rules, but such a move would be unlikely to attract much attention from the FCC under new Chairman Ajit Pai.

Like many other so-called “unlimited” plans, the GoPhone offering comes with some noteworthy restrictions: In addition to the capped speed, video is limited to 480p at a maximum speed of 1.5 Mbps, and data rates are slowed for users who surpass 22 GB of usage a month during periods of network congestion. Whether those limitations might be a factor with the FaceTime problems is also uncertain.