Rumor Mill: AT&T to charge for FaceTime over cellular

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) may charge customers for using Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) FaceTime video calling feature over cellular connections on iOS 6 devices, according to a 9to5Mac report.

Apple announced recently that iOS users will be able to make FaceTime calls over cellular networks.

The blog posted an error message that appeared using iOS 6 beta 3 software that asks users to contact AT&T to enable FaceTime over cellular, which could be an indication that AT&T plans to charge for the service. Up until now all FaceTime calls have been made over Wi-Fi connections, but Apple enabled the feature to run over cellular data networks for iOS 6, which will be launched later this fall.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, AT&T said: "We're working closely with Apple on the new developer build of iOS 6 and we'll share more information with our customers as it becomes available."  That is the same language AT&T issued when Apple first revealed it would allow FaceTime over cellular last month.

Other wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), have remained mum on how they might charge for FaceTime over cellular. Unlike AT&T and Verizon though, Sprint still offers unlimited smartphone data plans.

According to AT&T's data usage calculator, 10 minutes of video streaming per day equates to 0.59 GB of data per month. AT&T charges $20 per month for 300 MB, $30 for 3 GB and $50 per 5 GB. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has repeatedly said that his company needs more wireless spectrum to handle data traffic or will be forced to raise prices. Given the bandwidth-heavy nature of FaceTime, it is possible that AT&T might charge users when they use it via cellular connections.

Verizon's data usage calculator shows that 10 minutes of video streaming per day equates to 1.22 GB per month of data usage for 3G and LTE smartphones. For existing individual customers, Verizon charges $30 per month for 2 GB, $50 for 5 GB and $80 for 10 GB. New customers who want subsidized smartphones need to sign up for Verizon's new Share Everything data plans.

For more:
- see this 9to5Mac post
- see this CNET article
- see this VentureBeat article

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