It was revealed yesterday that AT&T was mulling the idea of charging for FaceTime access over 3G and LTE cellular networks. The prompt in the latest iOS 6 beta was discovered by 9to5Mac, asking customers to call AT&T to use FaceTime over cellular networks, presumably so that the carrier could charge additional fees for the service. When asked about the feature at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that it was “too early” to know what the company’s final plans will be.
That doesn’t mean the CEO has completely ruled out the idea of charged FaceTime cellular access, however. Stephenson was non-committal in his answer, saying that he had heard “the same rumor.” As you may have already gathered from reactions across the internet, the idea hasn’t exactly gone down well. Users are rightly pointing out that data is already bought and paid for, so applying additional charges for services that use that data simply comes across as a way to siphon more money from customers.
Carriers in the United States and Europe have tried to build a business model around video calls in the past, although high prices and lack of phones to take advantage of the technology resulted in the service’s failure to take off. There are millions of iPhone 4S’ out there capable of using FaceTime over cellular, but we’re pretty sure that consumers will balk at the idea of paying extra for the privilege. Hopefully AT&T will get the message that charging for FaceTime over cellular will go down like a lead balloon before the company finalizes its plans.