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You may have heard that iOS 6 will finally allow FaceTime over 3G networks – provided, of course, that the carrier allows it too. So it should come as no surprise that AT&T (“the nation’s most fragile 3G network”)  has decided to use this as an opportunity to alienate those customers who didn’t leave after

  • It took forever to get tethering, after just about every other carrier had it
  • They restricted tethering once they finally allowed it to people not on the “unlimited” plan
  • They decided to redefine “unlimited” as 3 GB / month effectively
  • They didn’t – and still don’t – offer tethering on the new LTE iPad

Yes, AT&T, the first carrier in the US to get the iPhone has gone out of its way to make people unhappy. And now, you can add FaceTime over 3G (oh, I’m sorry, they rebranded their 3G as “4G” because they think customers are morons) to the list. As you may have heard, AT&T will only let you use FaceTime over 3G if you move to their new shared data plans. This means, of course, giving up any plan you currently have (like that formerly “unlimited” plan that keeps AT&T’s CEO awake at night).

For me, it actually might save a little money. I have 2 phones and an iPad in the family on the current AT&T plan. In total, they have 8 GB, 2GB for the iPad and 3 GB for each phone. However, we never use that much data – but we use well over the next plan down. So if I go with a 4 GB shared plan, I can save a few bucks a month and get tethering and FaceTime over 3G. Oh, yes, and unlimited phone calls, but I never went over my 450 minutes per month anyway, so not a big deal.

And since “unlimited” doesn’t actually mean that, it’s not such a big deal to give that up anymore.  So I’ll probably switch on August 23rd when the plan becomes available.

But if you only have one device, it might not be such a good deal. It depends a lot on what data plan you’re on now, and what voice plan. My voice plan is pretty cheap – $39.99/month – as I’ve had it since my flip phone days.

Still, seems odd I should have to change – there are several apps, like Skype, ooVoo, Tango, to name a few, that already let me make voice calls over 3G. So why is FaceTime being given special treatment? Because they can.

So when my commitment is up for these phones, I will probably switch to Verizon. I resisted this in the past, because I do use the data feature often while I’m on the phone. But with LTE, that’s not an issue for non-AT&T phones anymore – and with LTE everywhere (just about) for Verizon (and hardly anywhere by comparison for AT&T), I might as well switch.I’d probably go to Sprint if they had a better network (so would a lot of people!). But Verizon and AT&T cover the areas where I travel frequently, and Verizon has LTE most of those places as well. The next phone out will probably have LTE, and if not, the one after that for sure – and I should be just about ready to switch by then.

So nice job, AT&T – you’ve convinced a long-time customer to leave. With the reduction of bandwidth from me and many others, I guess the CEO will be able to sleep at night.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9YRgaVomZ4

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  • Well said Jack and it’s even worse for those of us who have been grandfathered into a “Corporate” unlimited plan. AT&T clearly wants all of us “old timers” OFF the unlimited plans as quickly as possible. So they will continue to offer the new features only to those that go to their new LIMITED plans.

    Verizon seems to (or is starting to) get it when it comes data plans. Let me play for the amount of data I’ll use and let me use it anyway I want! This is one of the reasons I switch from an AT&T LTE iPad to a Verizon LTE one. They let you do tethering right out of the box and as you pointed out AT&T still doesn’t!

  • BTW I’ll be pushing all my friends and family to use Skype instead of FaceTime! Since it works over 3G and is cross platform (Mac, Win, iOS, Android).

  • 1 more thing….

    T-Mobile has announced what it calls a “truly unlimited” 4G data plan, with “no data caps, speed limits or bill shock.”

    The new plan costs $20 when added to a “Value” voice and text plan or $30 per month when added to a “Classic” voice and text plan. This means that a truly unlimited plan — we’re talking unlimited voice, text and 4G data — costs $89.99.

    For comparison, AT&T’s most generous data plan is 20 GB (which you can share across up to 10 devices), and that costs $200 a month when you add unlimited text and calls. Sprint’s “unlimited” data plan, coupled with unlimited text and calls, costs $110.

    If T-Mobile in the US had the iPhone, AT&T would truly be dead.