AT&T is a hundred year old monopoly, whose logo is the Death Star, so it’s not much of a surprise when they act like an evil empire. In case you aren’t a Star Wars fan and think the argument is invalid, the AT&T building in Nashville looks just like the Eye of Sauron. Fantasy and Sci-Fi agree that AT&T is bad news. It’s pretty tough to argue with that logic.
Retroactively poor branding judgement aside, AT&T has been known to be technologically duplicitous in the past, and it appears that they are up to their old tricks once again. Back when they were SBC, CEO Ed Whitacre bitched about Vonage’s attempt to “use my pipes free”. Now that they are AT&T once again, the mobile division is angry about Apple’s Facetime application. AT&T mobile would like to disable the Facetime app on AT&T iPhones unless the subscriber pays for a more expensive text and data package. Given AT&T’s sensitivity about who uses their “pipes” this latest move might sound logical,
except that Facetime only works over wifi. This means that Facetime doesn’t use AT&T’s 3G or 4G network, but ONLY works over a wireless network connection to a residential or commercial broadband internet service. Facetime doesn’t touch AT&T’s mobile network, but AT&T still wants to demand users pay more to them to be able to use it. but it’s just them wanting to be paid twice for delivering the same data.
UPDATE: it turns out that iOS6 will do FaceTime over mobile broadband. The current implementation, iOS5, only works over WiFi, regardless of your carrier. This doesn’t let AT&T off the hook, however. According to this article, the proposed new voice and text plans actually offer 66% LESS data than current plans, in exchange for an almost 30% INCREASE in price:
AT&T also implies that forcing you onto plans with unlimited voice minutes in order to use FaceTime is absolutely necessary, because these “Mobile Share” plans were “designed to make more data available to consumers” (emphasis in original). But today, an AT&T customer with an iPhone 4S who is a moderate data user would likely opt into AT&T’s $70 plan, which includes 3 gigabytes of data and 450 voice minutes each month.
AT&T won’t allow that customer use mobile FaceTime. But if he or she “upgrades” to the low-end $95 Mobile Share plan, they’ll get unlimited voice, text and just 1 gigabyte of monthly data, and be free to use FaceTime. So it appears how much data you buy from AT&T actually has nothing to do with the company’s decision to block FaceTime.
Just like with Vonage, you paid for the data, and AT&T wants to charge you more for using it the way that you want to. This is, and always has been, about keeping people subscribed to expensive voice and text services that are being obsoleted by free/low cost IP-based solutions.
This isn’t a new business model. It’s the same model that North American organized crime works off of: extortion. Mexican cartels also employ a similar model, known as ransoming. AT&T wants to hold the FaceTime app hostage until you pay them off.
Depicted below is Freepress.net’s infographic on the issue. However, in my mind, the two main issues are that 1)
Facetime doesn’t use AT&T’s network subscribers are already paying for data and should be allowed to use it as they see fit. This is simply a money grab and nothing more. And 2) this is what monopolies do. Aren’t you glad we all opposed AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile?
Before you breathe a sigh of relief and say “whew! I’m sure glad I went with VZW/Android/Skype, be aware that the only reason that your shit works is because VZW and Skype worked out a deal a couple of years ago.