AT&T to offer iPhone 5 FaceTime over cellular without a shared data plan

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AT&T announced on Thursday that it will enable FaceTime video calls for iPhone 5 users with any AT&T Mobile Share plan, expanding it beyond customers with its new shared data plans.

FaceTime over cellular will also be available to users of Apples third- and fourth-generation iPad, as well as the new iPad mini, running iOS 6. FaceTime over cellular will officially be available for any LTE device on any tiered data plan when the service launches in the next 8 to 10 weeks.

The only users who will be left out of FaceTime over cellular will be those with legacy unlimited data plans. AT&T transitioned to capped data plans in 2010, and this year began offering shared data plans.

AT&T also said it will make FaceTime over cellular available to deaf and hard of hearing customers who qualify for special text and data-only packages.

In an effort to encourage users to switch to its Mobile Share data plans, and also to limit bandwidth use on its network, AT&T originally chose to limit FaceTime over cellular calls to customers who subscribed to its Mobile Share plans. After facing criticism, AT&T defended its decision by arguing it did not violate the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules.

But AT&T's chief rival, Verizon, allows all iPhone 5 users to make FaceTime calls over cellular data connections, and did not limit access to its shared data plan customers. But Verizon's plan goes one step further and allows video calls on any data allowance tier, including legacy unlimited plans.