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FaceTime, Other Video Chat Apps Available to All AT&T Users By Year’s End

In a stunning shift from their previous stances on mobile video chat, AT&T announced to The Verge today that it plans to extend cellular use of Apple’s FaceTime to all users in the coming weeks, particularly those who aren’t covered by the new tiered plans it introduced last year. By the end of the year, AT&T plans to allow video chat apps over its network for all customers with LTE devices regardless of the platform.

In AT&T’s own words, “For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we currently give all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share or Tiered plans. Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry have chosen to enable this for their pre-loaded video chat apps. And by mid-June, we’ll have enabled those apps over cellular for our unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices from those three manufacturers.”

Apparently AT&T’s already at work extending the services to users with data plans that predate its new tiered plans. 9to5 Mac recently reported that users with older plans from all over Twitter are reporting that FaceTime was now enabled on their phones.

This marks a significant departure from AT&T’s previous decision that we reported on back in August, which stated that only users with a MobileShare plan could use FaceTime without a WiFi connection ready. To put it lightly, AT&T’s plan was met with hostility. Angry users threatened to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission out of the conviction that AT&T’s plan violated net neutrality, and the FCC announced its plans to take any such allegations seriously. By January, AT&T had backed down and allowed video chat for free to anyone under the new tiered plans.

Not a fan of FaceTime? Don’t worry; based on AT&T’s wording, it looks as though you’ll be able to use alternatives such as Google’s Hangouts app as well.

UPDATE: Shortly after press time, we were able to confirm that FaceTime over LTE worked with an AT&T iPhone 5 using an older plan.

Follow this article’s author, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.

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