Public Request for Feedback from AT&T

August 23, 2012

To Whom It May Concern at AT&T:

From the rest of the community who is fully confused by the latest announcement from AT&T concerning Facetime over 3G and the requirement for the new shared data plans, we would like to have some questions answered that would help to further solidify your position and rationale for this announcement.

1. Why is it a requirement to only support the new shared data plans rather than the tiered data plans? I know of several people currently with an unlimited plan who would willingly move to a tiered data plan, including myself, in order to gain Facetime over 3G. However, we do not want to be forced to pay an additional $20-40 on average from our current plans. For example, as a user who does not talk often and who never uses texting, why would I need to have unlimited quantities? In that scenario, I only need 400-500 minutes and no texting, which averages around $50-60 a month. Add 4 GB of data and that is only $80-90 a month versus the $70 + $40 for shared data plans. If the biggest issue is truly data usage, why does it matter if I am on a tiered data plan or a shared data plan (data is data and caps are caps). The use=age of texting and voice should not impact the usage of data and applications. The end result is the same for both the consumer and your bottom line.

2. Why is this restriction only in place for Facetime? There are several other popular video communication applications for smartphones, the most popular being Skype. Skype currently works over 3G without issue and without restriction. One could argue that Skype has more market penetration than Facetime and is potentially more threatening to your network. For one, Skype has a much larger market share and supports many more devices due to its support for Android and iOS (not to mention tablets, computers, and other smartphones). From the latest Google Play market statistics, the Android-based Skype application has been downloaded 50M-100M times. Compare that to the fact that only the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S support Facetime and only iOS to iOS calls are supported. I’m willing to guess the market share is drastically in favor of Skype. For example, last quarter, only 7M iPhones were activated on the AT&T network. The nationwide split is around 50% Android and 32% iOS. That being said, why should Facetime be disallowed but Skype allowed. That seems to give an unfair competitive advantage to Skype without justifiable means. This is further compounded when you add other video-chat applications such as Qik, Fring, Tango, Google+, etc. If the answer is that Facetime is “theoretically” easier and more penetratable as market share, can you please share that data with us? However, why should one companies’ success force an unfair advantage? Either all video applications should be disallowed or none should be.

3. If the selling point is you need to have a specific shared data plan, then why should the data used by Facetime count against that data usage? If you are requiring a specific data plan, there has to be an incentive to selecting that plan versus another plan such as the tiered data plans. Otherwise, this just seems like a ruthless attempt to coerce users into unwanted plans and extra cost.

4. Why not make Facetime only available over certain network capabilities (HSPA+ or LTE)?. In theory LTE, and even HSPA+ to a lesser extent, should provide better bandwidth than today’s older generation 3G networks. It would not be unreasonable to only support Facetime over these high speed networks for both bandwidth conservation and sheer performance and quality. The community, although still disappointed, would be able to better understand these types of restrictions (other than the fact that Skype and other applications run over 3G still). This would also allow a smaller rollout over time in order to better gauge the true network impact.

These answers would help the community better understand where you are coming from as an organization. We are all fully aware of the data bandwidth issues plaguing wireless carriers today, but in the end the decisions being made in this issue do not make sense: competitor networks are not making such concessions, other applications work without restriction, market share analysis (at least what the public has access to) provides no known concrete evidence that Facetime over 3G will substantially impact wireless networks adversely. These types of issues only worsen the credibility of AT&T, decrease customer satisfication, and ultimately confuse your user base.

We hope to hear back from you regarding these questions,


The AT&T iPhone Community
on behalf of Nicholas Hagen

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