AT&T made a grave mistake five years ago: They severely underestimated demand for data on the iPhone, and kept doing it until it was way, way too late. They denied this for years, even as the evidence mounted and more and more calls were dropped.
Then AT&T announced it would be limiting use of FaceTime in iOS 6 and its customers went ballistic… and finally forced them to admit the truth.
Here’s the damning language in question:
We are broadening our customers’ ability to use the preloaded version of FaceTime but limiting it in this manner to our newly developed AT&T Mobile Share data plans out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience.
So how can a multi-billion company flush with cash from nearly five years of Apple obsessives, three of those exclusive, whose entire job is to have a fully functional and speedy cellular network, screw up so badly?
Any mobile network uses spectrum to carry its signals, just like radio, TV, and anyone else. Think of cellular providers as competing radio stations on different frequencies and you’ve got the idea. The problem is that AT&T uses the same spectrum to carry data and voice calls. This is great as long as you don’t have millions of people accessing your network for both data and calls at a rate you never predicted… which is pretty much exactly what happened to AT&T.
So why haven’t they fixed it? Because to do that, they need 4G spectrum and to build out an entire new network. Their solution to this? Buying T-Mobile. What that tanked, they had no backup.
In short, if you want to use FaceTime whenever and wherever you want, make sure you’ve got a WiFi signal handy.