Apple announced on Monday that its latest iteration of iOS will allow FaceTime video chats over cellular connections, not just through Wi-Fi networks. While it will be a welcome change for users who want to FaceTime when they're not connected to Wi-Fi, many are questioning whether 3G networks will have sufficient bandwidth or if the 4G LTE rolled out by many carriers will be affordable.
As reported in Computerworld, this implies that the next iteration of the iPhone will support 4G LTE. The 4G LTE AT&T and Verizon Wireless plan on rolling out is about 10 times faster than 3G. Without LTE, many users with a 3G connection might still be disappointed in the quality of FaceTime, but even if the connection is fast enough, the bandwidth required for a video call might come at a high cost. Apple hasn't defined how much bandwidth a typical FaceTime chat will require, but if it raises people's bills too much, there's a chance it won't work out.
Yankee Group Principal Analyst Ken Rehbehn comments
"Apple's move to extend FaceTime into the mobile cellular domain is a reflection of growing mobile network capabilities and pressure from competing mobile voice and video service offerings such as Skype and GoogleTalk. Since its original introduction, mobile operators have forged ahead with better performing 3G networks incorporating HSPA+ and 1XEVDO. Just as important, these operators have made significant performance boosts to backhaul networks as a precursor to extensive 4G LTE deployment or to handle rapidly growing HSPA+ data traffic. End-users, however, may be challenged finding consistent performance when attempting FaceTime application access. Where users tapping into FaceTime in a Wi-Fi hotspot are generally 'on the pause' and seeing uniform Wi-Fi performance, users moving about in the macro-cellular environment will experience varying radio support depending on location of the user, location of base station sites, and radio technology. And where Wi-Fi users typically pay no fees based on traffic load, many mobile customers now face data caps and overage costs. To that end, Apple's FaceTime may prove an expensive disappointment when mobile networks fail to deliver needed transmission quality while rapidly depleting end user data buckets. Apple must offer end users more control over FaceTime's use of the network by providing options to disable FaceTime when not on Wi-Fi as well as an ability to activate/deactivate the video component during calls."
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