Google introduced its new Hangouts cross-platform chat and video application yesterday. But AT&T isn’t allowing video calls from Android devices to be placed over its network, and nobody knows why. It brings back memories of the backlash the carrier experienced when it opened up FaceTime over its network to Mobile Share subscribers only. To be clear, it appears AT&T is the only carrier blocking the service: it works fine on Verizon, The Verge said.
AT&T was asked for an explanation, but the response wasn’t very clear. The carrier said that “customers can use any video chat app over cellular that is not pre-loaded on their device, but which they download from the Internet.” That means it’s OK to use Skype and any other variety of video services, but you can’t use anything that ships preloaded on the phone. That also explains why it works OK using Hangouts on iOS—it’s a third party app. Since Google Hangouts essentially replaces Google Talk on Android, however, AT&T is including Hangouts in the “pre-loaded” camp.
The wild part is that AT&T allows BlackBerry 10 users to use BBM Video to chat with one another, and iOS users to do the same with FaceTime. So it appears there was some sort of agreement between BlackBerry and Apple to allow those pre-loaded apps to work just fine. Why not the same for Google and Android?
AT&T’s full response to the situation was:
All AT&T Mobility customers can use any video chat app over cellular that is not pre-loaded on their device, but which they download from the Internet. For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we offer all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share, Tiered and soon Unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices. It’s up to each OS and device makers to enable their systems to allow pre-loaded video chat apps to work over cellular for our customers on those plans.
The question that we’re all wondering now is why AT&T and Google aren’t working this out. Is it because AT&T wasn’t approached by Google in the first place? Did AT&T turn Google down? If so, why?