Q: My son has the latest iPad and uses FaceTime all the time from home using our unlimited network. Recently he has been using FaceTime to call his friend who has gone to Spain. Is this costing us anything for him using this?
A: There are no costs specifically associated with using FaceTime beyond that of a normal Internet connection, as FaceTime uses your Internet in more or less the same way as other types of activities such as web browsing, checking e-mail, or watching videos.
Note, however, that FaceTime can use a substantial amount of Internet bandwidth compared to other activities such as web browsing or sending e-mail, as it is essentially a streaming video service in the same way as YouTube or Netflix.
Although data usage varies slightly due to video compression, FaceTime uses an average of about 5MB of data per minute of conversation, so an hour long chat will consume around 300MB of data.
If both devices are on a Wi-Fi connection, this additional bandwidth usage is unlikely to be of any real concern as even bandwidth-limited home Internet packages are generally measured in tens or hundreds of gigabytes per month.
On newer iPad and iPhone models, FaceTime can be used over a 3G or LTE cellular data connection, and in this case you would probably want to use it more sparingly; with iPhone and iPad data plans ranging from 500MB to 6GB, in some cases it wouldn’t take much more than an hour of FaceTime use to eat up your monthly data allotment. Further, if your son’s friend is using cellular data in Spain, this may create a very expensive data roaming bill for him, so it would be wise to ensure that he only uses FaceTime while on a Wi-Fi connection.
Note that you can prevent FaceTime from being used over a cellular data connection by going into Cellular Data in the iPad Settings app and toggling off the “FaceTime” option under the “Use Cellular Data for” section. On the iPhone, this is found under General, Cellular. This option only appears on iOS devices that are capable of using FaceTime over Cellular, so if the option doesn’t appear on your device, then it’s essentially off anyway, as your device isn’t capable of placing or receiving FaceTime calls over a cellular data network at all.