T-Mobile cracks down on subscribers 'stealing' tethered data

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2015
Beginning on Monday, T-Mobile USA will start taking action against people spoofing the carrier's network to "steal" unlimited tethering data, according to a blog post by CEO John Legere.




The people in question are using apps, rooting, and/or their own code to mask whether they're tethering phones to other devices, Legere said. Only a hundredth of a percent of T-Mobile's customers are allegedly involved, but some of them are claimed to be using up to 2 terabytes of data per month.

Like other major U.S. carriers, T-Mobile provides a small default amount of LTE tethering each month. Once that cap is hit the company throttles backs tethering speeds substantially until the next month, or a person pays for more data.

The crackdown will begin with about 3,000 subscribers "who know exactly what they are doing," Legere stated. An official FAQ notes that the company has developed technology to detect spoofers, and that anyone caught will first be warned and then risk having their smartphone plan downgraded from the unlimited tier to a capped one.

Legere also suggested that the issue is separate from complaints that it and other carriers have been misleading in promising unlimited smartphone data. In practice, U.S. carriers have generally imposed "soft" limits mentioned only in fine print. This June, the Federal Communications Commission levied a $100 million fine against AT&T for failing to adequately inform customers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    kent909kent909 Posts: 709member
    How much does a terabyte of data really cost a cellular company?
  • Reply 2 of 30



    i wish att would let me limited tether my iPhone, since i grandfathered in to original unlimited plan, no tethering at all seems to be a ploy for me to give up the unlimited.

  • Reply 3 of 30
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,134member
    Data is data, right? Sounds like a net-neutrality violation.
  • Reply 4 of 30
    kent909 wrote: »
    How much does a terabyte of data really cost a cellular company?

    Across many many people?

    A lot.
  • Reply 5 of 30
    kent909kent909 Posts: 709member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post





    Across many many people?



    A lot

    Think about it. They build a data center that has a bandwidth capacity of some amount, in theory for more data than will be requested. When you exceed your "unlimited amount" a software adjustment is made to throttle your bandwidth. You are still using the same amount it is just being slowed down. I would hazard to say that networking equipment that has then ability to dial in specific bandwidth based on each individual phone number costs a lot more than equipment that would just pass through the data as fast as hardware allowed. So the cost of data goes up not because of the cost to pass it along increases, it costs more because it is being throttled or managed in some way. This is one of the biggest scams perpertrated on consumers. The unlimited plans only make sense if you really get unlimited data and all at the same speed. If that is a business model that cannot be sustainable, then why would you offer it in the first place. I am all for companies making a profit, but why such a convuluted distortion of the truth. Just give a price per gigabyte and be done with it.

  • Reply 6 of 30
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,655member

    I have an unlimited package for my iPhone.  My last log showed 232MB for the past billing month.  Even with that, I do what I can do use WiFi where available simply because it's usually a faster, more stable data connection than my mobile data is.



    I know that "unlimited" data is just that.  The same as "All you can eat buffet".  But since I'm an adult with realistic expectations, and not some whiny moocher that feels "unlimited" means using not only my phone, but feeling to be elite enough to tether my laptop to watch youtube videos all day long and torrenting movies and using it to provide bandwidth to others as well because well, it's "unlimited".

     

    Cellular spectrums are a limited resource.  When a group of people in my area hog a resource, it impacts others too.  Of course they don't care "cuz I have unlimited!  Kewl!" mentality.



    So I can totally understand the telecoms wanting to put the kibosh on unlimited plans.  The few that abuse it ruined it for everyone else.  I use my bandwidth like everything else I do/consume.  In moderation.  Many don't.  I'm sure the day will come where I'll have to give it up, but I accept it as change being the only constant.  I'll be glad I had it for as long as I did, and not go back whining and having a hissy-fit like others do akin to having candy taken away from them as a child.



    In the beginning of the iPhone era, unlimited plans made marketing sense since it was new, and no one really knew how much the mobile era would explode.  Now, globally we're into 1-billion+ users, many with data hogging mobile devices so the rules have to change.  It's just that way.

  • Reply 7 of 30
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,096member
    The difference here is that T-Mobile tells you up front that the "unlimited" is on your phone only, and does not include tethered data, which has a different hard limit at LTE speeds. So the people using this data are breaking their contract with T-Mobile.

    This is not the same as bandwidth limiting users under the table when they use "too much"
  • Reply 8 of 30
    kent909 wrote: »
    Think about it. They build a data center that has a bandwidth capacity of some amount, in theory for more data than will be requested. When you exceed your "unlimited amount" a software adjustment is made to throttle your bandwidth. You are still using the same amount it is just being slowed down. I would hazard to say that networking equipment that has then ability to dial in specific bandwidth based on each individual phone number costs a lot more than equipment that would just pass through the data as fast as hardware allowed. So the cost of data goes up not because of the cost to pass it along increases, it costs more because it is being throttled or managed in some way.

    No. The cost to manage bandwith is miniscule compared with network transit costs. Also something to consider is that wireless bandwidth in any given is a very limited resource.

    I agree with you that "unlimited" is misleading; everything is limited in some way and those limits should be clearly spelled out, not hidden in the fine print of an agreement.
  • Reply 9 of 30
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member

    I'm always for going after the abusers. We all pay the price for these assholes.

  • Reply 10 of 30
    bsenkabsenka Posts: 799member
    I don't get this. You're paying for the data, and it's being throttled after you reach certain limits. How is it even any of their business what you DO with that data? That clause in the contract shouldn't even be enforceable. Imagine if they tried to tell you what rooms you're allowed to use your data in? Restricting where you can use it is not really any different than restricting what you can use it for.

    Do any of the US carriers offer unlimited tethering? I have that on my iPhone plan, and although it is pricey, it's not THAT much more than the plans without it.
  • Reply 11 of 30
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,339member

    "who know exactly what they are doing," Legere stated.


    Funny. cool that they are issuing a warning first even though it's highly likely the guilty parties already knew this was coming, or at the very least would know exactly why they got nailed. i suspect they want to keep those high dollar subscribers on board, so they're firing a warning shot.
  • Reply 12 of 30
    xixoxixo Posts: 422member

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

     

    I'm an adult with realistic expectations, and not some whiny moocher that feels "unlimited" means using not only my phone, but feeling to be elite enough to tether my laptop to watch youtube videos all day long and torrenting movies and using it to provide bandwidth to others as well because well, it's "unlimited".




     

    someone paying $110 a month is hardly a "whiny moocher". carrier marketing tells you over and over again how fast your favorite videos will load.

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

     

    Cellular spectrums are a limited resource.  When a group of people in my area hog a resource, it impacts others too.  Of course they don't care "cuz I have unlimited!  Kewl!" mentality.


      limited resource? "save the data whales?" - do you work for Verizon or AT&T? If you don't have unlimited don't call it unlimited and sell it as   unlimited.

     

      someone who defends cellphone companies?. Next you'll tell me watching over-the-air TV is piracy...

  • Reply 13 of 30
    Originally Posted by xixo View Post

     Next you'll tell me watching over-the-air TV is piracy...



    Or that a VHS recording of an MLB game is illegal.

  • Reply 14 of 30
    I don't understand the complaints here. T-Mobile offers a service. If you don't like it, don't sign up. Easy. At the same time it's quite obvious why they limit tethering, even though "data is data". Just read sflocal's post, for starters. And yes, they also probably consider this an additional source of revenue. So what? Nothing to do with net neutrality , btw.
    Personally , if 7GB of tethering per month is not enough, you're something wrong ;)
  • Reply 15 of 30
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    kent909 wrote: »
    How much does a terabyte of data really cost a cellular company?

    It's not the data, it's the wireless bandwidth being monopolized. In some instances someone can monopolize the entire HSPDA/LTE channel in their sector, which cripples everyone connected to that MSC, in turn crippling everyone the sector for about a mile.

    The large network carriers (eg AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) own their networks, so the bandwidth costs them nothing save for what goes over someone elses lines. Torrent traffic is one example where a carrier can not optimize routing because there is no single peer that bandwidth can cost them zero.

    eg. If you download file X, and it's 1TB in size, it will be divided into about a million segments of 1MB each and the torrent software will try to pull somewhere from 4 to 100 peers. If most of these peers are in China, then it's going to cost the carrier money if the carrier itself doesn't have a peer to go over. Large carriers hate paying transit, so they pretty much don't. The customer does. Cogent and Level 3 are the worst offenders for de-peering due to screwing their peers by routing traffic through their peers so they pay nothing and their peers pay everything.

    So again, ISP's only control over transit costs is de-peering, which is exactly what T-mobile is doing to customers who are dilibertly pushing traffic over their mobile device (which is expensive bandwidth) instead of over wired fixed connections with lower costs.

    Like, I'm all for T-mobile dropping customers entirely if customers are being scummy like this.

    FYI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tier_1_network
    AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom) are all considered Tier 1 networks, hence bandwidth costs them probably nothing.
  • Reply 16 of 30
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Right_said_fred View Post

     



    i wish att would let me limited tether my iPhone, since i grandfathered in to original unlimited plan, no tethering at all seems to be a ploy for me to give up the unlimited.




    Started reading this and was thinking the SAME thing. 

  • Reply 17 of 30
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by xixo View Post

     

    Tell me, does the signal for over-the-air broadcasting degrade as more people tune into it? 





    Nope, so your argument doesn't hold water. 

  • Reply 18 of 30
    Legere is clearly going after subscribers who flagrantly abuse their data plans, and T-Mobile should clarify what unlimited data means or eliminate the category altogether. I use around 5GB of tethered data on my plan but I really have no idea what people use 2 terabytes of data for in a given billing period.

  • Reply 19 of 30
    kent909 wrote: »
    Think about it. They build a data center that has a bandwidth capacity of some amount, in theory for more data than will be requested. When you exceed your "unlimited amount" a software adjustment is made to throttle your bandwidth. You are still using the same amount it is just being slowed down. I would hazard to say that networking equipment that has then ability to dial in specific bandwidth based on each individual phone number costs a lot more than equipment that would just pass through the data as fast as hardware allowed. So the cost of data goes up not because of the cost to pass it along increases, it costs more because it is being throttled or managed in some way. This is one of the biggest scams perpertrated on consumers. The unlimited plans only make sense if you really get unlimited data and all at the same speed. If that is a business model that cannot be sustainable, then why would you offer it in the first place. I am all for companies making a profit, but why such a convuluted distortion of the truth. Just give a price per gigabyte and be done with it.

    You should try to understand what economists refer to as the Commons Problem: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons
  • Reply 20 of 30
    indyfxindyfx Posts: 319member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kent909 View Post



    How much does a terabyte of data really cost a cellular company?



    Think about it:

    Average (heavy) smartphone user is about 2GB, This states they are taking ~2TB

    That means they are making the equivalent demand (on the cell network) of 1000 subscribers 

    How much do you think that costs the company?

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