T-Mobile confirms Binge On tech slows streaming video data speeds

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in iPhone
T-Mobile on Friday said its new Binge On service does indeed slow down cellular data connections to streaming video sites as some customers have complained, but maintains the feature is an "optimization" to benefit consumers, not data throttling.




In a statement provided to Wired, a T-Mobile representative confirmed that subscribers who opt in to Binge On will see downgraded connection speeds when streaming or downloading video from websites not participating in the service.

Introduced in November as part of T-Mobile's latest "Uncarrier" campaign, Binge On allows customers to stream optimized video at resolutions up to 480p from supported sites without it counting against their monthly data allotment. So far the service has 38 partners, including big names like Netflix, HBO, Showtime, Hulu, A&E and History.

Critics are concerned that the so-called "zero rating" policy flies in the face of net neutrality rules, while consumer groups claim other issues are at play. The Electronic Frontier Foundation this week discovered T-Mobile is slowing down data to 1.5Mbps across-the-board. Videos from Binge On partners are not affected by the slowdown as they are provisioned to serve up 480p content, but attempting to view higher resolution videos from other sites like YouTube results in a poor viewing experience.

T-Mobile, or more specifically CEO John Legere, says critics are attempting to confuse customers by using terms like "throttling" and "net neutrality" to describe Binge On, both of which are apparently incorrect.

"There are people out there saying we're 'throttling,'" Legere said in a video published to T-Mobile's website alongside a blog post. "That's a game of semantics, and it's bullshit."

In addition to posting the expository video and letter, Legere took part in a Periscope live video chat on Thursday to discuss Binge On's backend technology and how it affects end users. Yesterday's session failed to clarify the matter.

For its part, T-Mobile notes customers can turn Binge On off at any time. Further, content providers have the choice of being included in the program so long as their platforms are compatible.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    I am a truck driver and I had a problem with T-Mobile lately when streaming videos and stuff while on the road hauling cars. When we have down time we have to do something and I choose to watch Netflix and stream videos on YouTube. I really wish T-Mobile would get its act together. :-/
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 2 of 13
    dws-2dws-2 Posts: 225member
    i don't know why this bothers people so much. For most people, they essentially get free data to play videos, and on a small phone screen, the videos are decent quality. For others who want higher def video, they can just turn off Binge On. Data is limited, especially over the air, and this seems like an ideal solution to me.
    nemoeaccornchipgregoriusm
  • Reply 3 of 13
    focherfocher Posts: 638member
    dutko2385 said:
    I am a truck driver and I had a problem with T-Mobile lately when streaming videos and stuff while on the road hauling cars. When we have down time we have to do something and I choose to watch Netflix and stream videos on YouTube. I really wish T-Mobile would get its act together. :-/
    Just login to the T-Mobile website and turn it off. I think they should have made it opt-in instead of opt-out, but the amount of coverage versus the fact that the customer ultimately controls whether it's on seems rather out-of-whack.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 4 of 13
    So how exactly does this work? How is it decided what is part of Binge On and what's not? 
  • Reply 5 of 13
    My wife just switched to T-Mobile two weeks ago and she has been happy with the service so far. She's coming from Sprint and we live in in the S Fla area. 

    Binge On is part got her plan so I decided to run some videos from Binge On partners and others who are not. I also ran the same videos on my phone at the same time. I'm still with Sprint. I have a 6 Plus & she has the 6S Plus. 

    What I found: Her coverage was definitely better and videos ran more smoothly while I did experience periodic buffering. The 480p stream was noticeably worse the the 1080p I was streaming, even on a 5.5 inch screen. That being said, it wasnt terrible. Just ok. Worth putting up with since it doesn't go against her data. Biggest issue: ALL video she streams, weather a Binge On partner or not, was streamed at 480p. Only when connected to wifi did it stream in HD. I think this is the biggest issue. T-Mobile calls it optimizing. Well I don't want ALL my video optimized. I understand it stretches my data because non-partner streams use less since they are coming in at 480p as well. My preference would be 480p for Binge On partners and HD stream for everything else. 
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 6 of 13
    dws-2 said:
    i don't know why this bothers people so much. For most people, they essentially get free data to play videos, and on a small phone screen, the videos are decent quality. For others who want higher def video, they can just turn off Binge On. Data is limited, especially over the air, and this seems like an ideal solution to me.
    Yeah data is limited...that's why you don't offer an unlimited data plan! At least, not yet. For me, a 10GB plan is just as good a unlimited. I'll use it normally and organically. I'll view what I normally view and I'll use wifi when it makes sense. My data and my speeds are not "optimized". Why should a Binge On plan be "optimized"? The first dumb thing they did is call it Binge On. That implies using the service irresponsibly and with glut. It makes you want to test its limits or get your money's worth, like an all-you-can-eat buffet. At home, I don't need 3 plates of food for lunch, but tell me it's cool to stuff my face at a buffet, then game on. Should have called it the "Don't Worry About It Plan". 

    Consider phone and text. You used to pay for use. You would keep count of your minutes and texts. Then data plans became a thing and those older plans became worthless and confusing. Just because phone calls are unlimited, doesn't mean you have people call cross country for hours, just because. The unlimited service was deployed naturally and nobody used it as a huge marketing tool. You want to attract customers with you exclusive Binge On service, well be prepared for the fallout that comes with it. 

    I'll stick with my Verizon pseudo-unlimited plan with great service and no throttling. 
  • Reply 7 of 13
    dws-2 said:
    i don't know why this bothers people so much. For most people, they essentially get free data to play videos, and on a small phone screen, the videos are decent quality. For others who want higher def video, they can just turn off Binge On. Data is limited, especially over the air, and this seems like an ideal solution to me.

    Consider phone and text. You used to pay for use. You would keep count of your minutes and texts. Then data plans became a thing and those older plans became worthless and confusing. 
    We also should remember how data plans originated.  In the old days of flip phones... you had to connect to the "web" at crazy high prices. It wasn't even a plan at all... it was pay what you use.  It kinda sucked though... so not many people used data on an old flip phone.

    Then smartphones like the Blackberry came along and you paid a flat $30 a month for an "always on" data connection.   That is... your email just came to your phone without having to manually connect.  And you could surf the web too (barely).   The carriers didn't have a problem with allowing "always on" and therefore "unlimited" data on smartphones at that time since there was no way you were burning through that much data on a Blackberry. I know... I had one.  

    But with the next generation of smartphones... people could actually DO stuff with their smartphone.  Browsing full websites... streaming music and video... all sorts of stuff. And the networks were fast... sometimes faster than your home internet connection.  

    The carriers were in a pickle.  They had to scramble to figure out how to fix this problem.  No longer did they want to offer "unlimited" data on these advanced phones.  So they implemented data caps.  Voice and texts eventually became devalued... and it was data that became the primary thing.

    Offering unlimited data on a Blackberry in 2009 is a lot different than unlimited data on an iPhone in 2016.

    But I think if carriers are gonna be bold enough to offer unlimited data today.... they need to shut up and do it.  I know why T-Mobile offered unlimited data a couple years ago... they wanted to be more attractive than other carriers with data caps.  But they soon realized that people took them up on this offer... and started USING their smartphones and hundreds of gigabytes a month.

    Hey carriers... put up or shut up!
    edited January 2016 tommy0guns
  • Reply 8 of 13
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    Such a ridiculous non-story. The T-Mobile CEO is dead right. It's a mobile network. Optimisations are completely understandable. This has nothing to do with an open internet.
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 9 of 13
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,428member
    This is no different than metering lights on the bay bridge (SF), or lights to merge onto a freeway during commute hours.  There's only so much capacity for something, and if everyone feels the need to shoehorn their wants, the system would collapse.  

    I'm an unlimited AT&T customer and even I don't use my plan as gluttonous as others here do.  I keep it just because I can, not because I "need" it.  I still avoid using it unless necessary.  I guess it's just habit from those days of non-smartphone cell phone days where every byte used costed a fortune.

    Lighten up people.  If you're binging at the all-you-can-eat buffet line, don't be surprised if the manager asks you to leave.  Sure, it's technically "legal", but whiners just like to ignore the spirit of the intent when convenient.
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 10 of 13
    sflocal said:
    This is no different than metering lights on the bay bridge (SF), or lights to merge onto a freeway during commute hours.  There's only so much capacity for something, and if everyone feels the need to shoehorn their wants, the system would collapse.  

    I'm an unlimited AT&T customer and even I don't use my plan as gluttonous as others here do.  I keep it just because I can, not because I "need" it.  I still avoid using it unless necessary.  I guess it's just habit from those days of non-smartphone cell phone days where every byte used costed a fortune.

    Lighten up people.  If you're binging at the all-you-can-eat buffet line, don't be surprised if the manager asks you to leave.  Sure, it's technically "legal", but whiners just like to ignore the spirit of the intent when convenient.
    If everybody would think like you, you probably would not need data caps at all. Or, maybe speed limits. Or many other laws. That's however the point: laws do try to capture the spirit of "reasonable" and "sensible", but it's not the same as common sense. Therefore, there are and always will bee people while say "unlimited" is unlimited and Hereford I can download 24/7 etc. 
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 11 of 13
    Yeah, ummmm the CEO and his representatives just might want to get on the same page before releasing statements.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    It's been interesting for me. I have unlimited data on T-Mobile, and have not noticed any throttling at any time. My oldest son is on this plan with me, and for some reason, our data usage has dropped significantly. We used to combine for about 40GB of data per month, and now we're at around 10GB with the same (excessive) usage. I'm not sure how to account for it, but carefully examining video quality through Amazon, Google Play (Youtube), and Netflix, it's clear that I'm getting at least 720p over LTE from all sources.

    For folks on a budget plan, I think Binge On is a pretty sweet deal. That said, for only $100/month, we have two phones on an unlimited everything plan that is tough to beat, especially since we really use that data. I'll be adding my daughter to the plan for $10/month this spring.
    trumptman
  • Reply 13 of 13
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,452member
    I love Binge On so far. I often have to wait around a bit to pick up my kids and so I'm wander through all the Star Trek Voyager episodes on Netflix at 15-20 minutes a clip. It doesn't count against my data and I can't even tell if 7 of 9 is in HD or 480p on my iPhone 6S.
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