T-Mobile lets Customers Binge on Streaming Video without the Data Cost

by Matt Klassen on November 12, 2015

T-Mobile has once again disrupted the mobile world, promising its customers access to a select number of streaming video services without incurring the often steep data cost, meaning users will get to stream videos without using a drop of their data.

Dubbed “Binge On,” T-Mobile’s latest promotion will be available for free to the company’s higher tiered data plans, allowing them access to a select number of streaming video sites that won’t count against their data cap. America’s third largest wireless company explains that through the use of proprietary technology, its network is now able to detect and optimize video data streams, making sure those are delivered without incurring the data cost.

Ironically enough, this promotion comes amidst an industry wide crackdown on data gluttons, as T-Mobile, among all others, has instituted policies that throttle their heaviest users. To get around this, and thus allow users to stream video exempt from their data cap, T-Mobile has taken a unique turn, it has lowered the quality of the video to optimize it for mobile devices, arguing that true HD streams are wasted on smartphones, and thus pointlessly consume an inordinate amount of data.

There is absolutely no question that the biggest consumer of mobile data is streaming video, accounting for the vast majority of data usage across North America. In fact, if you stream an hour of HD video a day—binge watching your favourite HBO series, lets say—you would gobble up approximately 14GB of data over the course of that month, well beyond any regular 3 -5GB data plan.

In an effort to once again shake-up the wireless industry, and provide incentive for customers to switch, T-Mobile’s new “Binge On” program, set to go into effect on Sunday, will allow customers to stream videos exempt from data allotments from popular sites such as Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, and more than 20 other video services, with the promise to add more streaming services over time.

As mentioned, the way T-Mobile is able to offer this sort of thing is because the video is optimized at a lower quality, which company CEO John Legere referred to as “DVD quality,” or 480p, lower than the 720p or 1080p that we associate with HD quality. While you might think that this streaming video leaves something to be desired regarding quality, the fact of the matter is that much of the depth of an HD feed is lost on a smartphone, meaning much more data is consumed by HD quality video without providing the user with an appreciably better viewing experience.

Normally, “data is wasted because on smaller-screen devices, you don’t need to get all that data to get a great picture,” said Andrew Sherrard, T-Mobile’s chief marketing officer.

By deploying its own proprietary technology, T-Mobile’s network is able to recognize, categorize, and subsequently optimize video streams, meaning that although the free streaming service is only available to those customers with a 3GB data plan or higher (those who will now likely pay for data they will no longer use), those on lower data tiers will still get to access the optimization service (although it will count against their data cap), and, as the company explains, it will likely translate into 3 times more streaming video than normal.

It should also be noted that this service will not include YouTube videos because, as Legere explained, it didn’t meet the technical qualifications in time in order to be part of the program, but it will likely be added at a later date. Further, customers can opt out of the optimized streaming service as well and resume HD viewing, although of course such data will no longer be exempt.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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