T-Mobile vision of net neutrality

Today, T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced a list of video services that some customers will be able to stream off-quota.
For services missing from this list, the same customers are supposed to pledge the US carrier to add them.

Everyone seem to rejoice because they get more than before for the same price, which seems like a good deal.

To really rejoice however, you need to you factor out:

– US carriers are more expensive than most of European ones in price/GB of data with equivalent contracts.
T-Mobile could add more data for everyone, or lower the prices for everyone, right now. But no, the benefit concerns only a few manually-selected websites/companies it and keeps the prices and quotas as they are.

– Notice the absence of both +YouTube and +Vimeo in the list today. Don't you think those two matter in the video streaming landscape? What could possibly justify the fact they're missing in the initial list.
They both have a premium paid option, they both compete for dollars and attention with +Netflix or any other in this list.
But they're not T-Mobile approved, that's how things are.

– Concerning the remaining 99.9% of other websites, today, T-Mobile says: If they meet our requirements, we’ll investigate the feasibility of adding them. No one pays to join and no money is exchanged
* The requirements and investigation are completely opaque.
* No money is exchanged today according to them. Good luck finding out if there's not another kind of compensation. And what guarantees that next year T-Mobile will require a fee – or something else to all of these services: nothing at all.
* Do you really want your carrier to pre-approve one way or another the websites you're supposed to visit?
* How would you ask T-Mobile to add your favorite website to the list? You just need to beg them in public on Twitter. Free marketing, and.. fantastic privacy as well.

I mean, did everyone already forgot about the net-neutrality 101?
Free stuff ! Yay!!
I would suggest to think a little bit long term here before placing yet another US carrier in a position of unnecessary influence and power.

#supercurioBlog #critic

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François Simond

Mobile engineer & analyst specialized in, display, camera color calibration, audio tuning

22 thoughts on “T-Mobile vision of net neutrality”

  1. But they are adding more data for the current 3GB/5GB Simple Choice tiers (which also seems to include Simple Choice Mobile Broadband plans meant for tablets).

    And the network optimization is optional. You can disable it for your account from the website or through customer service and go back to having all video streaming count against your data.

    Since current unlimited data plans don't benefit from this, they've also tossed in a free SlingTV movie rental per month to go along with their free Rhapsody Unlimited subscription as value-adds.

  2. Oh and I don't know about +Vimeo​ but +YouTube​ allows you to control resolution from the app and service itself so I'm assuming +T-Mobile​ and +Google​ would want to collaborate on how that could affect the user experience and how to implement this.

    I'm assuming Google would love to work on this with T-Mobile since this would potentially mean better engagement metrics with YouTube thus more ads shown and more money made for Google.

  3. +Ray Nassar Thanks, I didn't pay attention to the quota bump concerning some tiers.
    Imagine how much more data quota bumps it could have been for everyone if it was not restricted to only selected partners?
    What they present here means Netflix and others of the list are bundled in, and YouTube, Vimeo and others are a paid option.

    That's as much a competition distortion as it gets, and yeah: you have to pay a premium to access some websites now.
    In a fixed pool of data quota, yes it means lowering the cost of some increase mechanically the cost of others.

  4. Yeah, maybe. I think the more interesting thing to consider is the network optimization aspect and how it relates to T-Mobile's greater goals. Free video streaming is limited to 480p standard definition only.

    This quite obviously seems to me to be a field testing of their network optimization technology. I'm curious if, in the future, T-Mobile will implement this in their Music Freedom data program. Example: free streaming for 192kbps and lower audio but 320kbps counts against your cap.

    I see T-Mobile moving towards gradually making unlimited data available for all and effectively becoming the "dump pipe" we all want to see telecoms become. What interests me is the implication of how T-Mobile will get there…

    Will we see tiered servicing for unlimited data plans?

    Example: pay 50 dollars a month for unlimited data bronze plan, get 192kbps audio 480p video, general purpose speeds capped at 10mbps. Pay 60 dollars a month for unlimited data silver plan, get 256kbps audio, 720p video, general purpose speeds capped at 15mbps. Pay 70 dollars a month, get 320kbps audio, 1080p video, general purpose speeds capped at 20mbps. Pay 100 dollars a month, get lossless audio, 4k video, uncapped general purpose speeds and network priority over lower tier customers.

  5. +Ray Nassar I'd love if it were similar to that, but just overall speeds, like an ISP. They don't have a limited amount of gigs to give out, they have limited real time bandwidth.

    Sell people speed or a certain number of 'points' for how large a percentage of capacity they can get on a congested tower.

  6. +Ray Nassar in this proposition, it means that the carrier becomes who decides of the resolution or bitrate, at which pace the innovation is suppose to move.

    Why would that be legitimate to make that up to the carrier and not the user, or website/service.
    It means that producers of video services, players or hosting worldwide should code their apps with one specific local carrier in mind.
    That's the kind of thing that appear to make sense if you're a customer of this carrier, as you have a relationship with it.

    But from outside, I can guarantee you: ouch.
    It's against the very basis of the web.

  7. I think some variation of it will come eventually if the current status quo doesn't change. Carriers are the gatekeepers and through their gates we access the network. That's the simple reality of it. Without proper regulation and oversight, I don't see things changing for the better for the customer.

    On the bright side, this will bring some much needed competition to the telco landscape. AT&T and Verizon still have around twice as many subscribers each as T-Mobile and Sprint is lagging badly.

  8. We've had this situation in Australia pretty much since fixed broadband connections have been around (because bandwidth is very expensive here and there's quotas on everything). It hasn't really caused any problems but I guess it influences your choice of ISP and maybe your choice of content provider.

  9. I personally think this line of thinking is a bit doomsday-ish (The Verge has a similar, albeit less eloquently done piece). For some reason, I don't see this as tipping the power in T-Mobile's hand. It simply doesn't seem like that much of a power play to me.

    The idea that "T-Mobile is deciding what I watch" would be accurate assuming that T-Mobile were controlling anything at all. You can still watch YouTube/Vimeo and you can still watch/listen to anything not supported by Binge On or Music Freedom. It's not like they're restricting access to these other platforms nor are they charging you extra money to use them. As I understand it, for people using those services, it'll just be another Monday. Nothing is going to change for them. In fact, they'll still get to take advantage of the service even on unsupported platforms and the company literally doubled their data caps also. So even "unsupported" platforms are seeing positive changes.

    Wouldn't the concept of "restriction" be that one entity is receiving preferential treatment over another? So what happens when every platform gets preferential treatment? From what I can tell, there doesn't appear to be any restrictions whatsoever. Simply a list of "supported" and "unsupported" services which literally every platform on this planet has (including Android, iOS, Windows, etc).

    Now I mean you do have some valid points, such as the idea that they may charge for this service sometime in the future, but it's difficult to mad at a company for doing something it hasn't done yet. Besides, how would this be any different than when Google/Android TV came out with its "content partners" and we didn't see anything aside from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and like one other app for years?

    I don't know, I just think this is a lot of overthinking for what will likely amount to an asterisk on the feature list of T-Mobile's mobile plans. I've not seen this kind of "they decide what we watch" business work on any measurable scale although, admittedly, all I have in that category is anecdotal evidence (literally no one I know has any idea that Music Freedom exists, like at all).

    But I've always been in the "let's wait and see what happens" camp.

  10. +Ray Nassar I wish I would share your optimism.
    In my opinion, this is the kind of move that guarantees in long term a status-quo to preserve the prices on the North American market, when you compare internationally where the prices dropped massively.

    To give you the extent of the gap: currently in France you can get a contract with unlimited calls/messaging for 10€ a month.. and 10 GB of data on the best 4G LTE network.
    That's very new and it gives you an idea of the direction where things are going in Europe.

    T-Mobile instead preserves high prices and puts itself in a position where they'll be able to charge to both the customers and internet companies to access their customers as soon as they'll be big enough, which is the end game of every carrier/ISP not strictly acting like a dumb pipe.

  11. +Joseph Hindy as you're a YouTuber yourself and part of your revenue already comes from YouTube ads money through +Android Authority, I have a direct example to illustrate my point 🙂

    Now that many services are off-quota on mobile unlike others, your viewer may like save money by changing for a less expensive plan.
    Instead of watching your YouTube videos, this viewer might as well watch Vevo, or Ustream videos during the time he's not watching yours.
    Well this is how T-Mobile strategy will affect your revenue.
    People don't have infinite money or time, they'll watch what doesn't cost them, and it's not a good thing for you.

    It T-Mobile was going in the same direction as what's happening in Europe, instead the same viewers would probably continue watch more of your videos, generating an increasing revenue for you on the go.

  12. But they're not charging the companies and there's no guarantee they'll do that in the future. Every plan that qualifies for this video data feature has also had its high-speed data quantity doubled.

    This is essentially a win-win-win for everyone involved.

    *can stream all the qualifying video they want
    *since the customers have also had their high-speed data limit effectively more than doubled they can also enjoy more of other services, even ones that don't (yet) qualify

    Content companies:
    *will potentially see a decrease in data usage or at least a reduction in growth of how much data they serve out
    *will probably serve more videos in general than before thus more eyeballs to watch ads and make money

    *their network performance might increase because it's easier to serve more 480p content than to serve fewer but more intensive 720p/1080p/4k content
    *another strong differentiator in competition

  13. +François Simond Well to suggest that YouTube is going to see a measurable decrease in traffic is stretching it a bit. YouTube has done a lot to piss people off over the years and their numbers have never really gone down (G+ integration, removal of G+ integration, blocking ad-block, etc). I think it's going to take more than a new promotion from the third largest mobile carrier in one country to do any real damage.

    Even so, I think the peripheral features of this announcement aren't being taken into account. Every plan just got double the data cap space. T-Mo customers will have twice as much Internets by December 1st than they have today. One of those guys up top also said that unsupported video services would still see 30% improvement on data use, despite not being an official part of the program.

    So between having more data + using less data when watching YouTube/Vimeo/etc, there's an equally large case to be made that usage habits won't change in any significant way and that T-Mobile has no significant sway over what they're customers watch and do. Especially when you consider that:

    1. People hate change
    2. Netflix still costs $8/month and YouTube is still free.
    3. 480p is to "DVD quality" what Fox News is to "news".

    Ultimately, I see this service as nothing different from any other service. Some people will use the hell out of it, but I believe the majority will keep doing what they're doing and if this makes some of their lives easier, so be it. You know, they gave away free Rhapsody subscriptions when they did Music Freedom. Spotify and Pandora's numbers weren't affected at all. In fact, each company has seen their numbers grow ever since, so who knows right?

  14. +Ray Nassar a win for T-Mobile?
    Yeah sure.
    A win for customers? In short-term, if you don't care about video quality and you happen to watch content from those manually selected by T-Mobile, yes.
    In every other case, it's a loss.

    As a customer myself, I will choose larger undifferentiated quotas any day.
    If you're wondering why, my month so far 😉
    Also some months I use most of the quota with tethering. Dumb pipes do not differentiate tethering.

  15. The customer has the choice of turning the network optimization on or off. If you want free video streaming on-the-go and don't mind 480p, leave it on. You can always turn on WiFi for HD resolution.

    If you always need to have high def mobile video whether you're on WiFi or not, turn the network optimization off for your account.

    How does the customer not win?

    Example scenario: I'm on a 5GB a month plan. I watch enough Netflix and ESPN to use 2.5GBs per month. I have 2.5 leftover for other activities.

    After this change, my plan is now 10GB a month at no extra cost. And my Netflix and ESPN viewing habits won't count against my quota if I choose so. Either way, I now have MORE data to explore other services with. Maybe I was put off from watching video on news sites or other streaming sites because of my data? Who nows, now I can consume MORE services.

    This clearly benefits the customer and potentially many, many other companies.

    I'll agree that this might potentially only be beneficial for the customer in the short-term but not for the doomsday network neutrality reasons you speak of but rather the points I've highlighted previously in how this may foreshadow future telco pricing and services strategy.

  16. +François Simond For what it's worth, I do agree that this is a step closer to a moral gray area, but I think if their attitude remains consistent to what it was today (anyone can come, no money exchanges hands, and everyone not using these services still gets more data and more efficient service), there shouldn't be anything to worry about. Next year, I could be wrong, but that's why we invented the phrase "I changed my mind", eh? 🙂

  17. +Ray Nassar That is the thing though, Carriers are not supposed to be gate keepers. They are supposed to be pathways. They should not be making decisions on which service they think is more important that other.
    The whole network optimisation excuse is load of BS. All ISPs have been doing dynamic bandwidth management for better part of 2 decades.

    Users who benefit are looking too short term at the whole thing. If anyone was really free to join or they were really looking at the benefit to end user, Youtube would have been the first service to be included in this.It is the most popular video sharing and video hosting platform in the world. But its not, and there is a good reason for it. Google is not getting in bed with T-mobile as of now one way or other. I can guarantee you that the services included have pretty much guaranteed to have reached some sort of agreement with the T-Mobile. And it will be a financially relevant agreement. And the reason I am so sure about this is because of the fact that we live in capitalistic world. Nothing is really "Free" for majority of people.

  18. +Shripad Kudtarkar​ all the network optimization means is T-Mobile wants to push its users to lower resolution content. They did the math and figured that unless users watch 3-4x as much content as before, they would come up ahead in data usage. Content producers like this because users will be more inclined to watch (more) videos and maybe their data related operating costs see a reduction.

    Google is included in Music Freedom, I'd lay down a bet they'll be included in BingeOn in the future.

  19. This is such BS and it's quite shocking that so many people defend this nonsense.

    These numbers aren't exactly their plans but I will use them for a basic example.

    Let's say I pay 50 dollars for 10gb @ full speed then I'm throttled or even a overage fee. Doesn't matter for the example. It's 50 bucks for 10gb.

    If I use my damn data that I'm paying for to do something that isn't in their spit all over net neutrally nonsense I hit my limit. I'm throttled or whatever.

    But somebody paying for the exact same service plan. Can sit there and stream xyz video and audio service using up 100s of GB in data if they want for the same price and actually "use" less of their allocated data.

    This is flat out absurd. T mobile is flat out screwing people anyways they can to make money. They're doing this to justify all their tiered x amount of GB plans up to the unlimited one.

    But all of them are "unlimited" if your traffic is crap they decide doesn't count against your data…. Then why even bother with tiered data?…. Because screw you, give us your money! We're good! They bad! We uncarrier! Verizon and att will kill your cat!

  20. And in doing all this smoke and mirrors bs. They raised their prices for new customers. Shocker! But they give you more data! Because that data is so precious and expensive they are going to let vast majority of their users stream as much 480p video as they want for "free"

    What a joke.

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