T-Mobile will allow its US customers to stream Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, HBO Go and more than a dozen other video services without any affect to their data allowances.
The streaming will be at a slightly lower quality- 480p- than most online video but will allow T-Mobile to capitalise on the growing demand for mobile video streaming. It will also help the company to better compete with its US rivals AT&T and Verizon who have built their business on the demand for wireless data.
A total of 22 different video platforms, many of them premium cable channels, are included in the free streaming plan called “Binge On”. T-Mobile is also exploring the possibility of expanding the list of partners, including the possibility of allowing pornography to be streamed for free too.
One noticeable absentee from the programme is YouTube which accounts for 19.2 per cent of all cellular traffic in North America. However, T-Mobile’s chief operating officer, Mike Sievert, predicted that it would join the plan following “some collaboration”.
The move will unquestionably appeal to audiences given that monthly video consumption has grown 145 per cent in the last two years to 1.6 gigabytes per customer, and that is expected to hit 8.4 gigabytes by 2020. The company highlighted the fact that customers with unlimited data consume more video than those on tiered data plans, meaning customers will use it if it is available.
Existing or new T-Mobile customers must have a 3 gigabyte data plan or larger, which the vast majority of its customers are on, to qualify for the Binge On service.
The plan has led some industry observers to question whether the move breaches net neutrality rules that bar traffic fast lanes that give privilege to some kinds of data and restrict access to others, known as “zero-rating”. The issue was absent from the net neutrality rules passed by the FCC earlier this year.