T-Mobile customers will now get free unlimited video streaming on their devices—which won’t count against their data plans—as long as they pay for the company’s Simple Choice cellular plans with 3GB of data or more per line.
The free unlimited “Binge On” video streaming capability is part of T-Mobile’s Un-carrier X announcements that were unveiled in Los Angeles on Nov. 10 as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to bump up its services to customers.
Under Binge On, customers with qualifying data plans will be able to stream video content from some 24 content providers to start, including HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, Sling TV, Starz, WatchESPN and more, all without using the data in their monthly plans. The video streaming will be provided at 480p DVD quality, and will be optimized to use one-third of the bandwidth that’s normally required for video, according to the company.
“Only T-Mobile would find a way for customers to watch unlimited HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV and more … without eating into their LTE data, while [Verizon and AT&T are] squeezing consumers with overage fees and over-buying,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. “T-Mobile is un-leashing entertainment and giving customers exactly what they want.”
In addition to the free streaming video capabilities, the company also announced that it is doubling the included data in customers’ Simple Choice plans without raising their monthly bills. Customers who now pay for 1GB of data each month will get 2GB of data, while those who buy 2GB will get 4GB and so on, according to the company.
“Everything started with Simple Choice” back in 2013, Legere said in a live stream at the Un-carrier X event. “Today we’re going to amp it up.”
For a limited time, the company is offering a family plan with four lines of service for $120 with 6GB of data each, with no sharing required.
“Sharing is evil,” said Legere. “People hate sharing their data. Sharing data equals overages and over-buying.”
The new data upgrades will take effect on Nov. 15, while existing T-Mobile customers will get Binge On starting Nov. 19.
New and existing customers with data plans under 3GB per month will still benefit from the optimized video that uses less data capacity, but they will not get free unlimited video streaming as part of their plans.
The Binge On free streaming video feature is open to any streaming video provider who meets T-Mobile’s technical requirements, and is free for video content providers to join, according to T-Mobile.
“With Binge On, no one pays—not the customers, not the video streaming services—and everyone wins,” said Legere.
Legere said the company is making the move to free unlimited video streaming because customers are using more mobile data than ever before and are seeking cellular plans that allow them to use it without higher fees and overage charges.
Business users also are getting the double data offer from T-Mobile for their phones and employee phones under the new upgrades, according to the company.
Bill Menezes, an analyst with Gartner, told eWEEK that T-Mobile’s free streaming video initiative is notable, but that it could create similar net neutrality concerns that were raised about the company’s Music Freedom free music streaming program in June 2014.
“There were questions at that point,” he said. “For a smaller start-up outfit, it could make it discriminatory” because they might not be able to meet T-Mobile’s technical requirements to participate. “So the big question is who they might be and how many other video providers will be added to their list.”
Several major omissions are already notable—including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox network programming—which could also bring up concerns, said Menezes. Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are also not part of Binge On, which is interesting, he said.
“Are there other things where there has to be some type of business relationship to be part of it? If there is, then that raises questions about net neutrality,” he said.
In addition, Menezes said he’s not sure about how all of this streaming video will end up affecting T-Mobile’s cellular network. “They say they are only streaming at 480p, but what will be the experience on the T-Mobile network if lots of people do this? That’s not going to be known until the rubber hits the road.”
T-Mobile likes to call itself the Un-carrier because it says it does the things that traditional carriers won’t try. In the last few years, T-Mobile’s Un-carrier events have ended mobile contracts for consumers, removed overage charges and brought more innovations for customers.