T-Mobile customers will be able to stream video from two dozen services without it impacting their monthly data allotment. And they'll have a higher data allotment to start with, after the latest series of headline-grabbing moves from the upstart carrier.
T-Mobile unveiled its new Binge On and Simple Choice Amped programs at a press event today (Nov. 10). The former is the carrier's attempt to attract customers who are streaming more video to their mobile phones, while the latter doubles the amount of data available to monthly subscribers at no extra cost.
Binge On is the video equivalent of T-Mobile's Music Freedom program, in which subscribers can stream music from 33 services without any of that streaming eating up any of their monthly data. Music Freedom launched last year with just eight services; Binge On will debut with 24 video services, including Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Sling TV, ESPN, Showtime, Starz, Encore, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, Crackle, MLB, Vudu, Vevo and others. The catch: You'll need to have a 3GB or higher data plan with T-Mobile to stream video without it hitting your data.
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There's more to Binge On than just free streaming, T-Mobile says. The company says it's also optimizing its video stream to minimize data consumption, so that all those binge-watching subscribers don't slow down the carrier's network. T-Mobile says its optimized stream delivers three times more video. Even T-Mobile subscribers who don't qualify for free video streaming can still watch the optimized video streams, can watch more video using the same amount of data.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere said video streams through Binge On will be DVD-quality. That means 480p or better, which T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray insists will provide "an outstanding experience" on smartphone-sized screens. If you disagree, Binge On comes with an off-switch that lets users stream videos at higher quality — useful for those times when you want to mirror what's on your mobile device to a larger screen.
T-Mobile's list of initial partners contains some notable omissions, most conspicuously YouTube. "We'd love to have them," T-Mobile chief operating officer Mike Sievert said, adding that the carrier is in talks with Google to bring its video-streaming service to T-Mobile. Video streaming providers need to meet T-Mobile's technical requirements for Binge On, though Legere stressed that no money was changing hands.
Adding new video streaming services doesn't require much, Julie Goldthwait, T-Mobile's vice president of brand and acquisition marketing, told me. "Ultimately, we just need to work with them to detect the stream," she said. "If the content's legal and we can identify it, we can optimize it."
Two services that won't be missing from Binge On are Verizon's Go90 and AT&T's DirecTV. Binge On will support both in a pointed tweak from Legere at his company's two larger competitors.
Legere says T-Mobile is targeting video because of the growing amount of video that people are streaming these days. Average monthly data usage has grown from 1.6GB to 3.4GB, Legere says, and mobile video's a big reason why. Increased video streaming is making mobile phone subscribers either pay overage fees or increase the size of their data plans.
To that end, T-Mobile is doubling the size of its monthly data allotments while keeping monthly rates the same. Subscribers used to pay $50, $60 or $70 a month for 1GB, 3GB and 5GB of data, respectively. Now those data limits will be 2GB, 6GB and 10GB. Current subscribers can contact T-Mobile about moving to the larger data plans on Nov. 15, the same day that BingeOn launches. (BingeOn will be automatically enabled for T-Mobile subscribers.)
The bigger data buckets also apply to T-Mobile's family plans, which continue to offer each member of a plan their own individual amount of data instead of one shared data pool. A family of four that currently pays $140 a month for 3GB each of data will now pay that same amount for 6GB each. Legere pointed out that the same family of four would have to share 6GB of data for $140 a month at Verizon, thanks to that carrier's per device access fees.
T-Mobile calls the extra data its Family Match program, and it benefits unlimited data subscribers as well. A family of four would currently pay $220 a month for unlimited data on all four lines; that price will fall to $180 under T-Mobile's new pricing. Unlimited data plans will also get double the amount of tethered data, with 14GB of LTE data now available.
In addition to boosting data plans on Nov. 15, T-Mobile will also offer a family plan promotion where you can add a fourth line for free. Normally, additional lines after the first two lines cost $10 each. Under the promotion, a family of four can get 6GB of data each for $120.