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A new test by the Electronic Frontier Foundation has found that T-Mobile's free video streaming program Binge On does in fact affect the streaming of all in-browser video content when the service is enabled. Although T-Mobile has stated Binge On works with just its 24 allied partners, some companies like YouTube have spoken out regarding the fact that the new program throttles all video and not just the content of its partners.

tmobingeon-800x294.jpg

EFF recently composed a test to find out the truth behind the throttling claims, running similar smartphones on T-Mobile LTE connections in the same location and at the same time of day. Measuring the throughput between the video on the server and the smartphone running the content, the site in total performed four tests with Binge On enabled:
-Streaming a video embedded in a webpage using HTML5 ("Streaming in Browser"),
-Downloading a video file to the phone's SD card ("Direct Download"),
-Downloading a video file to the phone's SD card, but with the filename and the HTTP response headers changed to indicate it was not a video file ("Direct Download, Non-Video File Extension"), and
-Downloading a large non-video file for comparison ("Direct Non-Video Download").
The site's big takeaway came from its HTML5 in-browser streaming test. It discovered that when Binge On is enabled on a T-Mobile smartphone, all HTML5 video streams are throttled to about 1.5Mbps, "even when the phone is capable of downloading at higher speeds, and regardless of whether or not the video provider enrolled in Binge On." The throttling speeds affected downloads as well, even when customers were downloading a browser video to watch later.

Video files with HTTP headers and filenames that indicate the content is not a video were also throttled during the tests, but T-Mobile assured the site that it has means to detect video-specific patterns that don't directly delve into a user's communications or "involve the examination of actual content."

Lastly, EFF found that Binge On's optimization claims may be mostly false regarding the enhancement of video quality on a smartphone using the program. The site found that the service "doesn't actually alter or enhance" video content when it is streamed from the network and onto a smartphone, and really only throttles it down to 1.5Mbps so that users can take advantage of the free streaming service.

EFF-binge-on-test.jpg

Our last finding is that T-Mobile's video "optimization" doesn't actually alter or enhance the video stream for delivery to a mobile device over a mobile network in any way. 2 This means T-Mobile's "optimization" consists entirely of throttling the video stream's throughput down to 1.5Mbps.

If the video is more than 480p and the server sending the video doesn't have a way to reduce or adapt the bitrate of the video as it's being streamed, the result is stuttering and uneven streaming--exactly the opposite of the experience T-Mobile claims their "optimization" will have. In other words, our results show that T-Mobile is throttling video streams, plain and simple.
The drama surrounding Binge On began around the time that the FCC began scrutinizing free data programs like the T-Mobile service, with others including AT&T's Sponsored Data program and Comcast's Stream TV. Although not yet an official investigation, the FCC remains concerned over each service's abidance to the net neutrality rules, and as such has requested "relevant technical and business" representatives from each of the three companies to discuss the topic before January 15.

Article Link: Independent Test Confirms T-Mobile's Binge On Throttles All Video Content
 

2457282

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Dec 6, 2012
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Compressing the video (even if reduces quality) to get free data is something that consumers can choose. Accepting lower speeds to get free data is something consumers can choose (my cable company offers me different price points based on speeds). The question here is that it is turned on by default and the user has to opt out versus in. I would not opt in but I am sure there are many that would do so to get the free data.
 

nunes013

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May 24, 2010
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For me as long as I knew in advance that it would be throttled down, I wouldn't care since it was free and doesn't use my data. Then it would be nice to somehow have an easy access toggle so if I needed the speed, I could turn it off. Like maybe a widget from their app.
 

Makosuke

macrumors 603
Aug 15, 2001
6,490
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I use and like T-Mobile, but they should have been upfront about what, exactly, they're doing when you enable it--there's no good reason to obfuscate or lie.

While technically correct that throttling video to 1.5Mbps could screw up streams if there's no low quality version available, since basically any even remotely functional video streaming service in this day and age will have adaptive bitrates, in practice it should work pretty well to get you a lower quality version of the video on just about any site.

The more complicated issue is the net neutrality one. From a net neutrality perspective, it's reasonable for T-Mobile to make the offer that if you basically cap your download speed--effectively agreeing to use less data for the same amount of time spent watching something--that they give you a higher data cap. They're then selling you a max download speed vs. gigabytes of downloaded data internet connection, which is fine.

In contrast, if they say "you get unlimited 1.5Mbit data from X, Y, and Z video providers, but not anybody else", they're giving most favored nation status to particular providers, those providers have a marked advantage over other providers, and the data they're serving is no longer neutral. The ad-absurdium version is that they or some other carrier refuses to give unlimited data to a particular video provider, giving competitors an unfair advantage. So that's not so fine from a neutrality perspective.

The in-between version, which looks like what they're actually doing, is where it gets weird and messy. If they cap all video at 1.5Mbit, from everybody, and offer unlimited data at that speed, based on a user-selectable mode (that is, customers can opt in or out), then they're not technically treating any specific video provider any differently from others, but they are treating different kinds of traffic differently.

I suppose if you phrased it such that "We give the first 3MB of data from any individual server connection to you at 50Mbit, then all subsequent data from that same request at 1.5Mbit, if you want, and in exchange we only will charge the 50Mbit data against the data allocation you pay for", then the effect would be the same--pages and images would go fast, streaming or other very large files would go slower--and you would not technically be treating any particular kind of data differently.

So it just barely skates by, in that you're again paying for a certain amount of speed combined with a high-speed data cap, in the same way that you currently get XGB of LTE-speed data and then unlimited 3G-speed data from T-Mobile, which is okay. It's just a more nuanced version of that. But as soon as you start treating video, explicitly, as different, you hit the neutrality wall.
 

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
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Compressing the video (even if reduces quality) to get free data is something that consumers can choose. Accepting lower speeds to get free data is something consumers can choose (my cable company offers me different price points based on speeds). The question here is that it is turned on by default and the user has to opt out versus in. I would not opt in but I am sure there are many that would do so to get the free data.

Yep, big problem that it's an opt-out service. If it was opt-in I don't think there would have been as much of a fuss.
 

barkomatic

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Aug 8, 2008
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This issue has been Benghazi'd. In other words, a small issue is being made into this major problem that everyone should be stomping their feet over.

Yes, the service should have been set to opt in and I can see this as a problem for less technical people but this is easily fixed. As long as people opt in and inform them of the effects of Binge On, then I don't see this as a big deal at all. I still think this is a pretty amazing service and I'm not even a T-mobile customer.
 

Ries

macrumors 68020
Apr 21, 2007
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Compressing the video (even if reduces quality) to get free data is something that consumers can choose. Accepting lower speeds to get free data is something consumers can choose (my cable company offers me different price points based on speeds). The question here is that it is turned on by default and the user has to opt out versus in. I would not opt in but I am sure there are many that would do so to get the free data.

It is not compression anything, it throttles all video to 1.5mbit, any video source not supporting bitrates below that, will constantly buffer. Also the initial buffering is limited to 1.5mbit. It also happens when downloading a video file to your device.
 
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Laird Knox

macrumors 68000
Jun 18, 2010
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This makes some sense. They advertise unlimited streaming and then say something about 3x more video.
tmo.PNG


If you can stream as much as you want then what does the 3x more video mean? It seems they are compressing everything. I don't have a problem with this for my uses but it is definitely not clear.
 

iOSFangirl6001

macrumors 6502
Aug 11, 2015
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Not surprised 1 bit by this lol
( to no one in particular )

Yes, the service should have been set to opt in and I can see this as a problem for less technical people but this is easily fixed. I'm not even a T-mobile customer.

And yet T-Mobile hasn't exactly rushed to nor expressed the remotest interest, or consideration to fix it instead


Debating the issue with YouTube and the FCC and going to such lengths as blaming software as the only issue ( thus far )


T-Mobile: You are not testing it right....

lol you watch that will be T-Mobile's next claim then they'll come out with doctored speed test results from video viewing lol

And out come the T-Mo fanboys.

Trust me, getting shafted in the long run doesn't start with typical bad guy moves.

Carrot and stick.

Glassed Silver:ios

Those TMO Fanboys and Fangirls do love downing that good ol Magenta Kool-Aid in buckets lol I think TMO has their fans/customers far more brainwashed than all anti-apple people combined :rolleyes:
 
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briand05

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Jan 23, 2005
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This issue has been Benghazi'd. In other words, a small issue is being made into this major problem that everyone should be stomping their feet over.

Yes, the service should have been set to opt in and I can see this as a problem for less technical people but this is easily fixed. As long as people opt in and inform them of the effects of Binge On, then I don't see this as a big deal at all. I still think this is a pretty amazing service and I'm not even a T-mobile customer.

There's a reason it's "out out" and not "opt in". There's also a reason it throttles all video and not just the whitelisted services, and also a reason it's even enabled by default on unlimited plans. They're obviously making the bet that most people will not bother turning it off. They raised the price on unlimited to $95. This service is basically just a way for T-Mobile to reduce data usage on the network (and get people off unlimited plans) while claiming they're giving you "free video streaming".
 

Defthand

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Sep 1, 2010
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Personally, I’ve been thrilled with the compromise. My passenger binge-watched her favorite TV show on Netflix for the better part of a nine hour commute. The stream was reliable and and the picture quality was satisfactory on my iPhone 6s. Were it a cellular-connected iPad, I might have a different opinion about the video resolution. I can’t imagine what the consumed data would have cost on competing networks. I’m happy with T-Mo’s solution until this country’s cellular providers are able and willing to reduce the cost for their services.
 
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darthgeekonius

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Apr 7, 2014
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During the Uncarrier event where BingOn was announced in November John Legere was asked about this and it was clearly stated that this would happen and if people didn't like it, they could opt out. They also stated that for most users, the video quality would be fine on mobile devices. The only complaint I can think of is that they should have made it opt-in by default, not opt out, but to try and say this is a bait and switch and T-Mobile never stated that video would be compressed is not true. Granted, everyone didn't watch the entire Uncarrier X but the journalists should at least be forthcoming about that part. Their marketing material is confusing though.
 

Glassed Silver

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Mar 10, 2007
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[...]

Those TMO Fanboys and Fangirls do love downing that good ol Magenta Kool-Aid in buckets lol I think TMO has their fans/customers far more brainwashed than all anti-apple people combined :rolleyes:

Well, maybe that's overshot, but all the Uncarrier moves out of which I found most of them to be truly good, certainly achieved two things:
a) a lot more customers
b) those customers now apparently don't question an uncarrier event anymore when the move sounds great at face value.

T-Mo is escaping the demand for more data needed the cheap way: we'll just compress the data you want more so we don't have to up the ante as much.
Also, this is video data that is free. That's not a net neutrality compatible approach imho.
Someone who needs 10GB of video data >at re-compressed 480p quality< will not need a fairly priced 10GB tariff anymore.
Someone with 10GB of data need for other data will need that tariff and pay more, because there's significantly less people sharing that cost of "10GB any data" now. Is that net neutral? NOPE.

Of course then there's all those selfish people who think that as long as it doesn't affect them it's all good.
"First they came" I say.

Glassed Silver:mac
 
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iOSFangirl6001

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b) those customers now apparently don't question an uncarrier event anymore when the move sounds great at face value.

T-Mo is escaping the demand for more data needed the cheap way: we'll just compress the data you want more so we don't have to up the ante as much.
Also, this is video data that is free. That's not a net neutrality compatible approach imho.
Someone who needs 10GB of video data >at re-compressed 480p quality< will not need a fairly priced 10GB tariff anymore.
Someone with 10GB of data need for other data will need that tariff and pay more, because there's significantly less people sharing that cost of "10GB any data" now. Is that net neutral? NOPE.

Of course then there's all those selfish people who think that as long as it doesn't affect them it's all good.
"First they came" I say.

Glassed Silver:mac

Kind of proving my point a bit.
At any rate I agree.
 
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powerbook911

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Mar 15, 2005
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I find it a shame that they increased the unlimited price for new customers at the same time Binge On was introduced.

Why not just let Binge On, if successful, encourage people away from unlimited on its own?

T-Mobile, while I might move to them at some point, seems to be slowly heading the way of other carriers now that they are succeeding in getting new users, they are making moves more similar to other carriers as they realize the impact on their network from high GB and unlimited users.
 

milo

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Sep 23, 2003
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So if they're throttling all video, are they also exempting all video data from counting towards usage? Or just "partner" video services?
 

Nermal

Moderator
Staff member
Dec 7, 2002
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Although T-Mobile has stated Binge On works with just its 24 allied partners
T-Mobile does not say that. At least, not quite (my emphasis):

  • Stream unlimited video FREE on your favorite streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Sling, ESPN, Showtime, Starz and more without ever using your high-speed data. Check out the full list and stay tuned for more on the way. We won’t stop. Any new or existing customer with 3GB data plan or larger can stream for free without worrying about your data.
  • Plus, almost all other video streaming is optimized for mobile so you watch 3 times more video with your data plan.

In one of the earlier threads, another forum member used the Wayback Machine to confirm that T-Mobile's site has always said that; it was not added in after YouTube kicked up a fuss.

So if they're throttling all video, are they also exempting all video data from counting towards usage? Or just "partner" video services?
Only the partner services are exempted from usage.
 
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EngJoseph

macrumors newbie
Jan 3, 2016
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I find it a shame that they increased the unlimited price for new customers at the same time Binge On was introduced.

Why not just let Binge On, if successful, encourage people away from unlimited on its own?

T-Mobile, while I might move to them at some point, seems to be slowly heading the way of other carriers now that they are succeeding in getting new users, they are making moves more similar to other carriers as they realize the impact on their network from high GB and unlimited users.

It's about making money @powerbook911 , when every one starts to cancel there subscriptions and write honest reviews about theme on the internet, they will start boosting there service quality.
 
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