by Lance Whitney
T-Mobile subscribers can now watch even more video without eating into their monthly data plan.
On Thursday, the carrier announced that it added Amazon Prime Video, Fox News, Univision Now and the WWE Network to its Binge On service. This means that any videos T-Mobile customers watch from those providers over their mobile device don’t count against their monthly data allowance. So you can watch all you want via a cellular connection.
Introduced last November, the Binge On service is yet another brash move by T-Mobile to shake up the wireless business. Its competitors are paying attention: Verizon, AT&T and Sprint in the last half-year or more have all launched one incentive program after another. The tumult reflects just how hard the companies are working to retain existing customers and draw in new ones.
Available for free, Binge On is meant to appeal to consumers who’ve grown accustomed to streaming video over their mobile devices, but who are also wary about the high cost of exceeding the monthly data limit for their cellular service. An hour of video watching per day would bring your monthly total to 14 gigabytes of data, according to T-Mobile, exceeding even the 10GB allotment offered by several premium plans.
Adding Amazon and the other three providers, Binge On now offers access to more than 40 video streaming services. Among those are Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, Showtime, Sling TV, STARZ and WatchESPN. The video itself is compressed to a 480-pixel resolution, which means you’ll get lower quality than you would on a high-definition TV, which typically offers 1080 pixels. T-Mobile has said the quality is still good enough for a smartphone screen.
To get unlimited access to Binge On, T-Mobile customers need to subscribe to a plan that offers 3GB of data or higher. Subscribers on the cheaper 1GB plan can still access the optimized streams, which the company said will let you stream three times as much video as before, though you’ll still eat into your monthly data allowance.
The Bellevue, Washington, company touted the appeal of Binge On among its users. Customers with plans that offer Binge On are watching twice the amount of video that they did before the service rolled out. Results from an independent survey conducted this month for T-Mobile found that 92 percent of subscribers said they’d watch more video with Binge On. Since the launch of Binge On, T-Mobile customers have streamed 34 petabytes for free, according to the company.
Binge On has triggered controversy. Some argue that it goes against the spirit of Net neutrality, which says that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. Binge On is a defined as a “zero rating” practice, which means that mobile carriers and other Internet providers can opt not to count certain applications against a subscriber’s monthly data cap.
The FCC has yet to take a strong position on the matter, while T-Mobile CEO John Legere has argued that Binge On does not violate Net neutrality laws and sees it as a “win” for customers.