T-Mobile US’ latest uncarrier initiative will see the company waive data charges for its customers using a selection of video streaming services, including Netflix and HBO, as CEO John Legere took a swipe at his rivals’ recent efforts in the mobile entertainment space.
The company confirmed the expected move, branded BingeOn, at its tenth Uncarrier event, held in Los Angeles, which it said “responded directly to Americans’ surging demand for mobile entertainment”. The operator will offer free data for 24 video streaming services, including HBO, ESPN, Netflix, Showtime and Hulu.
Those qualifying for the scheme will need to be on a 3GB data plan or larger, catering to the “vast majority” of its customers.
One service missing from the initial list is YouTube, but could be added in the future, according to reports. T-Mobile US said the service is open to any video streaming provider that meets its technical requirements.
Overall, T-Mobile US said video consumption had grown 145 per cent over the last two years, to 1.6GB per customer, which would hit 8.4GB by 2020, something Legere described as “wasted data”.
Outspoken as always during the presentation, Legere said rivals AT&T and Verizon were “squeezing” fees for video, which made “customers scared to death”.
With BingeOn, T-Mobile said video will be optimised for mobile screens, while minimising data consumption, and the service will run at a lower quality of 480p+, which will be “acceptable.”
Jan Dawson, chief analyst, Jackdaw Research, described the move as T-Mobile’s “riskiest” yet, but “also potentially the most disruptive.”
“T-Mobile’s proprietary optimisation technology should help to reduce the bandwidth consumed, but T-Mobile hasn’t said quite how much bandwidth this will save,” Dawson added.
Legere said using data for video was a massive “pain point” for customers which the old carriers have been “trying to exploit – and their customers – to line their pockets”.
He added carriers are projected to rake in up to $2.4 billion in overage penalties, up 60 per cent from last year, with one quarter of AT&T and Verizon customers hit by charges in the last six months.
This then leads to customers for both operators spending more on data, with “American wireless customers wasting an estimated $45 billion annually overbuying wireless data they don’t use”.
“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 the duopoly is squeezing consumers with overage fees and over-buying,” said Legere.
The move comes as both AT&T and Verizon continue to step up their efforts in the video entertainment space. AT&T recently completed a $49 billion deal to acquire cable provider DirecTV in the US, while Verizon has put together a string of content deals to launch video service Go90. In a swipe at these services, T-Mobile US made a point of including both offerings in the BingeOn plan.
Along with the video streaming announcement, T-Mobile US also said it was doubling data for its customers as part of its Simple Choice plan.