T-Mobile US’ outspoken CEO John Legere took the unprecedented step of criticising a small fraction of his own customers for “stealing data” from the company.
In an open blog post, Legere blasted a “select group of individuals” that are skirting past T-Mobile US’ data limits on the company’s unlimited 4G LTE plans to “steal more tethered data”, and threatened to kick the customers off the network if the problem persists.
Alongside T-Mobile US’ unlimited smartphone data, the company’s tariff also includes a fixed amount of LTE that can be used as “hotspot data” at no extra cost. Once the allotted allowance hits the tethering limit, the speed is throttled until the next billing cycle.
Legere said violators were downloading apps to hide their tether usage, rooting their phones and writing code to mask their activity, which he says “could eventually have a negative effect on the experience of honest T-Mobile customers”.
“These aren’t naïve amateurs; they are clever hackers who are wilfully stealing for their own selfish gain,” he said. “It’s a small group – 1/1000 of a percent of our 59 million customers – but some of them are using as much as 2TB of data a month. I’m not sure what they are doing with it – stealing wireless access for their entire business, powering a small cloud service, providing broadband to a small city, mining for bitcoin – but I really don’t care.”
Legere said T-Mobile US will begin clamping down on the issue immediately, and will start with the “3,000 users who know exactly what they are doing”.
“The offenders start hearing from us tomorrow. No more abuse and no risk to the rest of our customers’ experience. It’s over.”
Legere’s blog post regarding the issue could also be of interest to US telecoms watchdog Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The regulator said in June it would fine rival AT&T $100 million for deceiving millions of customers over its own unlimited wireless data plans.
AT&T is accused of offering the data plans, advertised as unlimited, then capping data speeds after subscribers used 5GB of data within their billing cycle.
“Unlimited means unlimited,” said FCC enforcement bureau chief Travis LeBlanc at the time.
Legere, in a defiant stance over the issue, said the issue about data throttling is completely separate from hotspot usage.
“These abusers will probably try to distract everyone by waving their arms about throttling data,” he said. “Make no mistake about it – this is not the same issue. Don’t be duped by their sideshow.”