T-Mobile Launches ‘Binge On’

T-Mobile is taking aim at data caps and overage fees with Binge On, a zero-rated video offering that lets most of its customers view video for free using optimized streams from about two dozen partners, including Hulu, Starz, HBO, Showtime and  Sling TV.

It’s “completely in line" with those rules, company president and CEO John Legere said Tuesday at the company’s “UncarrierX” event, noting that no money is changing hands, the program is available to anyone, and customers can turn the feature on or off. Binge On, he declared, is “highly network-neutrality friendly.”

Binge On will officially be unleashed this Sunday (November 15), and will be available to all current and new subs T-Mobile’s qualified Simple Choice plans. Free video streaming from T-Mobile’s partners will be available to customer on data plans that provide at least 3 gigabytes of data per month. 

The initial batch of providers that work with the Binge On technology include Netflix HBO Now, HBO Go, Hulu, Sling TV, Slingbox, ESPN, Showime, Starz (including Movieplex and Encore), T-Mobile TV, Vevo, Vessel, Univision Deportes, Major League Baseball, go90, DirecTV, Fox Sports, Fox Sports Go, NBC Sports, Crackle, Vudu and Ustream.

T-Mobile has also integrated its Binge On system to support content from go90, offered by rival Verizon Communications, and video apps from DirecTV (now part of AT&T)  “just because we can,” Legere said.

T-Mobile also announced that customers on qualified plans can get a seven-day free trial of Sling TV, and 30% off on subscription’s to the OTT-TV’s core package for 12 months. Those customers will get Sling TV’s primary offering for $14 per month. 

T-Mobile is supporting Binge On content with a new proprietary video streaming optimization technology that delivers “DVD or better” quality (480p or better). That technology, the company said, will also allow customers on its Simple Choice data plans to watch three times more video via their data plans. 

Legere, who declared it “Data Day,” said video has been a “huge pain point” for mobile, as a “big portion of data [is] needlessly wasted.”

Public Knowledge, which is no fan of zero rating plans, had a hard time hammering T-Mobile, one of the poster-companies for competition to the Big Two--Verizon and AT&T, but was clearly not a fan of the move.

"Turning the mobile Internet into a carrier-controlled walled garden is ultimately a bad idea for consumers, for all online services (even those included in T-Mobile’s zero-rating today), and for the wireless industry as a whole," it said in a statement. "In the name of competing with AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, T-Mobile should not take steps that could have such troubling competitive implications."

T-Mobile, however, believes its approach is good for competiton.

“This is all about innovation; it’s all about competition, it’s about consumer choice,” Neville Ray, T-Mobile US’s CTO, said at the event. “And if net neutrality is not about all of those things, what’s it all about? I think there’s very little to be concerned with what we’re doing here. This is liberating, not a contraint." 

Legere said the topic remains ripe for debate. 

“Network neutrality has been a topic of fear for many people,” he said. “They fear that this treasure of the internet is going to be taken away by big companies using it, preferentially to their advantage for reaping profits, which is completely the opposite of everything we do at T-Mobile.”