Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

How ‘Binge On’ could blow up in T-Mobile’s face

Published Nov 12th, 2015 5:35PM EST
Can T-Mobile's Network Handle Binge On

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

I personally have very mixed feelings about Binge On from a net neutrality perspective but I honestly am not qualified to comment on how much this new initiative will affect T-Mobile’s data network. However, a couple of people who are more informed about mobile network data management than I am think T-Mobile could run into some headaches when all its customers are trying to watch Netflix on their mobile phones, even if the resolution is set to just 480p.

FROM EARLIER: Android users’ most hilariously angry one-star Apple Music reviews

Per The Wall Street Journal, Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati doesn’t think Legere and company really know what they’re getting into with their zero-rating video scheme. In fact, looking at T-Mobile’s current spectrum holdings, he doubts they’ll be able to make Binge On work without some significant acquisitions.

“The word ‘binge’ is very apropos,” Mr. Robbiati said. “It looks like a hangover is going to come at some point.”

Now obviously Robbiati works at a rival carrier and will try to downplay T-Mobile’s latest initiative. But he’s not alone — Jackdaw Research’s Jan Dawson also thinks Binge On could pose problems for T-Mobile’s network and he sees the initiative as T-Mobile’s riskiest yet.

“T-Mobile previously allowed customers to stream music from major services for free, but music accounts for a relatively small percentage of data usage,” he writes. “Video is by far the largest contributor to data usage today, and including video from so many major providers risks a substantial increase in usage. T-Mobile’s proprietary optimization technology should help to reduce the bandwidth consumed, but T-Mobile hasn’t said quite how much bandwidth this will save.”

Grant Castle, T-Mobile’s vice president of engineering services, tells ComputerWorld that the company should be able to keep up with demand as long as it wins more spectrum at next year’s big 600MHz auction.

“I’m working every day to not get congested,” he says. “By moving our spectrum to LTE and with coming bid auctions, we’ll stay well ahead of capacity.”

This in itself is inherently risky since rivals Verizon and AT&T have traditionally dominated at these prime real estate spectrum auctions — will they be willing to spend extra just to keep spectrum away from T-Mobile even if they don’t actually need it for themselves?

Obviously, T-Mobile knows its own network capabilities and video optimization technology better than any of us do. But just like Microsoft pulled back on its OneDrive storage offers when it found too many people were actually taking them up on their offer of unlimited cloud storage, I wonder if T-Mobile will at some point be forced to place a limit on how much “unlimited” video you can stream on your phone over its network.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.