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T-Mobile Excludes YouTube Videos From Data-Usage Caps

Wireless carrier adds YouTube, 8 other services to Binge On program

T-Mobile has expanded its Binge On initiative, adding YouTube and seven other video services, to let subscribers stream as much as they want without it counting toward their data-usage plans.

In addition to YouTube, T-Mobile said Thursday that Baeble Music, Discovery Go, ESNE TV, FilmOn.TV, Fox Business, Google Play Movies, KlowdTV and Red Bull TV also will be exempt from data charges.

There are now 51 services participating in Binge On, which launch in November, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and Amazon Video. According to T-Mobile, that represents 70% of all video subscribers who watch on their smartphones and tablets each month. Separately, T-Mobile is offering a free, one-year subscription to MLB.TV out-of-market live-streaming service under its renewed sponsorship pact with Major League Baseball, with that service also falling under the Binge On exemption.

In a change, T-Mobile is now letting video providers manage video-stream quality themselves — with YouTube the first to use this option. YouTube had previously complained about T-Mobile’s practice of throttling video streams for all content for Binge On users. Under the new option, instead of T-Mobile’s systems optimizing video, the video provider will automatically stream a mobile-optimized video when a T-Mobile customer with Binge On activated begins streaming.

In addition, video providers can choose to have their content stream at native resolutions — including up to Ultra HD 4K — but that will be excluded from Binge On, meaning that data will count toward customer data-usage totals. T-Mobile also has made it easier for users to disable Binge On if they so desire.

“We think these changes, which T-Mobile is making for all users and video providers on a non-preferential basis, can help ensure that the program works well for all users and the entire video ecosystem,” Christian Kleinerman, YouTube product management director, wrote in a blog post Thursday. “As a result, YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV are participating in Binge On.”

Critics have charged that Binge On doesn’t conform with the FCC’s network neutrality rules, because it treats partner content differently from that of non-partners. But according to T-Mobile, the program is only a value-added benefit to consumers and it doesn’t charge providers to participate in Binge On. The carrier also notes that it lets both users and video providers opt out of Binge On. Video from participating Binge On services does not count toward full-speed data allotment on T-Mobile’s network, but some content such as ads does.

T-Mobile’s video-streaming push is aimed at luring customers of AT&T and Verizon Wireless to switch. With the launch of Binge On, T-Mobile raised the rates of most data plans.

According to T-Mobile, since it rolled out Binge On, customers watch twice as many hours of video per day. To date, more than 57 million gigabytes (57 petabytes) have been streamed without counting toward customers’ high-speed data usage limits. The carrier said that’s the equivalent of watching Adele’s 15-minute “Carpool Karaoke” video clip with James Corden more than 460 million times.

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