T-Mobile: Our LTE speeds have increased 25% in last year while usage jumped 50%

Neville Ray
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said that with the new limit, users could stream two full hours of Netflix every single day over wireless and still not hit the limit. (T-Mobile)

T-Mobile is doubling down on the bet that its network can continue to handle significant increases in data traffic.

Again.

The carrier said data usage on its network has increased more than 50% in the last year even as LTE speeds improved 25%, according to information from Speedtest. So T-Mobile is upping its “prioritization point” to 50 GB from 32 GB, marking the monthly amount customers can use before their data speeds are slowed.

Android Central was one of the first outlets to report the move late Monday, and T-Mobile made it official Tuesday.

“Meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T sit at a meager 22 GB, meaning Un-carrier customers can use more than (twice) the data before prioritization kicks in,” CTO Neville Ray said in a blog post announcing the move. “Now, 50 GB of data usage means a T-Mobile customer is basically the top 1% of data users, and to put it in context, you could stream a full two hours of Netflix every single day—that’s 30 SD movies—and never even reach that point. You’d still have roughly 8 GB to go.”

The nation’s No. 3 wireless network operator said it will offer free Netflix subscriptions to customers with two or more lines on T-Mobile One, the unlimited data plan it rolled out a year ago. The subscription, which typically sells for $10 a month, enables users to stream HD video at 480p on two devices. And T-Mobile will cover the cost for users who already have a Netflix subscription.

Like its Netflix offer, upping its prioritization point is a clear sign that T-Mobile believes its network can continue to perform even as its launch of unlimited data spurs increased usage. Legere noted at the time that recent data from Ookla indicated the data speeds of both Verizon and AT&T had slowed since the two carriers joined T-Mobile and Sprint in the unlimited arena.

And the strategy is a logical way for T-Mobile to continue to leverage the comparative strength of its network to attract customers and keep churn low without spending vast sums on marketing campaigns or offering steep discounts.

“In general, we see operator promotions largely playing to their individual strengths,” Barclays analysts wrote in a research note distributed this week before T-Mobile’s announcement. “We don’t see a reason to believe subscriber momentum will pull back at this juncture given positive early indications to its Netflix on U.S. promotions and opportunities for share gains in secondary and tertiary markets via improved distribution and spectrum reach. However, the ability to maintain subscriber momentum will be of clear focus for investors.”