T-Mobile killed Binge On and hatched a whole new set of problems

With T-Mobile’s launch of Uncarrier 12, which makes all of its data plans unlimited, the carrier has effectively killed three of its previous Uncarrier initiatives: Binge On, Music Freedom and Data Stash.

In one fell swoop, T-Mobile looks to have washed its hands of some net neutrality controversy with its zero-rated data practices. But with the apparent exit of Binge On, Music Freedom and Data Stash, a new set of problems for T-Mobile could just be beginning to take shape.

With all its new customers now being ushered onto unlimited data plans, there’s no need to zero-rate streaming activities or to roll over unused data from month-to-month.

Next Gen Wireless Networks Summit

The Industry’s Most Exclusive Event for Wireless Network Executives

Join FierceWireless this Oct. 17-18 in Dallas as we cover 5G and its part in a much larger story about the next generation of wireless, through a mix of keynotes and fireside chats, breakout sessions and panels. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Starry, Dish, Nokia, Crown Castle, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Mavenir and more during the two-day event.

Register to secure your spot at the event! Now is your chance to join over 300 industry professionals as we gather in Dallas for the second annual event. Registration information and the schedule can be found on the website.

“When you are unlimited, you don’t have to worry about counting and stashing gigs or which sites stream free,” said T-Mobile in a statement provided to FierceWireless. “Binge On, Music Freedom and Data Stash were industry-changing moves that made T-Mobile One possible. Existing customers on qualifying Simple Choice plans will still get Binge On, Music Freedom and Data Stash.”

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said today during a conference call discussing the new plans that the carrier will begin to phase out Simple Choice plans on Sept. 6. And because the pricing for the new T-Mobile One plans falls somewhere between T-Mobile’s 6 GB and 10 GB plans, which Sievert said are currently T-Mobile’s most popular, odds are good that many customers will gravitate toward T-Mobile One.

But, as Recon Analytics’ Roger Entner points out, a 6 GB plan on T-Mobile with all zero-rated streaming is a “de facto unlimited plan,” and one that costs less than T-Mobile One, which starts at $70 per month. Without the $50 intro tier that got so many customers through T-Mobile’s doors, Entner fears that the “entry level breaks away” for T-Mobile.

Entner said this could become even more problematic considering that Sprint just introduced its own unlimited plan that undercuts T-Mobile’s plan by $20/month for two lines.

But the real potential red flag for T-Mobile One is the $25 upcharge to upgrade video quality from T-Mobile’s standard 480p resolution to HD video.

With Binge On, 480p video was positioned as a more than acceptable resolution for smaller screens. Now, with T-Mobile One, 480p resolution looks more like an entry level option that can be upgraded.

“You’re treating different traffic differently. If AT&T or Verizon did this, the FCC would slap them down in a heartbeat,” said Entner. “I think carriers should be able to do what T-Mobile is doing. But all of them should be able to do it.”

Indeed, while FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has promised to keep a close watch on sponsored data programs from AT&T and Verizon, he’s praised T-Mobile offerings like Binge On as “innovative.”

But if Wheeler changes his tune in light of T-Mobile’s new plan, it could be problematic for the Uncarrier.

“If the FCC says you can’t force people onto 480p, [T-Mobile] is in trouble,” said Entner. “Because the data usage will go through the roof.”

If T-Mobile customers could suddenly access HD or even 4K video and not worry about data usage, that could result in data consumption on the network going five-fold for HD or even 12-fold for 4K.

“It would bring the network to its knees,” said Entner.

For now, T-Mobile’s 480p stipulation is being viewed in the press as a “caveat” or “nasty fine print.” But it could potentially spark more serious issues. -- Ben@wwbenmunson