T-Mobile offers zero-rated Pokemon Go data, but that may not be such a big deal

T-Mobile is hoping to ride the Pokémon Go craze by offering customers free, unlimited data while they're using the app. But whether that particular freebie is such a big deal isn't clear.

The carrier will begin to provide zero-rated Pokémon Go data to users for a year starting Tuesday as part of its ongoing T-Mobile Tuesday campaign. The offering joins other promotional discounts that include a free Lyft ride for up to $15 and a free Wendy's Frosty.

The campaign is an obvious attempt to leverage what has reportedly become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, claiming more than 20 million active daily gamers to top the peak usage of Candy Crush Saga in 2013. The Pokémon craze is so intense, in fact, that police are warning that the game raises concerns about traffic problems and crime.

But it may not be doing much damage to gamers' data plans.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted earlier this week that the number of Pokémon Go players on its network had doubled since Friday, and their data consumption had quadrupled. And gamers have cited data consumption as a concern at least a couple times on Twitter using the hashtag #PokemonGoProblems.  

There doesn't appear much hard evidence of a correlation between catching Pokémon characters and scarfing up data, though, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

Although Pokémon Go has become one of the most popular downloads in the U.S. since its release last week, a Verizon spokesman said it accounts for less than 1 percent of all traffic on the network of the nation's largest carrier. And the Journal said the network analytics firm P3 communications Inc. found the app consumes only 5 to 10 megabytes of data per hour, a small fraction of the amount required for one hour of HD video.

As the Journal noted, some of the features required to play Pokémon Go – the camera and gyroscope – reside on the phone, which helps to minimize the load on the network. And though it uses GPS to locate gamers, the game doesn't ping the network as frequently as navigation apps do.

Of course, it may simply be that T-Mobile customers are far more likely to play the faddish new game than Verizon users are, resulting in more traffic on the network. And riding the success of a new app phenomenon is another sly marketing move from T-Mobile. But it appears that Pokémon Go's success has illustrated a fact carriers have known for years: nothing eats data the way mobile video does.

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal report
- check this T-Mobile web page

Related articles:
Will 'playable data' bring real-world context and change the mobile gaming experience?
Cisco: Mobile data traffic to increase 800% within 5 years
CTIA: Americans consumed 9.6 trillion MB of mobile data last year

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