T-Mobile’s Ray: Less than 1% of customers turn off Binge On video service

Neville Ray, left, and Chetan Sharma onstage at the Mobile Future Forward event.

SEATTLE – A top T-Mobile US executive said that the vast majority of the carrier’s customers have not opted out of T-Mobile’s Binge On video service, which scales down users’ video streams to 480p quality while also removing the cost of that video data from users’ monthly bills. Specifically, T-Mobile SVP and CTO Neville Ray said that less than eight-tenths of 1 percent of T-Mobile’s customers have turned off its Binge On since the carrier launched the service last year.

“We want to really optimize and better manage the customer experience,” Ray said in comments here during the Mobile Future Forward conference, hosted by longtime industry analyst Chetan Sharma.

Ray added that the service has drawn attention from international operators keen to learn from T-Mobile’s Binge On efforts and potentially launch similar services of their own. Ray said he has fielded calls from more than a dozen international operators asking for details on T-Mobile’s Binge On service and the operator’s approach to customers’ video usage in general.

Indeed, due to Binge On, T-Mobile’s Ray said that the operator’s overall network data traffic has been significantly reduced. “Our [data growth] curve is on a different trajectory now. It’s on a much flatter growth,” he said. “We’re starting to understand what that video curve is.”

Specifically, Ray said that Binge On has reduced the overall volume of data on T-Mobile’s network by 13 to 15 percent, which he said is up from the 10 percent reduction T-Mobile initially recorded when it first launched the service last year. T-Mobile’s Binge On reduces the amount of traffic on T-Mobile’s network by scaling down video from 720p resolution or higher to 420p, thereby reducing the overall number of bits and bytes traveling across the operator’s network.

And Ray said those figures are significant; although he declined to provide specifics, he explained that T-Mobile handles twice the number of video streams of its competitors. For comparison, top AT&T executives have said that fully 60 percent of the carrier’s wireless network traffic is video.

The ability to turn Binge On off became a key discussion topic shortly after T-Mobile introduced Binge On last year. Some net neutrality proponents argued that Binge On ran afoul of the spirit of the FCC’s Open Internet ruling, though wireless carriers and others have disputed that reasoning. T-Mobile, for its part, said it allows its customers to easily turn off Binge On via a number of mechanisms, including through the T-Mobile smartphone app.

Interestingly, T-Mobile appears to be moving away from Binge On due to its recent launch of its T-Mobile One unlimited data plans. The carrier is essentially working to make those plans its primary offering, a move that effectively steps past Binge On to make all data – video or not – toll free.

Ray predicted other carriers, including Verizon, will follow T-Mobile to offer unlimited data. Sprint already offers a similar unlimited data plan, and AT&T offers unlimited data options to its DirecTV pay-TV customers. Verizon executives, however, have expressly stated an aversion to unlimited data offerings: Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said last week that “You cannot make money in an unlimited video world.”

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