T-Mobile subs report incurring Spotify data charges despite 'Music Freedom' plan

Some T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) customers are reporting that they are still incurring data charges from using music streaming service Spotify despite a recently introduced new plan from T-Mobile that exempts that data from counting toward customers' data caps.

Under the carrier's "Music Freedom" plans, which T-Mobile introduced June 18, T-Mobile is offering its Simple Choice customers unlimited access to six music streaming services, including Pandora, Slacker, iHeart Radio and Spotify, without incurring data charges on their LTE plans. Samsung's Milk Music and the forthcoming Beatport music app from SFX will also be offered to customers free of data charges.

However, several customers took to social networking site Reddit to describe issues with the service. According to TMoNews, some customers reached out to T-Mobile's customer service and received several different responses, including that the album art was the source of the data or that they were not on T-Mobile's $80 unlimited Simple Choice plan, even though all no-contract Simple Choice customers get access to the Music Freedom service. The issue did not appear to be widespread though.

In a statement sent to media outlets, T-Mobile said it is not seeing anything to indicate that "Spotify or other apps are using customers' 4G LTE data bucket," but that customers should contact customer care if they are.

T-Mobile urged customers to be sure they are looking at data traffic incurred after June 18, when the Music Freedom plan was introduced.

There might be several explanations for why some customers are reporting data usage coming from Spotify. The carrier said that customers should keep in mind that their phones may be performing other tasks in the background, such as downloading emails or updating apps, while they are listening to streaming music. T-Mobile further noted that some non-music content such as album art may not be covered under the exemption if it comes from a different data stream. "In apps that serve up non-music content, it generally represents a very small percent of total data the app uses," T-Mobile said. "In our quick check with Spotify, it was roughly 1-4% of data used."

T-Mobile CEO John Legere noted at the June announcement that the company can offer unlimited streaming music to its customers because it has the capacity to do so.

T-Mobile is not the only carrier to have a deal with Spotify. Sprint (NYSE: S) struck one in April to give its "Framily" plan customers discounts on Spotify's service.

Under Sprint's teaming with Spotify, which went into effect May 9, all customers on Sprint's Framily calling plans get a free, six-month trial of Spotify. Once the trial is over, they will get Spotify at the discounted rate of $7.99 per month for Framily calling circles of 1-5 members; for 6-10 member circles, the price drops to $4.99 per month. However, after 24 months customers then must pay the standard Spotify price (currently $9.99 per month). Non-Framily Sprint customers will get a three-month free trial of Spotify and can pay the standard $9.99 per month after that.

Streaming music isn't the only data exempt from T-Mobile's data charges. The carrier said it is also whitelisting data from network speed-testing apps.

For more:
- see this Re/code article
- see this TMoNews article

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