T-Mobile to crack down on customers who abuse mobile hotspot data allowance for tethering

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) said it is going to take action against a very small number of its customers who are abusing their unlimited data plans with mobile hotspot tethering services by warning them and then changing their plans if they continue to violate T-Mobile's terms of service. The carrier said it is taking the action to ensure that all customers on its network have a high-quality experience.

T-Mobile said a "fraction of a percent" of its customer base is abusing its network by sucking down huge amounts of data when using mobile hotspot services and are actively avoiding T-Mobile's detection of their activities. Customers on T-Mobile's $80 unlimited plan get an extra 7 GB of data usage for T-Mobile's mobile hotspot service. When customers cross over that limit their speeds are slowed down to 2G speeds for the remainder of their billing cycle, but customers can also pay an extra $10 per month to get an extra 2 GB of mobile hotspot data.

In a statement on its website, T-Mobile said it has "developed technology that can detect people who deliberately choose to break our terms and conditions." The customers who are violating its terms and conditions "use workarounds to conceal their tethering usage, and blow past their Smartphone Mobile HotSpot data -- sometimes up to 2 terabytes (that's 2,000 GB) a month -- and can compromise the network experience for other T-Mobile customers."

T-Mobile said "customers who continue to do this will be warned, then lose access to our Unlimited 4G LTE smartphone data plan, and be moved to an entry-level limited 4G LTE data plan." T-Mobile's unlimited LTE smartphone plan costs $80 per month and plans with usage-based caps cost less (customers see their speeds throttled for the remainder of their billing cycle if they use more data than they are allotted).

In a blog post, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that "these violators are going out of their way with all kinds of workarounds to steal more LTE tethered data. They're downloading apps that hide their tether usage, rooting their phones, writing code to mask their activity, etc. They are 'hacking' the system to swipe high speed tethered data. These aren't naive amateurs; they are clever hackers who are willfully stealing for their own selfish gain."

Legere said the number of customers engaging in such activity is very small. He characterized it as "1/100 of a percent of our 59 million customers," which would amount to fewer than 6,000 customers. "I'm not sure what they are doing with it – stealing wireless access for their entire business, powering a small cloud service, providing broadband to a small city, mining for bitcoin," he said, "but I really don't care!"
 
"These abusers will probably try to distract everyone by waving their arms about throttling data. Make no mistake about it -- this is not the same issue. Don't be duped by their sideshow," he said. "We are going after every thief, and I am starting with the 3,000 users who know exactly what they are doing. The offenders start hearing from us tomorrow. No more abuse and no risk to the rest of our customers' experience. It's over. If you are interested, you can find more info in our support forum."
 
Legere said he is "not in this business to play data cop, but we started this wireless revolution to change the industry for good and to fight for consumers. I won't let a few thieves ruin things for anyone else. We're going to lead from the front on this, just like we always do. Count on it!"

For more:
- see this T-Mobile FAQ
- see this T-Mobile blog post
- see this PhoneSccop article 
- see this The Verge article 

Related articles:
AT&T's Cricket appears poised to offer mobile hotspot services for phone tethering
T-Mobile: Throttling policy for unlimited customers who hit 21 GB is OK under net neutrality
Confirmed: T-Mobile adds 2 GB of mobile hotspot data for customers with unlimited smartphone plans
Rumor mill: T-Mobile to add 2 GB of data to mobile hotspot data allowances

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