T-Mobile is bent on retaining subscribers and winning over new ones by adding more streaming services to its Binge On program.
On Tuesday, the company announced the addition of more than 12 streaming video and audio services to Binge On so its users can watch and listen without eating into their cellular data plan. Some of the additions include NBC, Spotify, Google Play Music, Univision, Radio Disney and Tidal. This marks the fifth time T-Mobile has added more services to Binge On since the program was unveiled last November.
Binge On is yet another audacious move by T-Mobile to shake up the wireless business, and the competition is paying attention. Over the course of this year, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have all launched one incentive program or deal after another. The furor shows just how hard mobile carriers are working to hang onto existing customers and capture new ones.
Available for free, Binge On is aimed at people who want to watch their favorite TV shows and movies no matter where they are. That means they don't want to worry about the high cost of exceeding the monthly data limit when using cellular service. Since November, T-Mobile customers have streamed more than 377 million hours of video without tapping into a cellular plan, according to the company.
T-Mobile also offers a program called Music Freedom, through which subscribers can listen to music-streaming sites without using up cellular data. Some services, such as Google Play, offer both video and music and so have joined Binge On to stream both types of content.
A potential downside of Binge On is that it compresses video to a 480p resolution. For comparison, a high-definition TV might offer a 1,080p resolution. But T-Mobile claims the quality is fine for a smartphone. The carrier also cited a survey in which 93 percent of users said they like the video compression as it means they can watch more content using the same amount of high-speed data.
Critics of Binge On argue that the program violates the spirit of Net neutrality, which says that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. Binge On is defined as a "zero rating" practice, which means mobile carriers and Internet providers can opt not to count certain applications against a subscriber's monthly data cap. T-Mobile CEO John Legere has defended Binge On, insisting that it doesn't violate Net neutrality laws.