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T-Mobile's video free-for-all: Everything you need to know about Binge On (FAQ)

The nation's third-largest wireless carrier says you can stream videos to your phone without eating up your data allotment. CNET breaks down the details of the plans.

T-Mobile's Binge On program will allow you to stream a lot more video.
Screenshot by Claudia Cruz/CNET

T-Mobile wants to be there for you when you're ready to marathon-watch "Breaking Bad" on the go.

The nation's third-largest wireless carrier on Tuesday unveiled ," a program that lets certain customers stream an unlimited amount of video to their phones without eating up their precious allotment of data. That's a big deal because streaming video is the biggest reason you hit your data limit each month.

It's yet another move by the Bellevue, Washington, company, in its "Uncarrier" campaign to shake up the wireless business and to attract consumers to its service.

Watch for T-Mobile to push Binge On aggressively. Meanwhile, CNET is here to break down the ins and outs of the new feature.

When does Binge On get going?
It kicks into gear Sunday as a free addition to the T-Mobile service.

Why should I care about this?
Do you watch a lot of Netflix or HBO Go on your smartphone? Or how about ESPN? Well, you'll be able to watch a lot more without it cutting into your allotted data. While T-Mobile doesn't charge you overage fees, it does slow your data transmissions way down to 2G speed after you reach your limit.

Just 15 minutes of video play each day will push you past the midlevel 3GB plan offered to T-Mobile customers. Binge On will let you stay under your limit longer.

The carriers have been talking about how expensive it is to deliver unlimited video services. So how does T-Mobile get away with it?
T-Mobile is "optimizing" the video to stream using less data. The video is compressed to 480p resolution, which is significantly lower than high-definition video you would see on a large television, usually at 1080p. But CEO John Legere said the video quality still looks good on the smaller smartphone screen, comparing it to the quality of a DVD.

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Great. So every T-Mobile customer gets this, right?
Sorry, no. Only T-Mobile customers who subscribe to a 3GB data plan or higher will get access to the unlimited bit. Even so, you subscribers on the cheaper 1GB plan will get access to the optimized streams, which the company said will let you stream three times as much video as before.

Can I get access to any streaming video service?
Heavy-hitters such as Netflix, WatchESPN and HBO Go are there. Sling TV, the alternative Internet TV service that offers a bundle of networks such as AMC and TNT, is also available. Binge On will launch with 24 video services, and the company said it is working to add more.

Wait, where's YouTube?
Google's ever-popular video service is the biggest missing piece. T-Mobile said YouTube couldn't get the technical certification in time for the launch, but the companies are in talks about getting YouTube on board soon.

How do I get my favorite video service on Binge On?
Bug T-Mobile. The carrier said it would solicit advice from consumers on which services to bring to Binge On. The situation is similar to its Music Freedom program, which lets you stream music without eating up your data. It launched with seven services, but now supports 33.

It's also up to each company whether it wants to participate in this program.

How does this affect my Data Stash?
Data Stash is T-Mobile's program that lets you stockpile unused data without a limit. With Binge On, T-Mobile will place a cap of 20GB. Customers have 30 days to turn off Binge On if they instead want to store unlimited data.

I'm an unlimited data customer. Why should I care?
This isn't as big a deal for you, since you can pretty much stream all the video you want. The company said Binge On will offer more reliable video because it is optimized for mobile networks. Unlimited customers who use Binge On will get one free video rental from Vudu each month in 2016.

Note, though, that because Binge On automatically compresses the video to 480p, an unlimited data customer might want to skip the feature in order to access high-quality streams.

OK, so how do I turn this off?
You have to log on to your online T-Mobile account to turn it off or on. There's no way to do it through the device, although you can log on to the account via mobile web or the T-Mobile app.

I'm hearing something about Net neutrality. What does that have to do with Binge On?
Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Some critics complain T-Mobile is playing more of a gatekeeper role by letting some video services in the program while leaving others out. The inconsistent restrictions on data, consumer advocates argue, could hurt the Internet in the long run as it stifles smaller players that don't have the resources to devote to working with T-Mobile's Binge On program.

T-Mobile said that it isn't charging consumers or video service providers for its Binge On feature and that it's easy to meet the technical requirements to join the program.

"Anyone can do it," Legere said. If it proves too complicated, the company will adjust, he said.