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How T-Mobile’s “BingeOn” works: Should you care if the video is just 480p?

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T-Mobile CEO John Legere took the sage at Un-Carrier X in Los Angeles Tuesday Morning to discuss the carrier’s latest moves aimed to give consumers more.  Un-Carrier X included doubling of data buckets and now free video streaming from 24 providers. But one caveat with BingeOn was that the video had to be streamed at “DVD quality” in order to not count against consumer’s data plans.  I know some readers will immediately say “Ew. No thanks. 4K video all the way.” That’s fine, you always have the option to turn that feature off by going to T-Mobile’s app, website, or calling the customer service line.

So how does BingeOn work, and should you care that your streaming video is not broadcast in 4K clarity? We had a chance to sit down with Mike Katz, Senior VP or Marketing and Grant Castle, VP of Engineering Services to get better clarification on T-Mobile’s latest offerings.

First off you can always turn off BingeOn, users will have to turn off the feature from T-mobile account app, web dashboard, or by calling customer service.  Though if you do decide to keep it on, for most users 480p video should be fine (how can you complain about FREE?). The demo units (iPad minis) we saw here at the event space were fine, in fact I didn’t notice until someone told me it was only 480p. BingeOn turns off automatically if your mobile device detects a connected Wi-Fi network. Even if a video is playing, it should be able to hand off to Wi-Fi in most instances without any issue.

So what’s the payoff? According to T-Mobile, based on existing data usage, customers should consume up to three times as much content (not just video, but photos, website data) with data optimized video. Which hopefully in turn means less data overages, and not buying extra large data buckets that subscribers will never fully consume, which you could see as wasted money. In theory T-Mobile’s network should be less bogged down by heavy video usage by everyone.

For now there are 24 services offering their content for BingeOn with more to be added on later as technical aspects with various services are figured out. Maybe YouTube one day? We’re also told as new codecs and compression methods are developed quality of video may improve beyond 480p.

So who gets what? All customers have access to optimized data video compression. Though in order to receive unlimited video streaming through BingeOn, users will need to be on 3GB (now 6GB, which T-mobile doubled today for free) data plans or higher. That’s technically the lowest tier paid data plan. Everyone gets double the data, for free. Even unlimited data plan subscribers get double tethered data, up to 14GB now. And if you have BingeOn turned on as an unlimited data user, tethered video streams won’t count against you, even if you are streaming to a giant TV, albeit 480p). Unlimited data subscribers also get one free Vudu download each month through 2016.    

Pretty cool for being free. So long as you can live with 480p (you can turn it off if you decide) paired with doubling of data.  Hopefully in the long run this means less overages for you, less money out of your pocket. We’re told Un-carrier 11 is not that far away either, so stay tuned as to what CEO John Legere and the rest at T-Mobile have in store next.

The service kicks in starting Sunday, let us know how you like the new features.


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Roy Choi

Roy Choi is a Southern California native. He has been infatuated with technology reviews ever since he bought his first crummy laptop in the summer...Roy Choi is a Southern California native. He has been infatuated with technology reviews ever since he bought his first crummy laptop in the summer...


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