Home - , , - Researchers Discover Binge On Doesn't Really Stream 480p

Researchers Discover Binge On Doesn't Really Stream 480p

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Ever since T-Mobile launched its Binge On service, it has received both praise and criticism from its users. More recently, T-Mobile received criticism over its Binge On service as Northeastern University researchers have flagged the service for violating net neutrality. And for some users, Binge On delivers videos of lesser quality than what T-Mobile actually claims it does. There have also been some users who have complained of getting charged for watching content from providers who have been named as part of the program, instead of the Un-Carrier's promise of free video streaming without going against the users' monthly data cap.

On their study, the researchers noted that Binge On had a tendency to be inconsistent over time. According to David Choffnes, an assistant professor at the university's College of Computer and Information Science; there were small instances wherein the traffic of a Binge On-participating content provider was not zero-rated. The instances were transient and suggested that they were because of a buggy or a Binge On-supported infrastructure that was overloaded.   

The findings of the researchers were published on a six-page document which they released just last week. The information was then reported on by several publications, one of which was DSL Reports. Based on the group's study, Binge On video was very spotty and did not always live up to the hyped 480p quality that the carrier promised. As a result, those watching the video were quite disappointed. Even though sufficient bandwidth for videos with a quality of 480p and lower were provided by the service, the researchers found that it had adverse effects too such as increasing download times; which ultimately eats up battery life.

Another finding that the researchers noted was that when Binge On was enabled on a device, YouTube automatically selects medium quality, which was at 360p; a number clearly lower than the 480p promised by the carrier. The researchers found that this video quality downgrade happened despite the screen size of the device the video is played on. Even when an HD YouTube video is being streamed on a tablet, Binge On limited YouTube from adapting to the quality requirement and enforced lower qualities that produced very visible low resolution on such devices.

Without a doubt, T-Mobile's Binge On program is a service that continues to be appealing to its customers. And according to company executives, users on eligible data plans have streamed twice as much video now with Binge On. Not to mention, T-Mo has claimed that the optimization policies upheld by the program has expedited network congestion. 

Contrary to this, T-Mobile has continued to receive flak for breaking net neutrality laws. Just a few months ago, a net neutrality expert and Stanford professor published a document on how Binge On "harms competition, innovation and free speech." The document also showed how Binge On could likely be illegal. Because Binge On limited its users to only watch video from their partner providers, the professor found that it posed an unfair edge to other providers who were unable to pay T-Mo and be part of their Binge On program. In response, T-Mobile has defended its Binge On program against net neutrality violation claims by stating that the service was "about customer choices-- not limitations."

Northeastern's researchers recently found that the service permitted users to "steal arbitrary amounts of data from T-Mobile." This was done by changing content to make it look like Binge-On was enabled. This posed a threat to the operator. The researchers built a proxy that does the same thing, which is why they were able to confirm the carrier allowed free-riding. Based on their findings, this could work as a disadvantage and threat to T-Mobile as it could be modified to outwit their efforts of blocking it. When this happens, it would be far too expensive and complicated for T-Mobile to take care of.

T-Mobile has been notified of the vulnerability. As of this writing, the carrier has been said to be "mitigating it via abuse monitoring."


Source: Fierce Wireless

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47 comments:

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  1. TMO should simply stop fining customers for watching unapproved videos and obey the law.

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  2. AT&T should simply stop fining customers for watching any videos and obey the law.

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    Replies
    1. AT&T does not do this. They I've you the law. They do not do what T-Mobile does (which is fining customers for using narrowly-defined unapproved data).

      Delete
    2. Actually AT&T does zero rating too. Sponsored Data for Mobile device from AT&T.

      Also Verizon with Go90 and Sprint with Copa America video.

      Delete
    3. I stand corrected. That they all do it. T-Mobile, illegally censoring most video providers, is the most public offender.

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    4. ATT zero-rating is much different from T-Mobile. TMO doesn't charge content providers any money for zero-rating. Both Verizon and ATT monetize their zero-rated content.

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    5. It makes no difference to the nature of the problem... quibbling over how a data provider must grovel and get permission to be carried properly by a common carrier.

      A situation which should not happen according to the law. Whether or no money changes hands during this permission process.

      Delete
  3. You know what's great, you can turn BingeOn off and use up your data like other carriers (i.e pay overages). It seems like most of these studies completely miss the point. Customer choice trumps any of the ridiculous NN arguments and these reports always focus on a very narrow interpretation of NN. So if you want to burn through your data and pay overages, go right ahead, who's stopping them? The sentiment I get is that T-Mobile should stop giving customers a choice because they should get ripped off like Verizon, ATT, and Sprint. The researchers of this so-called study should be ashamed.

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    1. They are to be commended for blowing the list off TMO's illegal censorship scam.... which doesn't even deliver what the company claims.

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    2. You're completely missing the point of net neutrality. Net neutrality laws (and ideas) exist precisely because what is "good" for one party will be ultimately"bad" for all parties as every party chooses what is good for them. This is exactly the same logic behind an arms race and a race to the bottom. What you call good for consumer choice will ultimately lead to the demise of consumer choice.

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    3. Well said, except a "race to the bottom " is very good; people benefit from not overpaying for something.

      Delete
    4. "You know what's great, you can turn BingeOn off and use up your data like other carriers (i.e pay overages"

      Lots of problems:

      1) This censorship scam is opt out, when it should be opt in.

      2) The opt out is obscure and hard to do, so hardly anyone will do it.

      3) The situation you describe shows T-Mobile punishing customers for refusing to "buy into" their system of being fined for watching videos from sources Legere doesn't want you to see.

      Delete
    5. Nothing wrong with a race to the bottom. It means more competition, lower prices, more services, and more choice. Why would you want less choice? Why would you want to be penalized for using too much data? It's a fair trade-off and you're in complete control. NN arguments seem to come from people that don't understand NN.

      Delete
    6. "..., more services, and more choice"

      How can you with a straight face argue that Binge-On is anything like this? Binge-On results in fewer choices, as a few big ones benefit and the vast majority (including new competitors shut out) are swept away.

      "Why would you want less choice? "

      I want more choice, so I support the law and oppose Binge-On and similar schemes. Likening video on the Internet to a TV dial: with Binge-On, John Legere has his hand on the control, and slaps you for watching channels he does not approve of.

      With the very different situation of no Binge-On... the common carrier not caring what you do, YOU decide. Not Legere. No extra hand on the dial.

      With Binge-On, Legere is in complete control. Without it, you are.

      Delete
  4. That is a great question!

    When will AT&T stop fining customers who stream video?

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  5. I don't think Binge on breaks net neutrality laws or principles because it can be enabled or disabled without restriction or paying additional fees. As long as it doesn't cost a penny more to use or not use the feature, it doesn't impact net neutrality. Remember that the idea behind net neutrality laws is to prevent ISPs from charging extra for select content. T-Mobile's Binge on doesn't do that. Don't get me wrong, Binge on is useless to me as I don't watch anything from the services included in Binge on but I'm not paying anything extra to watch video that isn't included in Binge on. Eventually, high speed data and along with it video streaming will become unlimited just like voice minutes and texts have. In fact, for just a bit more money you can get an unlimited, unthrottled data plan for $60/mo from T-Mobile's own MetroPCS. Sprint's Boost Mobile also has an unlimited data plan and even AT&T postpaid has started offering unlimited data plans again. As long as the service provider doesn't block or restrict video streaming, net neutrality remains intact.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. " Remember that the idea behind net neutrality laws is to prevent ISPs from charging extra for select content"

      And under Binge-On. T-Mobile is punishing customers who choose to watch video from most providers by making them pay extra.

      Also, having difficult opt-out "escapes" from illegal censorship scams does not make them legal.

      "As long as the service provider doesn't block or restrict video streaming, net neutrality remains intact."

      Net neutrality is damaged badly by T-Mobile's (and similar) censorship efforts. All they have to do is count all data under Binge-On and it becomes legal.

      The current law prevents T-Mobile from punishing and rewarding customers based on which video providers they watch content from.

      Delete
    2. AT&T is punishing customers who choose to watch video from most providers by making them pay extra. I think some judge should break up AT&T to level the playing field.

      Delete
    3. "And under Binge-On. T-Mobile is punishing customers who choose to watch video from most providers by making them pay extra."

      Not sure what you mean by that. If Binge on were to go away tomorrow, you and I would still be paying the same to watch video that isn't included in Binge on. We already pay the same to watch non-Binge on video whether or not we have Binge on.

      Delete
    4. "All they have to do is count all data under Binge-On and it becomes legal."

      Nobody wants a constant 1mbps throttle.

      With that said, any sort of throttling seems downright insane.

      After all, carriers spent a fair sum of money upgrading to LTE just to provide FASTER speeds.

      Then they let manufacturers pump out devices that can hit 300mbps (for what purpose?!).

      And yet, when their networks were finally pimped out, they just turned around and implemented caps, throttling or some unholy combination of the two (aka Binge On).

      It's a wonder carriers even bothered with LTE in the first place.

      In fact, it seems like nothing would make them happier than going back to 3G for the next 10 years.

      Anyway, forget about the legality of zero-rating.

      I'd just like to see the FCC unilaterally enforce net neutrality rules against any forms of throttling, capping or bandwidth limitations, whether they're imposed by wired or mobile ISPs, just so to see how fast their networks actually run once you strip away all the rationing schemes.

      That, and there'd be nothing more refreshing than the tears of unscrupulous telecoms.

      Delete
    5. Save your breath. They are immune to logic.

      Delete
    6. "AT&T is punishing customers who choose to watch video from most providers by making them pay extra. I think some judge should break up AT&T to level the playing field. "

      Actually, AT&T is only punishing customers with its zero-rating program which Dennis pointed out. Otherwise, there is no punishing at all.

      When there isn't zero rating, you don't have carriers punishing customers for making the "wrong" data choices. It is entirely up to the user.

      Delete
    7. "you and I would still be paying the same to watch video that isn't included in Binge on. We already pay the same to watch non-Binge on video whether or not we have Binge on."

      You are easily fooled by the almost semantic trick by which T-Mobile charges you for video the company does not like and doesn't charge for its approved limited list.

      It's time for a judge to simply enforce the law: T-Mobile needs to put all data into Binge-On, regardless of which video carrier it comes from, or even without regard to it being video or something else. That's the law: the customer decides which data use is moral or not. Not John Legere.

      Delete
  6. Never seen so many diaper babies in one post. And, to the lost cause that said AT&T should be broken up is probably a Verizon employee. Nobody...nobody, provider-wise, is worse than Verizon. Long story short, you have a problem with T-Mobile, switch to their prepaid Metro PCS arm which offers unlimited data for less than $70 a month or Cricket, which runs on a far superior network for close to the same. Worst case, there's Boost, which also has a solid unlimited plan. Deal with the hand you're dealt or go to a different table with better odds.

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    Replies
    1. If money were no object, I'd switch to the best: Verizon. Because provider-wise, they edge out all others.

      Delete
  7. AndNowForSomethingCompletlyDifferentJune 23, 2016 at 2:29 AM

    TOP HEADLINE FOR TODAY (EXPIRES AT MIDNIGHT tonight 06/23/2016):

    Motorola Moto X Pure 2015 - 16GB Unlocked +++++ $239.99 at Best Buy & B&H

    Motorola Moto X Pure 2015 - 64GB Unlocked +++++ $319.99 at Best Buy

    WooT! WooT!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It can also be pointed out that the current best phone out there, the Galaxy S7 Active, is NOT on sale. But it does run on Cricket.

      (It easily runs on Cricket, and regular AT&T. I have no idea on GoPhone or h2o)

      Delete
  8. Customer choice is more important than some dumb NN philosophy. Don't like it, turn it off. It's so simple via the app, via the website, via a short code, or through CS. Customers should have control over how they use data not the carriers. Ultimately BingeOn benefits content providers because it leads to more viewership. Keep on zero-rating and let the fools on other carriers pay overages. I'm enjoying unlimited video instead of being PUNISHED for using too much data.

    ReplyDelete
  9. More free services from T-Mobile this summer:
    Use your data plan in Europe, with up to 4G speeds at no extra cost, and unlimited data after your high speed limit. Voice roaming 20c/minute. On any one of 33,000 domestic flights with GoGo, T-Mobile will give all mobile customers, even those who use other networks, a free hour of WiFi service this weekend.

    http://www.imore.com/t-mobile-will-let-you-enjoy-your-unlimited-data-plans-europe-summer

    ReplyDelete
  10. "Customer choice is more important than some dumb NN philosophy."

    NN protects consumer choice. You have it backwards for sure. Under NN, the consumer chooses the data. Under censorship schemes like "Binge-On", the consumer is punished for trying to outside of the carrier's very narrow/tiny curated list.

    "Don't like it, turn it off."

    The illegal activity should not be there in the first place. Your attitude is like "Don't like a donut shop that lets rats run around on the counter? Go to another!"

    " Ultimately BingeOn benefits content providers because it leads to more viewership."

    Binge-On may benefit the tiny list of video providers who are on the curated/approved list, but all the rest... the vast majority... are clobbered by the T-Mobile extra charge for consumption.

    You are "enjoying" very limited video.

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  11. I actually think that they are stretching the NN boundaries, because they can. I have BingeOn and I love it. It is flaky at times though. Have had to go turn it off and back on to get zero rating to work. Just like The IT Crowd tech support advice says.

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  12. If there were NO on/off switch there would be a reason to bitch, but there is a switch! And different plans & carriers to choose from if you don't like binge on.

    This whole list of comments sounds like it was written by ATT & Verizon! Trying to enlighten us about the terrible things TMO is doing...

    I think everyone is forgetting or ignoring that ANY video site can get on the TMO list by making available to TMO a video stream that is at Binge On specs which are yes lower than full HD. so what!
    JL said even porn sites are welcome...

    If you don't like the video quality of Binge On, turn it OFF! There's a switch in the settings on your phone, go ahead and turn it off. Or pay a bit more and stream content without Binge On with a different plan or carrier!

    S

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    1. The goal of network neutrality is to maintain the level playing field for all content providers that the web has always provided. Net neutrality benefits content providers directly and indirectly benefits web users by encouraging a wider variety of content and points of view to be available.

      Zero rating some but not all video providers puts non-zero rated providers at a disadvantage. The fact that some users have disabled Binge On lessens but does not remove the disadvantage.

      Although T-Mobile doesn't charge video providers to participate there are apparently some technical and bureaucratic hurdles that providers need to overcome to qualify. Even with its almost unlimited technical and financial resources, it took Google months to get YouTube approved for Binge On. For some tiny startup in the developing world, meeting Binge On's requirements could be impossible.

      Delete
    2. Also, Dennis... T-Mobile not charging has nothing to do with the law. Whether or not they charge, they are breaking it. It's a camel under the nose situation. First they break the law and censor video, and don't charge to get video approved. Then they charge to allow video on T-Mobile. Then they start charging web sites to go over the T-Mobile network. Then Instagram, etc etc etc. Then the Internet through T-Mobile and those who followed their lead consists only of content approved by the carriers. Only the ones that could pay the carrier to get permission to have their data sent.

      The slope is extremely slippery, and we are well down it.

      It should stop now.

      Delete
  13. Good points, well stated, Dennis.

    If everyone adopted T-Mobile's model, and there were no Netflix and it was a new company. it would probably have failed because schemes like "Binge On" punish people for viewing new startups.

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  14. "For some tiny startup in the developing world, meeting Binge On's requirements could be impossible." and "schemes like "Binge On" punish people for viewing new startups."

    This is pure speculation. Neither of you know what T-Mobile needs to identify streams for zero rating and transcoding. The small video companies who have signed up say they LOVE Binge On - it has introduced their service to new customers who never heard of them before, increasing their users. ~90 companies are signed up, with many more on the way. Binge On helps small companies grow and compete with the big services, and nothing that T-Mobile does with Binge On "punishes" any video company or customer.
    The FCC wrote the NN rules, and doesn't have a problem with Binge On or the other zero-rated services.

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  15. T-Mobile is giving free unlimited data up to 4G (based on the US phone plan) in Europe this July and August, 20c/minute calling there, and an hour of free WiFi on 33,000 US flights this weekend.
    No doubt the T-Mo bashers will tell us that this is all illegal too.
    http://www.imore.com/t-mobile-will-let-you-enjoy-your-unlimited-data-plans-europe-summer

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    Replies
    1. The free international roaming data can be used with any content provider so no there are no net neutrality issues with this offer.

      FYI, the free international roaming offer is only available to T-Mobile postpaid Simple Choice customers.

      Delete
    2. T-Mobile is bashing consumers and providers with the illegal binge on scam That is the only bashing going on here.


      It is not bashing to defend the law and condemn those who break it by censoring data. You obviously have no awareness of the law whatsoever.

      If the free European data plan doesn't sensor data, I am sure it would be great in the US. Provided you can actually get T-Mobile. Which is a big problem in the US at this point.

      Delete
  16. I'm thinking that some of this is just software and technology glitches. I don't think T-Mobile is doing this on purpose but I hope they are working with customers that have been adversely impacted to fix the issues.

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  17. The "steal arbitrary amounts of data from T-Mobile." claim and the one of "abuse" are real rich. Under current law, all data should be under "Binge-On". Receiving all data under the program, including data from companies illegally censored by TMO, is not stealing, of course.

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    Replies
    1. There is no "current law" that prohibits zero rating some mobile data. The FCC net neutrality rules (which are not law) do not cover zero rating services, according to the FCC chairman. If you think there is a "current law" that bans zero rating mobile data, name it here to support your claim.

      Delete
  18. Here is a very typical Binge-On advertisement:

    click here

    "Video now streams free without using your data."

    Note. It simply says "video", implying ALL video, not the tiny handful of Internet video providers they have put into their Binge-On program.

    And referring back to the "steal data" situation above, T-Mobile is in a bit of a hard place. Because not only are those using tricks to consume non-"Binge On" video as "Binge On" consuming the data as the NN laws specifically protect.... they are also consuming it in the way that the ubiquitous "Binge On" advertising campaign describes it: for all video.

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    1. There are no "NN laws" so of course there are no violations of them. FCC wrote the NN rules, and Chairman Tom Wheeler says NN does not cover zero rating services. Do you know something he doesn't, or are you just defaming T-Mobile with libel?

      Delete
    2. Aside from the well proven illegality of what T-Mobile is doing, there is the Ridiculousness of this analogy.

      For the Starbucks situation to be anything like T-Mobile's outlawed activity, Starbucks would be charging a hugely different amount of money for a cup of coffee depending on whether you wanted to drink it yourself, give it to a friend, stick it in the fridge, or port in the gutter.

      Delete
  19. So what you guys are saying is Starbucks FINED ME for drinking coffee?

    All this time, I thought they sold it to me, but I guess I have been brainwashed by the capitalist conspiracy under mind control of the Gnomes of Zürich.

    Starbucks actually FINED ME because I had coffee instead of a free cup of water.

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    Replies
    1. With that analogy, you are happily equating Starbucks charging different $ amounts for different types of coffee with T-Mobile illegally charging you differently depending on what you use your data for. Proving how logically bankrupt the pro crime/censorship side is.

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