Home - - Study Reveals Wireless Carriers Throttling Your Favorite Video Streaming Apps

Study Reveals Wireless Carriers Throttling Your Favorite Video Streaming Apps

Your wireless carrier may be in hot water right now.

Just recently, researchers from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts reported that wireless networks are throttling online video apps. Among those video apps included in the list are Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime. The report comes from Bloomberg after results of the ongoing study were released by the researchers.

The researchers made use of a mobile tracking app called Wehe; in order to conduct the study that has been noted as "the single largest running study of its kind." The app, downloaded by almost 100,000 users, measures how quickly wireless networks deliver services to its end users on mobile devices.

The findings of each are then compared against the speeds of other wireless networks. As of this writing, the app has ran more than 500,000 tests through 2,000 ISPs in a total of 161 countries. Out of all these tests, the app discovered that the most throttled app is YouTube. Other mobile apps that have been subject to data speed throttling include Netflix, Amazon Prime, and NBC Sports.

The differentiation of each U.S. wireless carrier was measured by the researchers. They measured how each network treat certain traffic and compared it with how other networks treat the same traffic. The report showed that most activity was throttled. One example showed that T-Mobile delivered Netflix at 1.77 Mbps while other network traffic had a speed of 6.62 Mbps.

During its testing, the app discovered differentiation times from each major U.S. carrier to be the following:

  • Verizon - 11,100 times 
  • AT&T - 8,398 times
  • T-Mobile - 3,900 times
  • Sprint - 399 times

These times are measured by instances of differentiation. This means that the result of each carrier depends on how large its user base is. 

For its part, AT&T has reached out to FierceWireless refuting the report. In its statement, the carrier wrote:

"We are committed to an open internet. We don't block websites. We don't censor online content. And we don't throttle, discriminate, or degrade network performance based on content. We offer customers choice, including speeds and features to manage their data. This app fails to account for a user's choice of settings or plan that may affect speeds. We've previously been in contact with the app developers to discuss how they can improve their app's performance."

The full results of the study is said to be released once the researchers have amassed a year's worth of data. The developer of the app and co-author of the study, David Choffnes, is working with the government of France to monitor the adherence of net neutrality in the country. 



Comment Page :
  1. If only video apps displayed two connection speeds below every video, one for video content and the other for regular content, all for the sake of a transparent and open internet.

    It's time for ISPs to be held accountable for throttling my Norwegian basket-weaving slideshows.

    Buffering shouldn't be a thing in 2018.

    Hopefully big government will swing its might around in the faces of the white collar big guys this time, instead of always stickin' it to the blue collar little guys.

  2. phone companies want to minimize your access to anyway they can. they exist to profit. most ppl dont use tremendous amounts of data. so "limiting" viewing speed pads their margins. grannie and uncle joe may use 4 gigs a month. and rebel teen mike uses 40 or 60. they need a balance.

    is it right? depends who u talk to.

    1. Problem is, when Granny and Joe retire they'll have nothing better to do than Netflix and chill with their SOs. If the carriers don't step up, they'll just go with their local Cable Lord instead.

      Meanwhile, Mike will be around for the long haul, remembering each and every time the carriers dropped the ball, and then minimizing what he spends on service in favor of home Wifi whenever he possibly can.

      That's a dangerous game to be playing, where you're incentivizing customers both old and young to give you as little revenue as possible.

      Once growth slows down and stagnates because of low utility, even Big Red's profit and revenue growth will soon dip below estimates just like its subscriber numbers have.

      They can only hope that undermining the quality of their product won't eventually lead to a downward spiral of people downsizing their impractically slow phone plans.

  3. There is no net neutrality law in the US, so there's really nothing "big government" can do about it (except possibly soon in California).

    Also, people sign up for these plans that state "video limited to 480p" or some other such language. The customer is given the choice of paying for a $50 "unlimited" plan with up to 480p video, or a $95 "unlimited" plan with video up to 1080p. So, unfortunately, I have to agree with AT&T that customers willingly choose to be throttled. I have Binge-On enabled on a $30 T-mo plan knowing that's a compromise I willingly choose. However, if you're paying the $95 charge and still getting 480p, then that's a reason to complain - I just don't think the study took that into account.

    1. What does "480p" mean? Frame size and bitrate are independent variables. DVD video (MPEG-2) is standard definition (480p), and it gets 10 Mbps. I guarantee you that's not what they mean, but let's pretend they do -- Are you going to let me stream 1080p video so long as it is encoded with H.264 (or better, H.265) at 8Mbps (or 4Mbps)? No? Why not? Bits are bits. How many bits do I get?

      The study is designed to uncover non-uniform allocation of bits, whether the subscriber "agreed" to it or not. I think they will be successful in their goal, and that carriers are getting uncomfortable with their opaque "settings / plan terms" is telling.

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