Identifying YouTube As 'Video' Is The Issue For T-Mobile

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This week saw T-Mobile take to the stage in their latest Uncarrier event. While the company did announce the doubling of data on certain plans, the big announcement was that T-Mobile were going to do for video what they did last year for music. That is, free video of being classified as 'data'. Put simply, it would be free to stream for those on a qualifying plan.

This was rather big news and especially as T-Mobile did make it clear that most of the big streaming and video content companies were being included. Think Netflix, Hulu, WatchESPN, HBO GO and the list goes on. However, it did get picked up very quickly after the announcement that there was one glaring absentee from the list of whitelisted video companies. YouTube. At the time, there was few details as to why YouTube was omitted, although it was being said that T-Mobile were working on the issue. Now that the announcement has had some time to be digested, further details are starting to come in to help explain the situation. In short, it seems the biggest hurdle for including YouTube as part of the deal is being able to identify all of YouTube's feeds as 'video'. Although, that might sound like something which in theory should be quite easy to do (as they are probably the biggest video content provider on the web), the issue is a technical one.

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Grant Castle, T-Mobile's VP of Engineering, explained in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that YouTube makes use of two different protocols for video content, namely HTTPS and UDP. T-Mobile is able to identify the first fine but struggles in identifying the latter. More specifically, identifying UDP signals as video, opposed to images or other content. Therefore, there is an inability to determine all the feeds coming from YouTube as video. Although, this is an issue at the moment, Castle does seem confident that it is a fixable issue and also confirmed that T-Mobile and YouTube have been talking about it. Although Castle did not provide any firm details on when such a fix might be seen at the consumer level.