T-Mobile’s Binge On is a service which looks to offer consumers a way to conserve data allowances and yet still engage with one of the most data-demanding formats, video. As such, T-Mobile’s customers can make use of the service to watch video content from affiliated companies like YouTube, Netflix, and others, without having to worry about the content impacting on their monthly set data amounts. In spite of what seems to be a noble intended service on the face of it, Binge On has repeatedly been met with criticism with some focusing on the quality of the video transmission and some focusing on whether the service infringes Net Neutrality regulations.
The latest criticism of the service has now surfaced and by way of a 6-page report published by Northeastern University. To sum up the report, the researchers do believe that Binge On infringes on Net Neutrality. However, the researchers also note that the service does not always provide what it sets out to and most notably, in terms of quality and its ability to zero-rate all relevant data. While the report does not explicitly suggest T-Mobile actually looks to deceive customers, the report does note that the way in which the service is set up including its infrastructure and the quality of that infrastructure does result in a “not entirely consistent over time” experience, one which is “transient.”
In terms of the quality issue, when it was noted that Binge On does not provide a maximized video watching experience, it was stated by T-Mobile that it is an 'optimized' experience. One which sets the bar at 480p. However the researchers found that even reaching 480p was not always achievable or even actively provided, with the researchers noting “when Binge On is enabled, YouTube selects medium (360p) quality, lower than the 480p specified by T-Mobile.” A particularly concern for YouTube usage as it seems the 360 setting is irrespective of device screen size or resolution capabilities.
While the report suggests that sometimes Binge On charges for zero-rated data wrongly, strangely the report also notes the current structure of the service is one which is prone to being abused. The Northeastern University researchers note that users are effectively able to make non-Binge On eligible video content seem as if it is eligible for Binge On and therefore, eligible to be zero-rated. While the researchers do not go into too much detail on how this can be achieved, they do note that they were able to confirm the vulnerability and do consider Binge On's systems to be “brittle, potentially inaccurate, and easily subverted to free-ride on T-Mobile.” A point they have informed T-Mobile of. Those interested in reading the full report from Northeastern University can do so by heading through the source link below.