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How T-Mobile's video streaming works

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 12, 2015
With 480p resolution, Binge On called DVD quality, but 'not perfect'

In an interview, Grant Castle, T-Mobile's vice president of engineering services, said T-Mobile configured its data packet core network to be able to identify video streams. "We found that how video was being delivered, whether for desktops or mobile, the providers don't differentiate," he said. "We identify the video and signal back to send a mobile optimized version to this consumer. We don't really touch it."

In addition, T-Mobile also created a toggle switch, so if a customer wants a higher quality version to mirror to a larger display, the customer can turn off Binge On.

T-Mobile uses existing technologies to provide Binge On, but is not transcoding the video as some other carriers do, Castle said. "We're helping the video adapt [to mobile] correctly," he explained. "It's not that tricky to do, but the trick was to identify the signatures of all the video providers."

Castle said that when he was first asked to find a way to offer free video to customers it seemed impossible. "The first day, I thought, no way. Later we saw a lot of video providers were offering a fat desktop version. But why? we asked them. They said, 'We thought you'd like that and thought we'd be doing you a favor.' We think that's a waste and said let's send the right amount of data."

In his normal fashion, Legere blasted competitors like Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint for wanting to send more video data than is really needed for smartphones, so that customers would break through their data limits and then incur expensive overage charges. "We started the un-carrier movement to fix a stupid, broken, arrogant industry," Legere said. "Customers are living in fear or in shock of their bill."

What about network congestion?

Some analysts worried that T-Mobile's network could grow congested with too much Binge On usage. At some theoretical point, even with a T-Mobile LTE network serving 302 million Americans, congestion is possible, they said.

If T-Mobile's customer usage soars with Binge On, "the benefits in terms of customer adds and lower churn could be offset if the network does not live up to expectations," said Wells Fargo market analyst Jennifer Fritzsche.

T-Mobile's Castle was confident that the network would run smoothly. "I'm working every day to not get congested. By moving our spectrum to LTE and with coming bid auctions, we'll stay well ahead of capacity. Neville Ray couldn't allow that to happen. We do have the nation's fastest network, and we're more than happy to add more customers."

T-Mobile is willing to work with any streaming video provider that meets its technical standards, company officials said, and T-Mobile won't charge the providers for the service.


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