T-Mobile’s throttling policy continues to bring up questions

by: William Neilson JrAugust 15, 2014

t-mobile-music-legere ReCode

Two days ago, we reported that T-Mobile was beginning to warn and throttle customers with unlimited data plans who were using P2P/Torrent programs.

Now, ReCode has spoken to a T-Mobile representative who has tried to clarify this throttling policy. According to the clarification, T-Mobile is only going to be warning/throttling a “small number of customers using the service in violation of company policies.”

Basically, T-Mobile doesn’t want people using their network for “large-scale” peer-to-peer file sharing. According to T-Mobile, they will not be throttling heavy users and those customers paying for totally unlimited service on their phone will be getting such unlimited service.

“We are planning to reach out to them and let them know and help them change. There’s no limit on data. People can use it as much as they want on their smartphone[s].” – ReCode, Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert

So, there are no limits and you can use it as much as you want. Except, you can’t use it to tether or use a number of perfectly legal P2P programs because that would put too much of a strain on the network.

But this isn’t about data!

Maybe this is nit-picking but the definition of unlimited means:

UnlimitedDefinition Source url

  • Ian

    I think that’s fair, I mean its unrealistic to run a File Sharing service from your phone and if you wanted to, then you shouldn’t use T-Mobile LTE network to do it. Get an ISP like Verizon or Comcast and host the server in your home/business.

    More so, I just feel T-Mobile doesn’t want their network used in that way, least it become a boon to hackers and other malicious users who would attack T-Mobile servers and then users phones which opens up a whole new slew of problems.

    Maybe in the future some Wireless carriers will provide for those kind of services but it certainly won’t cost $80/month and won’t be “unlimited”.

  • androidkin

    T-mobile is trying to make sure It’s network usable without people hogging bandwidth bytorrenting. Go do your torrenting on Verizon and AT&T if you want speed, just be ready to pay outrages overage fees.

    • What proof do you have that they are “hogging” the bandwidth?

      What about people using legal P2P technology? Or just certain P2P programs?

      • Mo Yang

        I agree. As a photographer, I like to share files via P2P so that customers can get samples. Usually what I do is pop my micro sd card from DSLR to my phone and upload to a P2P site, or I have personal documents on P2P and need to download it to my phone for on the fly edits.

        Another use case would be P2P sharing/downloading of ROM’s for those flashaholics.

    • Mystery Man

      P2P does not equal torrenting.

    • smokebomb

      T-Mobile has the fastest speeds. I get 89 down 20 up on my note 3. Before I left Verizon I was getting 10 down 2 up.

  • David P

    So, when you sign up with T-Mobile and agree to not do this (per the ToS), and then do it anyways, you shouldn’t have your service throttled?

  • frankob

    By reading the comments here, I guess some readers miss the concept of net neutrality… Spying on and discriminating users’ data is wrong.
    And if you have read previous articles on this, you would know they are throttling only “unlimited” plan users’ use of p2p, not others. So, if you have the money, you can still do it on T-Mobile networks, just not if you are under an unlimited data contract. So, this is obviously NOT about hogging the badwidth… And come on, T-Mobile is certainly not worried about bandwidth… T-Mobile is not RiseUp! :-p

    This is just another example of money-motivated crippling of otherwise useful technology.

    • david

      Let me explain this to you. Paying for unlimited data is like going to a buffet. Yes, that means that you can eat as much as you want but that doesn’t mean you can stay there all day and have all 3 meals at the buffet. This is inconsiderate and frankly stretching the rules inorder to benefit yourself . Its like when customers hate on banks for hidden fees. Even though its legal to do, doesn’t mean they should do it.

      • cooljames

        The same way that ‘buffet’ is a restaurant marketing tactic that comes with a set of the restaurant’s product constraints, ‘unlimited’ is a marketing tactic that comes with a set of the data provider’s product constraints. The problem with your explanation is that unlimited and ‘unlimited’ are two different things and are intentionally confusing.

        Also faulty with your logic, the ‘buffet’ concept comes with additional constraints regarding physical limits and cultural decorum. You can’t eat everything. That’s a physical limit. You wouldn’t want to sit in a restaurant all day because it’s rude and not normal. Not to say that people don’t do it, and that yields my final point.

        Yes, there will be people who see ‘unlimited’ data for $10/mo extra and think “Awesome, I’ll use that to swap episodes of M*A*S*H with everyone in the Alan Alda Fan Club.”. For that, one could argue that T-Mobile has a right in throttling the user. Imagine, though, that one’s job might be to distribute episodes of M*A*S*H for their job as archivist for the Alan Alda Fan Club. Would that person be the equivalent to sitting at a buffet all day? Hardly.

        Unlimited means no limits. ‘”Unlimited”‘ or ‘Unlimited*’ (with quotes or not-hidden limits defined) would be a slightly less-deceptive. The real answer is to give some kind of limit that’s crazy for people who aren’t swapping files, but would be a true constraint for those who are. “The T-Mobile 500GB Data Plan”, sounds good to me.

        Also, to @disqus_vkPPRCe3d8:disqus point, he’s right. Net neutrality means that traffic is traffic is traffic. Quantities of 1’s and 0’s are all your data provider should be tracking. If they’re monitoring the endpoints or nature of your traffic, that’s something that needs to be stated regardless of whether the customer pays for low, high, or zero limits.

        • Mo Yang

          “Quantities of 1’s and 0’s are all your data provider should be tracking.” THIS!

      • smokebomb

        I average over 10GB a month and that’s mostly streaming music and YouTube. There are stints where I’ll use P2P heavily, but not often.

  • wezi427

    According to the definition of unlimited, I feel bad for the Verizon customers that are on the grandfathered “unlimited plans”. I’m currently one of those customers and I’m waiting for T-Mobile to start utilizing the 700mhz band that they acquired from Verizon to switch over to T-Mobile.

  • Mo Yang

    Easy work around for those utilizing legal forms or P2P. Use VPN.

  • the guru

    The real problem is the tethering. Like the quote says people can use as much data on their smartphones as they want. But that unlimited data is only unlimited on the smartphone and comes with a 5gb tethering limit. So when people use apps and such to go around this guideline and just use massive amounts of data they are violating the conditions of unlimited web. It would be pretty hard to use even a hundred gb of web on your phone alone even streaming video constantly or by sending files since the average device capacity would be about 80gb with a memory card. It’s just like everything tho a few people have to ruin everything for everyone.

    • Michael Samsara

      Give some people an inch – they take a mile. I don’t know who first came up with the albeit confusing use of “Unlimited Data” re cell networks but they had to know they were setting up what would ultimately be a confusing situation. But, given “everybody else” is doing the Unlimited term thing – everyone does it.

      Be that as it may, I find it hard to understand why anyone who is considerate of T-Mobile as well as those who want to use their “unlimited” portion of data responsibly and not – knowingly – abuse the network so others suffer – would have a serious problem with the amount of limited Unlimited Data they are paying for. There are always going to be people who feel they should not be constrained by civility and the conventions of civilization and good manners – why would the internet be devoid of them?

      T-Mobile has a right to protect their network from these “hogs” and should.

  • Mark Mann

    If you don’t like the terms of a contract, don’t sign the contract… Plain and simple

    • Tom Sly

      There is no spoon.. Err.. I mean contract.

      • Mark Mann

        So… What’d we sign when we joined tmo? Oh… A tos contract

  • smokebomb

    Do customers ever truly get what they pay for anymore? We’re paying $960 a year for unlimited everything. Un-limit-ed ev-ery-thing. Fuckin give it to us.