T-Mobile announced Tuesday it will offer free streaming of wireless video to certain T-Mobile customers for services such as HBO, Hulu, Netflix and 21 others.
The service, called Binge On, will be available starting Sunday at no extra charge to T-Mobile's Simple Choice customers paying for 3GB of data. In addition, the carrier said it doubled the LTE data caps at every level in Simple Choice at no extra cost.
"T-Mobile is un-leashing entertainment and giving customers exactly what they want," CEO John Legere declared at an event in Los Angeles that was webcast.
He also said that neither the 24 video-streaming services involved nor T-Mobile customers will pay for the service. Binge On is powered by new technology built into T-Mobile's network, which optimizes video for mobile screens and minimizes data consumption.
In an online FAQ, T-Mobile said its Binge On video quality "looks great" on a phone. The explanation says the service optimizes video quality for smartphone screens and minimizes buffering and maximizes quality.
Analysts had predicted the free video service would be announced today, but some were skeptical that T-Mobile could afford to offer it without leading to widespread LTE network congestion.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, said T-Mobile would be using a compression algorithm that reduces video streams to one-third of their original size. Binge One won't work with encrypted data, such as that from Google and Facebook, he said.
Entner said that he isn't sure whether reducing video data streams to one-third of their original size will be enough to keep the service from getting congested.
"It remains to be seen how much congestion there is," Entner said in an interview. "Even with the compression, it depends on how much people are watching it."
To be eligible for one line with sufficient data to use Binge On, a user would pay $65 a month. That cost would include $50 for one line that includes 2GB of data, but a customer would need to add 4GB more for $15 a month to get above the 3GB minimum for Binge On.