T-Mobile, YouTube Strike Deal for Streaming Without Data Limits

  • Ends dispute over lower-resolution video on Binge On service
  • Video partners can choose to stream in high or low resolution

T-Mobile US Inc. will let users stream YouTube clips without using up their data plans, ending its dispute with one of the largest Internet video providers.

YouTube, part of Alphabet Inc.’s Google division, will manage its own video stream on the No. 3 wireless carrier’s Binge On service, T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere said in a video post. YouTube had been a holdout, refusing to join the list of companies like Netflix Inc. and Time Warner Inc.’s HBO on Binge On, which streams lower-resolution video without running up subscribers’ data charges. The compromise by T-Mobile addresses one of YouTube’s main concerns -- that the lower-resolution Binge On service might degrade Google’s ad quality.

“We don’t just launch and leave,” Legere said in the video. “We listen, we learn and we improve things, and that’s exactly what we did here with YouTube.”

According to Legere, T-Mobile is letting its video partners determine which content is streamed in lower resolution, not counting against customers’ data plans, and which remains in high-definition. The move also addresses criticism by the Internet Association, which counts Google as a member, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation that T-Mobile created a system that treats some traffic differently, defying one of the guidelines of net neutrality rules put in place by the Federal Communications Commission.

On Wednesday, T-Mobile said it would offer subscribers a free year of access to MLB.TV for live broadcasts of Major League Baseball games through its Binge On service.

Wireless carriers have embraced video programming like original shows and sports in the past few months as a way to lure subscribers. In addition to T-Mobile’s Binge On, Verizon Communications Inc. last year introduced go90, a free video service featuring NBA and NFL games. And AT&T Inc., which has the NFL Sunday Ticket and is sponsoring the NCAA basketball Final Four, plans to start a mobile video package with premium content by the end of this year.

To encourage viewership without racking up huge data charges, each of the carriers have devised plans to defray costs. Verizon doesn’t count go90 against its subscribers’ data plans, and AT&T started offering video subscribers the option to sign on for unlimited wireless data.

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