PERSONAL TECH AT&T Targets T-Mobile with New Unlimited Data Deal

With T-Mobile under fire for throttling Binge On customers, AT&T is leveraging the user chaos. The company’s January promotion is pushing new unlimited wireless data plans — with a satellite or broadband catch.

Whether you already have DirecTV or decide to subscribe to the satellite television service — or AT&T U-Verse TV — you can tap into the new year’s deal, which offers more data than lower-tier plans.

“Our new unlimited plan is our best offer yet,” said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, citing the continued growth of video traffic, in a statement. “And, they will get a high-quality video streaming experience from the start. No compromises in video quality.”

Hitting Binge On Head First

That last statement seemed to be a hard jab at T-Mobile, a wireless carrier AT&T once tried to acquire but failed because it was unable to clear regulatory hurdles.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) last week issued a report revealing that T-Mobile throttles all HTML5 video steams to about 1.5 Mps when Binge On is enabled. Binge On is a service that T-Mobile has said enables customers to freely stream video from HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, Sling TV, STARZ, WatchESPN and other cable providers to which they subscribe.

The bottom line: T-Mobile is artificially slowing download speeds for customers who tap into Binge On, even if they are downloading videos to watch later or if they are downloading to other devices through tethered connections, according to the EFF.

EFF also found that T-Mobile is throttling video downloads even when the file name does not indicate the file is a video. Finally, EFF’s testing revealed that T-Mobile’s video optimization doesn’t really change or improve video streaming for mobile device delivery, so ultimately optimization is nothing more than throttling at the end of the day.

Is There a Catch?

For $100 a month, AT&T’s Unlimited Plan offers unlimited data and unlimited talk and text. Customers can add up to three additional smartphone lines to their accounts for $40 each per month. The fourth smartphone on any account is free.

Here are the nitty gritty details: New and existing DirecTV or U-Verse TV subscribers who are not already AT&T wireless subscribers can get $500 in credits by switching to the telecom provider’s unlimited plan when they trade in old smartphones or buy new ones on payment plans. AT&T wireless customers who are not already subscribed to DirectTV can add TV plans for $19.99 a month for the next 12 months when they sign two-year agreements.

We caught up with Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst, to get his thoughts on AT&T’s new limited time offer. He told us the plan will be a winner for both customers and for AT&T. Customers will get unlimited data and AT&T will get a bigger slice of market share, he said.

“This is the way offers should be orchestrated so everyone wins. This will help AT&T grow and solidify its market share in the television and Internet space,” Kagan said. “Television is changing. Yesterday it was all about cable TV. Tomorrow it’s all about IPTV, satellite TV and wireless TV — all offered by the same carrier so customers can watch programming wherever they are, over the wire line or wireless network.”


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