Semantics 101: T-Mobile says it is downgrading video streams, not throttling them

Semantics 101: T-Mobile says it is downgrading video streams, not throttling them
A few days ago, we told you that YouTube's specs don't allow it to be one of the streaming video sites covered by T-Mobile's Binge On feature. For those just returning from a long trip out of the country, Binge On allows covered T-Mobile subscribers to stream video from certain providers without using any of the customer's monthly data allowance. Even though the video sharing site isn't included in Binge On, YouTube has complained that the quality of its service is being downgraded by the carrier.

Today, T-Mobile has released a statement to DSL Reports saying that it has not slowed down YouTube or any other site. The carrier says that it is applying "mobile optimization," and that throttling would be a "misleading" term to use. The statement adds that using the term "downgraded" would also be proper.  Despite this downgrading, T-Mobile says that because the videos are being optimized for mobile devices, the streams should be "just as fast, if not faster than before."


T-Mobile is anxious not to use the term throttling because when it comes to net neutrality, throttling is a no-no. So by calling ketchup catsup, T-Mobile is hoping that the FCC doesn't get involved. The agency has already said that it is keeping an eye on Binge On and wants to question the carrier about the feature.

Unfortunately, the statement also doesn't address the issue at hand. Why is YouTube's video stream being "downgraded" by T-Mobile if the site is not even part of Binge On? Keep in mind that if you are a T-Mobile customer who is not happy with the quality of video covered by Binge On, you can always turn off the feature by opening up the T-Mobile app and going to Profile > Multimedia settings. If you do disable Binge On, streaming video will use data from your monthly allowance.

source: DSLReports via TheNextWeb, AndroidandMe

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22 Comments

1. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Anyone else picture a confused Mr. Burns when they hear the word "catsup"?

2. JMartin22

Posts: 2368; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

I mean, it's honestly fair. At least they even give you the option to even steam it at all without it consuming data allowance. Perpetually unlimited high quality video playing would constrain bandwidth. So if you want to watch HD content, just optionally disable the feature. It seems simple and straightforward enough when you put things into perspective.

15. bigdawg23

Posts: 467; Member since: May 25, 2011

You would think, but we are all surrounded by technological challenged idiots.

18. medicci37

Posts: 1361; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

That wouldn't solve the problem with YouTube being downgraded

3. 7Superman9

Posts: 86; Member since: Sep 17, 2013

Unmarried 6.1?

4. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Because you have the option to turn it off...at will...this is really a no issue and not calling catsup. Throttling is the act of slowing down your data speed, the ability to transfer a packet from point a to point b at a specified rate, which would not just affect quality, but affect buffering for said quality output. What they are doing, is running the video through compression tech, basically interrupting the stream before it gets to you, compresses it and then sends it to you via a smaller size, and yes it is also smaller video rate, 480p vs full HD etc. So you have a choice, view 480p on a small screen, where probably 80% of the populace cant tell. FOR FREE or with non-providers optimized to get more video hours per GB, or simply turn it off and let your video eat through data like normal. One of the main complaints agents get about data usage, is customers have no clue that TMO's network is fast enough to trigger HD video and eat through data. They have no clue that just watching HD video for 5mins a day will kill all data for the month for anything else. So they have now given customers more options to get more out of their data, don't like it, turn it off...no brainer here.

7. supercurio

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

The realtime transcoding of all video streams at all time and simultaneously, which is what they try to make people believe their "optimization" is would require a kind of computational capabilities unheard of. It's obviously not what T-Mobile does at all. As reported by users who see their experience often so "downgraded" that they can't watch videos anymore, they scan all traffic for recognizable patterns in content or source server and throttle speeds to force adaptive players to hopefully pick a lower quality stream. It's the same kind of technology as China uses in their new Great Firewall to slow down or kill some traffics and even encrypted VPNs. I have a hard time understanding how anyone would believe T-Mobile claim on that. The costs in server, hosting, investment and maintenance would be insane to realize what you're describing.

5. 7Superman9

Posts: 86; Member since: Sep 17, 2013

Meant Uncarrier. Dang it! I missed the mark on that one.

6. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

You posted this two minutes after you made the typo, you still had the chance to change it! (If you're in mobile-mode you can scroll to the bottom and click desktop version so you can edit posts.)

8. bubbadoes

Posts: 1225; Member since: May 03, 2012

their were at least10 people in line at Verizon wireless over the weekend switching back to Verizon from T-mobile. try driving from Ft. Meyer's, FL to Miami on the tmobile network and you will be SOL on Alligator Alley with no signal

9. JMartin22

Posts: 2368; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

What's this have to do with the article's subject?

13. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You live in FL? I use too. I miss it. I drove over Alligator alley many times and yes T doesnt have coverage there. VZW isnt all that much better, but it does work. The last time I drove through there, my phone on VZW dropped from 4GLTE to EVDO1x until I made it closer to Miami. That was this past summer.

16. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3122; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

I live in Miami and I can tell you that between US27 and State Road 29 (Immokalee) there is NO reception by ANY carrier. Trust me, I've made the trip across the Alley more times than I care to remember. It's even worse if you go on the Trail (US41 aka Calle Ocho).

10. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

So you are downloading a degraded video? Because that si how you optimzie a video for downloading. You lower its resolution which makes it smaller thus it downloads faster. As long as its not less than 720p its no big deal. I just moved to T, so I am not familiar with this feature. What I did notice is by default, I set my YouTube to always play the high quality video. But when I use my phone, its always set on 720p andI have to change it to higher if and when available. If VZW wasn't so expensive, I'd go back.

11. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Turn it off, that simple. LTE on TMobile is proven through the country through independent tests to be the fastest. So turning off binge on will be like any other carrier, 720p 1080p etc will eat data at the normal rate. If you want more out of your data, enable it, watch 480p, even with hotspot! Getting more data, and if through provider, FREE data.

14. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Its fast because T-Mobile doesn't have as many subscribers as ATT and Verizon. Consider, TMobile has roughly 40M subs vs ATT and VZW who both have over 80M users. Even though on average T-Mobile is faster, its not faster here in Chicago. It is better than it was in 2011 when I first tried T-Mobile. The only problem I've had is texting. I sent a text and it will show sending of hours and never reach the recipient. Then there are times it says its sending and the person got it. I never had that issue on VZW. Call quality is also bad too depending on where i am.

21. ShadowHammer

Posts: 200; Member since: Mar 13, 2015

Sadly, it sounds like you just may be in an area that T-Mobile hasn't optimized or set up well. I have none of the issues you describe, but I'm mainly in the Salt Lake City, UT area. If that's your situation, you may just have to bite the bullet and go back to VZW if it's troublesome enough. At least you have some choices being in a metro area. My in-laws live in the sticks where Union Wireless is the only option for reliable service.

12. talon95

Posts: 992; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

You're a tech fool if you don't understand the difference between throttling and downgrading. Throttling is when you sit forever waiting for video to load and still burns data, downgrading loads faster and uses less data. T-mobile is just giving you a universal button to control every video to 480p so that you use less data. If you choose this option then you want to either get your video without using any data (zero rating) or at least minimize data use by streaming at 480p. YouTube doesn't complain when i manually set it to 480p in the video so why complain when I do it wholesale on all my video streaming. I consider this not an issue with T-mobile but an issue with YouTube who is telling me that I can't chose what resolution I set as my default resolution. Google needs to be quiet and leave my settings to me.

20. belovedson

Posts: 1060; Member since: Nov 30, 2010

It's a matter of semantics as the article suggested. and your argument makes absolutely no sense if T-Mobile (hahaha) brags about unlimited data and then forces users to limit the use of its towers or brags about having xmb downloading or uploading speeds and then forces its customers to watch videos at a crappy 480p what's the point of bragging about unlimited data or fastest download speeds. that would be like getting a Ferrari burying it in 100 ft of concrete and bragging about how fast it can go in the middle of a storm aboard the titanic in the middle of the atlantic

17. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Doesn't this still have the same effect as throttling? A lot of video sites have an auto adjust resolution feature, which either increase or decrease the quality of the video depending on how fast your connection is. If T-Mobile throttled Binge On users, it would decrease the video stream automatically, probably to the same video quality T-Mobile is downgrading them to, depending on how much they throttled them.

19. johnbftl

Posts: 283; Member since: Jun 09, 2012

So....They just admitted to violating net neutrality?

22. hypergreatthing

Posts: 44; Member since: Jun 13, 2012

They're playing word games/semantics. In order to downgrade video they're throttling and allowing adaptive algorithms figure out that they need to switch to a lower quality stream. They really need to stop playing word games with people's data.

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