Will T-Mobile’s Binge On Leave Consumers with a Hangover?
P3 Group Study Finds Binge On Can Benefit Carriers, Consumers and Content Providers
MORRISTOWN, N.J. (January 15, 2016) P3 Group, a global consulting, engineering and testing services company, today released the results of a 12-week crowdsource study that separates fact from fiction in the ongoing debate over T-Mobile’s new Binge On, a program that allows customers to stretch their data buckets by streaming video from participating providers for free.
The P3 report is based on real data collected across the United States and analyzed for the six weeks before and six weeks after the November 15, 2015 introduction of Binge On. The report draws on the daily smartphone usage of more than 1,000 T-Mobile customers who opted into P3’s crowdsource panel by downloading P3’s proprietary measurement software that records real, everyday smartphone use including the speed, duration and quality of voice and data usage on a 24/7 basis.
According to T-Mobile, with the Binge On program, its network detects all video and adjusts all streams for smaller/handheld devices resulting in DVD video quality of 480p or better. T-Mobile caps the average transmission speed of video content at around 1.5 Mbit/s.
In its 10-page report, which can be downloaded at http://www.p3-group.com/P3-Offers-Binge-On-Insights, P3 finds that, overall, T-Mobile Binge On customers are using video apps slightly more often and, once apps are launched, they are using them significantly longer than before.
P3 data reveals that the T-Mobile customer video data rate was reduced much less than the maximum bandwidth. The resulting effective data rate of popular video apps still achieves a level of about 60 percent or more of what was achieved before Binge On, although the bandwidth of the network is capped to a much smaller fraction of what the T-Mobile network is providing to non-video content. Apps with a lower portion of video traffic are less affected with a remaining bandwidth closer to pre-Binge On levels. Other apps are not affected at all.
Based on our in-depth analysis of T-Mobile customer usage, we see that Binge On has some positive effects on the user experience,” said Dirk Bernhardt, CEO of P3 Communications. “For example, T-Mobile Binge On customers in the P3 panel who open Hulu spend about 50 percent more time on it. And increased video usage applies to non-participating service providers, like YouTube, as well as to providers currently partnering with T-Mobile in the Binge On program.
It appears that a rising tide lifts all ships,” he said. “Because Binge On partner traffic is not charged by volume, T-Mobile customers have more of their data plan allowance left for non-Binge On services.”
The report does note that the reduced data rate for Binge On video effectively decreases the available video data rate to about 60 to 75 percent of pre-Binge On levels.
While this does have some impact on video resolution and/or frame rate, the effect on the user experience is hard to quantify as this depends on the particular video content and device they are using,” Bernhardt said.
The data shows that all types of apps that download video content are affected. It doesn’t matter whether or not the content is streamed or downloaded. Video content embedded in a Web page, retrieved from social networks or simply downloaded is affected as well.
Other findings of the study include:
- On average, customers are spending up to 50 percent more time per session watching Netflix and Hulu; 16 percent longer on YouTube.
- The amount of data transmitted during a video session averaged over all Netflix, Hulu and YouTube sessions decreased by about 13 percent.
- The average instantaneous throughput by different apps depends on the mix of video and non-video content. While the average instantaneous throughput available to video apps drops to just 29 to 54 percent of pre-Binge On levels, it doesn’t necessarily mean the video data rate is reduced but that video buffer is filled slower than before Binge On.
- Due to the mix of video and non-video content, the average instantaneous throughput of social media apps is reduced less (to about 50% to 80%) than for video apps.
- The biggest impact on gaming apps appears to involve video ads the user can watch in order to earn gaming points instead of buying them via in-app purchase.
Bernhardt said the increased use of video apps indicates that Binge On does attract customers. “In addition, capping the bandwidth available for the transmission of video content allows T-Mobile to mitigate the risk of congestion in its network. It appears that T-Mobile has successfully managed to carry more video traffic, while avoiding a dramatic increase of the load on its network.”
P3 has more than a decade of experience in testing wireless devices, network quality and service performance around the globe. The company has provided consulting, engineering and testing services to major U.S. carriers since 2007 and to Canadian carriers since 2013. Last year the company performed the first independent mobile benchmark of Voice over LTE services in the United States.
“We’re all about solving deep technical problems for our customers,” said Bernhardt. “Our P3 Insight program represents a disruptive new way of crowdsourcing. One not built on artificial traffic, but on observing everyday smartphone use by real customers.”
For more information, please visit the P3 Group website.
P3 Group is a leading global consulting, engineering and testing services company with a team of over 3,000 consultants and engineers across 50 countries. The company provides a broad portfolio of independent technical and management consulting services including network planning, engineering, end-to-end optimization, market intelligence, security, QoS and QoE testing, international benchmarking, device testing and acceptance services. It is recognized worldwide as the completely neutral authority on network quality. Our unique differentiation lies in our strategic consulting expertise combined with deep technical and engineering skills to offer management solutions to complex problems. P3 telecommunications clients include wireless carriers, infrastructure vendors, device manufacturers, public safety organizations and regulatory authorities. In the Americas, P3 has offices in Detroit, Mich. Newport Beach and San Jose, Calif., Morristown, N.J., Portland, Ore., Greenville, S.C., Durham, N.C. and Dallas, Texas; Mississauga, Ontario; and Mexico City, Mexico. For more information please visit www.p3-group.com