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Deutsche Telekom announces StreamOn: a glide path to ‘unlimited’ data for German customers

streaming

via Flickr © timeyres (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • DT repurposes Binge On for the German market
  • StreamOn to come on-stream this month
  • Unlikely to fall foul of net neutrality concerns

Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile is to launch a video streaming service called StreamOn later this month using ‘zero rated’ content from high profile content partners. The data used will not count against users’ data allowances.  The service is very similar ‘Binge On’  launched by T-Mobile in the US last year. Mobile users will be able to stream unlimited music and video from popular ‘partner’ video sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Sky Go, ARD/ZDF’s youth service “funk”, Spiegel TV, Telekom Basketball and Telekom Eishockey.

Music streaming will be available from the likes of  Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Napster and  Radioplayer.de.

Parent DT says it’s embarking on a “radical step” and it wants to “revolutionise the German mobile market”. Customers of DT’s Magenta tariffs for both fixed and mobile can sign up for the StreamOn option at no additional charge and get near HD quality. Other customers will get “mobile optimized” quality. This latest offer follows the introduction of a StreamOn daily option introduced last year offering unlimited data for 24 hours for €4.95.  

The move is apparently in the clear as far as network neutrality rules are concerned. DT says it is not charging content partners anything and it is happy for as many partners to join up as want to.  As in the US, where T-Mobile’s eponymous sister company launched Binge On in 2016, it appears that the partners connect to T-Mobile’s network in front of a media engine that compresses the streams to a rate optimised for mobile viewing (on a smallish screen). DT has calculated that its network will be able to cope with x streams at y Mbit/s and presumably has contingency plans to attenuate traffic flows if the feature proves way more popular - with both users and streaming content providers - than it has assumed.

If all goes well DT has indicated that it intends to add more tiers of users to the unlimited feature as well as crank up all allowances so that eventually all its customers will be offered unrestricted use of audio and video content while on the go  - ‘unlimited’ in other words.

Unlimited is already a growing thing in Europe.  Finnish ‘pro competitive’ consultancy Rewheel reported late last year that unlimited mobile data is back in a big way with unlimited plans now available in 14 European countries with unlimited plans for €25 or less currently an option in six (see - Are we poised for a rush to fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution?)

 

Which then poses the question: Why is DT taking the route it is?  As there is no money changing hands between DT and upstream providers (so no obvious net neutrality violation and immediate monetary gain  for DT) why not just offer ‘unlimited’ as many of DT’s peers are already doing?

Two main advantages. First, the compression and reduced network load provides a technical glide path to unlimited usage if DT is nervous about the network being overwhelmed and congestion starting to appear at busy times - this is like wading into cold water slowly.

Then there’s the advantage of not giving away all the goodies in one hit and losing the marketing opportunities to build share. Appearing to offer free content (and then being able to announce yet more content as new partners come on) is presumably a better sales device than simply announcing ‘unlimited data’ which has a certain lack of sparkle - offering ‘unlimited’ YouTube, specific sports content, Netflix and so on presumably has more pull if offered at the right price, although in the long run many users will probably be lured to simple ‘unlimited’ as tariffs continue to drop and they realise there is always content that they’ll want to see which isn’t included in the package.

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