Are Unlimited Data Plans With Limited Video Quality Bad?

T-Mobile doesn't want you to conjest their network streaming HD videos.

T-Mobile became tired of a small percentage of their users streaming HD videos all day on their smartphone devices, and recently started throttling users who use more than 21GB. In order to make up for this, they also offered Binge-On plans, which allowed subscribers to watch unlimited videos in DVD quality (480p) on many video services without subtracting any amount of data from your unlimited plan.

I know some people were upset at this, but I have to be honest. I have watched a lot of videos on Hulu Plus and Netflix for the past six months without realizing I was on the Binge-On plan. One could easily cancel or re-join their Binge-On plan in their T-Mobile settings.

It’s hard for the human eyes to tell much of a difference between HD and DVD quality on a screen that is 5.6 inches or less. The difference is there when you compare a phone playing a video at 480p and another one playing the same video at 720p or even 1080p, but it’s not anything major.

T-Mobile caused controversy earlier this week when announcing a new “unlimited” data plan for $70, which still throttles your data at 21GB. The plan automatically streams your videos at 480p max. If you want to go higher, you have to pay $25 more per line. That extra price tag has — once again — angered a lot of people who don’t realize that they will be perfectly satisfied with the streaming that T-Mobile offers.

T-Mobile used to include Wi-Fi tethering automatically with their plans — sometimes including up to 5GB of 4G LTE data. That’s a lot of data. One who doesn’t have a Wi-Fi connection at home or at work certainly can’t rely on 5GB for their laptop needs throughout the month, but 90 percent don’t fall into that category.

Sprint is now offering an "unlimited" data plan similar to T-Mobile's.

Sprint announced a new plan that is similar to T-Mobile’s. Once again, there are some angry customers who don’t understand that T-Mobile and Sprint are doing what they have to do in order to provide (at least in T-Mobile’s case) high quality 4G LTE networks that don’t get congested all of the time. In T-Mobile’s case, throttling data after 21GB isn’t a big deal for 90 percent of its customers. The speed after 21GB is still enough to watch streaming videos on Hulu and Netflix and to browse the web. However, the customers will have to settle with 3G speeds instead of 4G LTE speeds.

The cellular industry is changing. Data used to be the “extra” part of the plan with cellular minutes being the most important. Now, that situation has reversed, and all the carriers have to make sure to stay in business.

About Daryl

Daryl Deino has been a technology enthusiast since 1995 and has written for several newspapers and technology sites. Please reach him at [email protected]
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