New Binge On report says users sometimes charged for zero-rated data, also finds exploit

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There’s been no shortage of controversy related to Binge On since the service made its debut as part of Un-carrier 10 in November, and now another report that criticizes Binge On has surfaced.

A group of researchers at Northeastern University has published a report titled “BingeOn Under the Microscope: Understanding T-Mobile’s Zero-Rating Implementation.” The researchers conducted tests to determine how Binge On works and if it works as advertised.

The testing found that the Binge On rate limit its 1.5Mbps, similar to what the EFF has reported previously. This provides enough bandwidth for 480p video from a source like YouTube, but during testing, the researchers found that YouTube chose 360p quality instead:

“BingeOn provides sufficient bandwidth for 480p and lower, but it increases download times, which may in- crease battery consumption by keeping the radio in an active state for longer. Interestingly, when BingeOn is enabled, YouTube selects medium (360p) quality, lower than the 480p specified by T-Mobile.”

Speaking of YouTube, the report mentions that YouTube traffic was throttled to 1.5Mbps but wasn’t zero-rated, whereas similarly-throttled Netflix content was zero-rated. (YouTube was added as a Binge On partner right before the report was submitted.) “Such differential treatment of video services calls into question the policy’s legality in the face of the FCC’s Open Internet Order.”

Northeastern’s researchers also found Binge On to be a bit inconsistent. “We found that Binge On behavior is not entirely consistent over time,” they say, explaining that there were a “small number of cases” in which video that should’ve been zero-rated was not. However, they say that these instances were temporary and suggest that they were just the result of bugs in the infrastructure.

Finally, these researchers dissected Binge On and found that they were able to exploit Binge On. After modifying HTTP traffic and using proxies, they were able to make their traffic appear Binge On-friendly, meaning that it didn’t count against their data usage. However, the researchers notified T-Mobile of this vulnerability, and T-Mo says that they’re “mitigating it via abuse monitoring.”

Binge On is a big deal for T-Mobile. The service now offers free streaming from nearly 90 providers and has been used to stream more than 500 million hours of zero-rated video. T-Mo has made it easier to control Binge On since its launch, enabling short codes that let you quickly check your Binge On status and enable or disable its effects. As such, it’s unlikely that T-Mobile will be making any major changes to Binge On or getting rid of it, despite the net neutrality criticisms that it’s gotten to date.

To read the full Binge On report from Northeastern’s researchers, click here.

Via: FierceWireless
Source: Northeastern University report

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  • AussieB

    Don’t see this reported here yet but Tmobile is about to get a lot more free publicity. The NHL has awarded Las Vegas and Tmobile Arena a new expansion franchise to begin play in the 2017-2018 season. All that press coverage will make Tmobile’s naming rights that much more valuable

    • VN

      Can’t wait!!! This is going to be great for T-Mobile!

      Oh and this report is just silly and full of fluff lol.

    • kgraham182

      Too bad, nobody watches hockey.

    • Clifton K. Morris

      Tell KEY Bank how valuable it’s naming rights are…

  • patt

    Wouldn’t be surprised if they used iPhones to test. Youtube iPhone app on cellular won’t let you select quality. You can on wifi or jailbreak

    • matt

      Reddit says try tubex.

      • patt

        I do use tubex a lot :) mainly for music. I even wanted to try and make a donation to get rid of ads but I never found any way to get rid of ads.

  • JE_25

    I came into this thinking, the research company was going to try to rip apart BingeOn. They actually appear fair, which is oddly surprising.

    • dtam

      it’s because it’s from a university and not a “re$earch company”

  • Real VN. Not Fabian VN

    Just give us more data and make a throttle-all switch or two to save data, that way you don’t have to worry about fines or exploits.

    There are more important things to worry about these days like the T-Mobile Tuesdays app and what fast food to give freeple. Also make a 611XXL tech support specially trained on freebies support.

    • Guest

      Yes there are more important things to worry about. There are other sites out there that talk about these important things. Fox cnn msnbc. I really rather have money off my bill every month.

      • guest

        Saved money by cancelling cable and switching to BingeOn! Thank you, John Legere! Thank you, T-Mobile!

    • VN

      What does uncarrier 11 have to do with binge on that this article is talking about? I’m confused about that. Lol that’s funny. And thank you but I’m the real VN. If your a fan then I want to say thank you. :)

      Oh and thank John Legere! Thank you T-Mobile!

  • Nick

    I USE BINGE ON EVERY DAY! ITS WORKS JUST FINE ! STOP WORRYING
    it is AWESOME! and free! it really is worry free

    • Jimmy James

      This is not true. In my area, while using YouTube, if I force select 480p, it just pauses, loads more video cache, pauses, loads more video cache, pauses, loads more video cache, pauses, loads more video cache, very annoying.

      • sincarafan247

        Of course it depends on several factors if it’s going to work. Each person will always have different results. Location and signal being the biggest.

        • Jimmy James

          I’m on unlimited. I tried to be a nice guy, and not clog up the network, but I’ve disabled BingeOn for good.

  • rondo

    To me it seems like they are doing the same thing like cricket wireless. Unlimited data but the speeds for media consumption is limited.

    • master94

      Not really the same thing. Cricket doesnt favor some services over others like Tmobile does. That being said I like Binge on

  • guest

    does binge on work for prepaid customers

    • ArchMax

      yes with the $65 and $80 plans

  • Yesi G

    Turn BingeOn off, if you don’t want free data. Its really simple to do.

    Ultimately, you choose how you stream your data, what’s the big deal.

    • Matt

      The big deal is if the technology has glitches and users that have BingeOn turned on are still depleting their monthly high speed data allotment. I hope T-Mobile is doing the ethical thing and working to fix this.

  • Moe

    I never watch on Binge on. Use iPad and wifi. This works better for me cause larger screen and good quality video. Suppose if I didn’t have wifi at home or on the job I might view on Binge On. I don’t see what the big deal is with lower resolution. Guess some people have to have something to always complain about.

    • Clifton K. Morris

      Yeah. I have fiber service which is optimized service specifically made for data transmission. On Fiber Optic line is around 3ms ping time which is important to me.

      T-Mobile only has Omnidirectional antennas in my area. If it was built any cheaper, it’d be made of tin cans and kite string.