T-Mobile comes clean on throttled data speeds

jonathon@pricingdataplans.com

T-Mobile and the FCC have come to an agreement (here) that will see customers receive more timely updates on when they have reached their monthly quota and when throttled data kicks in. In addition, T-Mobile are set to enable customers to find out exactly what their speed is when throttled data kicks in.

Throttled data confusing for customers

FCC and T-Mobile agree to address confusion around throttled data

  • As part of the agreement, T-Mobile will send text messages to customers that will enable them to more easily get accurate speed information, place direct links to accurate speed tests on customer handsets, and revamp its website disclosures to provide clearer information about the speeds customers actually experience.
  • In June, T-Mobile made using certain speed tests, including the popular Ookla Speedtest.net app, exempt from counting toward a customer’s monthly data cap. At the same time, the carrier said it would not throttle data being analyzed by the speed test apps. The FCC felt that this might confuse newly throttled customers who would see a non throttled data speed appear on the Speedtest app.

Throttled Data Confusing?

I can see how this can be confusing the FCC and to customers alike; I will try and explain.  Once a customer reaches the monthly quota, their data ‘pipe’ is artificially reduced to 64Kps or 128Kps (depending on their plan).   Most operators will have the ability to recognize if a customer is attempting to run a speedtest (either through a simple DNS list of popular sites or through more complex DPI techniques).  The carrier can pass the speedtest traffic outside of the throttled pipe.  So as a result even when a customer has reached their monthly quota and the throttled data speed is down to 64Kbps, the speedtest could still show 10Mbs download speed even though this obviously not the speed the customer is getting.  So confusing – yes!  Deceptive – Maybe?

According to the agreement, T-Mobile have agreed to three major actions items in relation to Throttled Data:

  1. Provide a button on customer smartphones linking to a speed test that will show actual reduced speeds
  2. Modify the text messages it currently sends to customers once they hit their monthly high-speed data allotment to make it clear that certain speed tests may show network speeds, rather than their reduced speed. The modified texts also will provide more information about the speeds that will be available after customers exceed their data cap
  3. Modify its website disclosures to better explain T-Mobile’s policies regarding speed test applications and where consumers can get accurate speed information.

It is my personal opinion that transparency has and will always will remain a key issue for telecom operators.  Any behavior that can be perceived as deceptive by customers or industry observers is not in anyone’s best interests.  “When in doubt, do the right thing”

More Here… [FCC] and  [phonearena]

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