About a week ago, John Legere, the outspoken chief executive officer of major US wireless carrier T-Mobile, had posted a video on Twitter, claiming that industry leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T are delivering video content from Netflix at 360p, which features lower resolution compared to T-Mobile, which does the same at 480p. Naturally, Verizon Wireless and AT&T released respective statements, vehemently denying that they stream lower resolution Netflix video compared to T-Mobile’s. Well, it turns out that it was Netflix itself who was downgrading the quality of its own video content, especially for Verizon Wireless and AT&T, but interestingly, not for the other two members of the Big Four wireless carriers in the United States, T-Mobile and Sprint.
As expressed to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix revealed that it had been slowing down its video transmission for half a decade now not only on mobile network service providers in America, but also in other parts of the world. According to Netflix, the reasoning behind this approach is to protect the video content provider’s own customers from going beyond their mobile data allowances.
This time around, however, Netflix is now planning to hand over some of that control to the consumers themselves. In May later this year, the company will be rolling out a data saver functionality for mobile apps that should allow a certain number of customers to opt for either streaming more, but lower resolution video content if they are under data plans with limited capacity, or to boost video quality for those subscribed under a plan with more generous capacity. Via its official blog, Netflix stated that it is aiming to achieve a healthy balance between providing optimal streaming experience for customers, and making sure to avoid unplanned penalties from wireless carriers.
In order to protect consumers from overage fees, Netflix was capping video content streams for mobile users at 600 kilobits per second (kbps), which is considerably of slower speed compared to what existing wireless carriers are capable of today. If one watches an HD video a couple of hours long from Netflix on a carrier’s network, that would consume about 6 gigabytes of data, which is okay for plans like Verizon Wireless’ $80 a month option.
However, Netflix does not treat every mobile network service provider the same. For instance, T-Mobile and Sprint get a pass because these carriers have historically offered more customer friendly policies. As opposed to slapping their subscribers with overage fees, they usually just throttle connection speeds.
But what about AT&T? This carrier has loads of subscribers on unlimited data plans who are also experiencing downgraded Netflix video content quality even though they are not subjected to data caps. Understandably, AT&T is outraged, as expressed in a statement. It appears that Netflix has more explaining to do.
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