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T-Mobile cracking down on extreme bandwidth users of its LTE network
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NewsPoster
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Aug 31, 2015, 12:02 PM
 
T-Mobile is warning its customers not to abuse the carrier's unlimited data service, or they will end up being punished. CEO and President John Legere has spoken out against some of its highest bandwidth-consuming subscribers, warning that they will find their plans will be altered to limit the amount of bandwidth they use, preventing them from abusing the service and freeing up capacity for the rest of the carrier's subscriber base.

The problem revolves around the limitations of the unlimited 4G LTE plans, which includes an allocation of LTE data that can be used for tethering at no cost. Meant for use with notebooks by using the smartphone as a mobile hotspot, users exhausting the LTE allocation can still continue tethering, but at a far slower rate unless they pay for more LTE service.

According to Legere, a small group have worked out how to "steal" more LTE tethered data than they should be allowed to have under the plan. While the group is small, said to be less than one hundredth of a percent of T-Mobile's customer base, the usage is said to be as high as two terabytes per month for some of the abusing users. "These aren't naive amateurs; they are clever hackers who are willfully stealing for their own selfish gain," claimed Legere.

T-Mobile CEO and President John Legere
T-Mobile CEO and President John Legere


Starting from today, approximately 3,000 users identified to be abusing the system are being contacted about their usage. According to an FAQ, the culprits will be warned about the high usage, then will lose access to the unlimited 4G LTE smartphone plan, and then moved to an entry-level limited 4G LTE data plan, most likely under Simple Choice. While there are workarounds for the unlimited plan to disguise tethered data as smartphone usage, shifting the high-bandwidth users to a plan with a set total limit of LTE data will theoretically prevent these from working, as it is a cap for the entire line's usage, regardless of whether or not tethering is in play.

"I'm not in this business to play data cop, but we started this wireless revolution to change the industry for good and to fight for consumers," writes Legere. "I won't let a few thieves ruin things for anyone else. We're going to lead from the front on this, just like we always do."

Last year, T-Mobile did plan to throttle heavy data users working outside of the carrier's terms and conditions, but it chose not to follow through with the scheme. The carrier claims it has since developed technology to detect when users are breaking the rules, allowing it to be more certain when confronting the abusive customers.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Aug 31, 2015 at 12:09 PM. )
     
coffeetime
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Aug 31, 2015, 12:25 PM
 
2 Terabytes per month? Wow.
     
sunman42
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Aug 31, 2015, 01:00 PM
 
So "unlimited" is unlimited, except when it isn't? I guess "up to [some number of Gbytes] a month of tethered data" doesn't sound as good as "unlimited," but I thought there was a Truth in Advertising law in the US. Buried in the Terms and Conditions was a limit to tethered data, and now T-Mobile claims a few thousand users are somehow masquerading their tethered data as smartphone bandwidth usage. It would be nice if they could prove that, or at least add an asterisk to the "Unlimited" terminology. No one in their right mind who has work to do reads the entire Terms and Conditions on anything these days.
     
horst
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Aug 31, 2015, 01:36 PM
 
@sunman42: any right-minded individual will have read the T&Cs before potentially breaking the system. Any wrong-headed person will be justly informed that their little game is about to end. Feigning ignorance on the matter is crap.
     
climacs
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Aug 31, 2015, 02:13 PM
 
Perhaps T-Mobile ought to have their marketing geniuses figure out some way to communicate "practically unlimited". I do agree that people using 2TB/mo (if these users in fact exist) is absurd, but unlimited does indeed mean unlimited.
     
horst
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Aug 31, 2015, 02:25 PM
 
There is no re-definition of unlimited. T&Cs apparently limit tethering. And if you are hurt by this, please tell us how.
     
Makosuke
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Aug 31, 2015, 02:38 PM
 
It's worth noting here that the people doing this are apparently *not* just using a lot of data on their unlimited (or "unlimited") plan. Any T-Mobile customer who read their own ToS knows, you get unlimited mobile data and a limited pool of tethered data. Essentially the plan is designed--honestly--to prevent you from running your phone as your main computer internet connection (unless you have lightweight needs).

And as the story above notes, the people using these vast amounts of data are not just downloading a lot on their phone--they're using a hack of some kind to tether their phone without it appearing as tethered, thereby violating the ToS. I'm assuming T-Mobile knows how to figure this out via network analysis.

You can argue whether it's legit to treat tethered data differently from mobile data, but the reality is the ToS specifies a separate data cap for tethered use, and if you're working around that, you're getting more than you paid for, period.

One assumes that because of the extremely fast, uncapped upload speeds and unlimited data available on an LTE network (locally I get probably five times faster upload on a decent LTE tower than my cable plan), people are using it for heavy bittorrenting or other server use.

The solution (leaving aside tether-rule-skirting-hacks) would be to do what my cable company does, and just put a really big cap on it (200GB for a midrange plan in my case), so that it's essentially unlimited for real mobile use but will catch abusers and people who somehow manage to use enough mobile data to impact the network.
     
chimaera
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Aug 31, 2015, 02:58 PM
 
Certain ISPs *cough, AT&T, Verizon, cough* have been pushing wireless for all home service. So the cheapskates can retire copper lines, without running fiber. That will only work if tethering has high/unlimited data.

I'm OK with T-Mobile limiting the heaviest users, but would like to see regular bumps in the tethering caps.
     
Makosuke
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Aug 31, 2015, 03:17 PM
 
I just had a look at the T-Mobile signup page, and they're *really* clear about the tethering caps. It says right in the little pink "UNLIMITED" box "On-smartphone only", in not-small text. The list of features below clarifies tethering (also not in fine print):

"Includes up to 7GB Smartphone Mobile HotSpot data.*"

...plus, in the fine-print:

"*Unlimited 4G LTE customers who use more than 21 GB of data in a bill cycle will have their data usage de-prioritized compared to other customers for that bill cycle at locations and times when competing network demands occur, resulting in relatively slower speeds. See t-mobile.com/OpenInternet for details."

So basically, there's no way to sign up for the plan without seeing in the feature list that the "unlimited" data does not apply to tethering, that tethering has a 7GB cap, and that if you use more than 21GB/month other users' data gets priority.
     
DiabloConQueso
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Aug 31, 2015, 03:30 PM
 
Just for reference, on the Android mobile operating system, there are several free and paid apps whose sole purpose is to replace the OS-level hotspot feature with a custom hotspot feature so that tethered data use appears as normal, mobile data use.

On a side note, and after it's already been beaten to death in the previous comments, T-Mobile truly does have unlimited mobile 4G use -- but there's a fine line between use and abuse.

There are carriers that advertise unlimited mobile 4G and should be punched in the face for doing so because their plan is nowhere near "unlimited," and then there's T-Mobile. Let's make sure we're criticizing the right carrier over the definition of "unlimited."

Next thing you know, we'll hear about someone complaining because The Olive Garden's "bottomless breadsticks" ad didn't afford them 5,000 breadsticks last dinner there: "Well, is it truly bottomless or isn't it?!"
     
quebit
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Aug 31, 2015, 10:59 PM
 
It seems to me still, that T-Mobile and all other carriers should stop using the word "unlimited" in any capacity. Obviously, they don't understand the meaning of it, and they can't be bothered to look it up in the dictionary.

This is akin to saying that the number "infinity" is not really infinite .... it's just very large. That's going against everything in mathematics and logic; "infinity" is simply that .... something that's not finite.

They could all their plan the "21GB plan" or the "UltraMega Data Plan" but certainly NOT unlimited. The definition of "unlimited" is black and white; something that's not limited. This is truly not the case with ANY data plan from ANYONE. Therefore, the FTC or FCC should step in and disallow the use of the term.

@Diablo -- Quite the contrary ... T-Mobile truly does [NOT] have unlimited 4G ... or anything else for that matter. It's a "limited" data plan, with very relatively high limits :-)
     
   
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