T-Mobile isn't throttling your YouTube videos, it's just 'optimizing' them

In November, T-Mobile launched Binge On, letting customers stream videos at a reduced quality from services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO without incurring any data charges. However, YouTube — which isn't participating in the program — has claimed that the carrier was throttling its traffic as well. T-Mobile has responded to the comments, stating that it wasn't throttling, but "optimizing" YouTube data.

In a statement to DSL Reports, T-Mobile stated:

Using the term "throttle" is misleading. We aren't slowing down YouTube or any other site. In fact, because video is optimized for mobile devices, streaming from these sites should be just as fast, if not faster than before. A better phrase is "mobile optimized" or a less flattering "downgraded" is also accurate.

It looks like T-Mobile is optimizing all video on its network, irrespective of whether the service has partnered with Binge On or not. There's no excuse for throttling videos without user content, especially as Binge On is enabled by default. You can however switch off the service altogether by heading to My T-Mobile > Profile > Multimedia settings.

Source: DSL Reports; Via: The Next Web

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

84 Comments
  • If this was a real issue users would notice the drop in quality and complain about it, not Google.
    All people do is congest the network by trying to watch FullHD videos or higher on small devices.
  • Actually, i was just on youtube a few minutes ago and it was lagging like crazy for some reason. I'm not sure if it's because of that but it normally doesn't do that since i have full bars here at home. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've had some issues with mobile YouTube recently, but it's been taking a while to buffer whether I'm on my phone or tablet, mobile data or WiFi. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It is a real issue. Search the forums and you'll find it. I'm with T-Mobile and had to turn off Binge On because YouTube was unwatchable at any resolution. Google made the statement based on complaints, not for the heck of it.
  • This is interesting. I wonder why it doesn't affect all of us. I'm on TM with BingeOn and my YT videos are smooth and stutter free.....even more so than before. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm not having any issues watching YouTube videos with BingeOn Posted via the Android Central App
  • You won't if they are only displaying at 480P. :-) Try cranking the videos up to 1080P. That's what users are complaining about. They can't watch them at high resolutions anymore without stuttering.
  • Was seeing issues with YouTube and Crunchyroll until I turned BingeOn off. Lots of buffering at start for any 720p content and major pixelation for any 480p content. Weird thing though is that it was selective in only affecting me in areas where my phone was defaulting to Band 12. Force it to Band 4 and no problems.
  • Same here I wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup
  • Be sure to let us know if you do.
  • Can someone kindly fill me in on how u go about turning bingon off please. Don't want it bc i have unlimited data Posted via the Android Central App
  • Go to your T-Mobile account page, hit Profile. Then if you have multiple lines, choose which line you want to update. On the left side, go to Media Settings and then turn it off on that line.
  • Dude seriously i have unlimited data with T Mobile and i just switched Bingon off and i cant watch videos at all even with Unlimited Data with T Mobile is ****
  • MetroPCS has that too but is calling it "Data Maximizer" and it's sh*tty (I can't believe u guys are censoring that word). Ever since they started that crap videos have been buffering like crazy even with the service disabled. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lol "optimizing", As we tech nerds EXPECT IT TO MEAN, For better, bot worse. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If certain websites are part of this "binge on" program do they pay t mobile to be part of the service? Is this a clever attempt at squashing net nuetrality? I am in the process of making my Note 4 self aware.
  • no, its free for any service to join, they just have to meet the specs that tmobile has set for how the data should be processed and sent to them. youtubes service is a bit different and cant meet the requirements due to its differences in streaming, so all of the youtube videos end up under the same grouping
  • Why do they have to start acting like this right after I switch to them... I just can't win.
  • Turn it off Posted via the Android Central App
  • Your video isn't going to lag because of this service. Don't like it? Turn it off like the website and emails they sent out to customers said to do. And please stop spreading the fud with these articles. They tell you *all* video will be optimized when enabled. As I said.. Don't like it? Shut it off.. All is golden.
  • What emails? I haven't received one email about Binge On and I sure haven't received anything about how to turn it off. The fact that I have to log on to my account online to turn the stupid service off that I didn't even ask for (because I have unlimited data) is asinine! BingeOn made watching Youtube videos totally horrendous for me. BingeOn should be an opt-in service for unlimited data customers. Period!
  • I received 2 texts and an email when bingeon came out and turned it off on my account. They did make an attempt to show people how to get out of it.
  • You get a free movie per month if you are on unlimited if you leave it enabled. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It does though. If you try to change the quality the video will buffer. If you don't know about Binge on or don't sit and ponder the finer details of the service you would have no idea why that is happening. They very clearly make it seem as though it will only happen on services they are partnered with yet you are supposed to analyze their message and come to the conclusion that it actually means all video? Anyway, at least the FCC is looking into it.
  • Works fine here when turned off.
  • I agree with you that the optimization should only apply to services under BingeOn. However, I think T-Mobile simply indicated that services in BingeOn would not count against the data cap. They never said they wouldn't optimize other video services that would still count against the cap, even if you had BingeOn enabled. But yeah it's shady do it that way especially to unlimited customers. You practically need to create a matrix table to explain it to someone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well you get what you pay for. Go with crap, get crap Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've been saying this for years, look at the blind TMo fanboys in this comments section though. They're as bad as Apple zealots. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So you have been ignorant for many years????
  • My metric for a carrier isn't "best signal in my mom's basement" so TMo doesn't work for me. To each their own. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My metric is being paid by att verizon sprint and tmobile. Tmobile may not have the best overall us coverage but if you live in a major are covered it offers often the fastest 4g lte speeds at 30% less than verizon and att. If tmobile wasnt around the last 3 years your bill would be about 50% more than it is today.
  • Not always. I have both T-Mo and Sprint. In downtown San Francisco near City Hall, my Sprint phone beats T-Mo in data speed. This was out on the sidewalk in the open and not in a building.
  • Couldn't have said it better myself codiusprime! TMo fanboys are actually worse though
  • Phone carriers have fanboys? That's news to me. I thought they were all pretty much vilified. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sprint fanboys like NoNexus are worse.
  • Yeah, I mean if TMo has laughable coverage I don't even know what to say about Sprint. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Most people like crap. Posted on my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 on the AT&T Network.
  • It'd be nice if you could choose what websites you want "optimized," and which ones you don't.
  • I hope the FCC tears them a new one. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Here we go again... So predictable.
  • Yup, just because it's good for the user in some scenarios doesn't mean it isn't a violation of net neutrality. It's a bad precedent. If they let TMo keep doing this, the next thing you know Verizon will be throttling people under the guise of 'optimizing' and in their case, it won't seem quite so benign.
  • But Verizon wouldn't give you a way to opt out knowing them. I really don't see the issue with Binge on. We all know how precious data is to carriers, they aren't going to give it away for free. People can either appreciate what TMo is doing or opt out and go on like they always been. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm with you on there not being a legal issue as far as net neutrality is concerned. If content were actually restricted, namely "you can't see it at all", then there would be a definite legal case. Also considering how no content provider is paying to take part in this service it weakens any legal argument against T-Mobile. Then of course is the user's ability to simply turn it off.
    All these make any action by the FCC against T-Mobile less likely since no one is actually being hurt by the program and anyone can simply opt out.
    Having said that, I would like to see it be easier for people to be able to turn it on or off as desired. Anyone wanting to see the quality difference side by side just hit up YouTube (while on WiFi or with BingeOn turned off) and search for "1080p vs 480p". There are quite a few videos with side by side comparisons and run one of those at 1080p in the app.
    There is no question there's a quality difference in the two on my Note 5 and on an S6 especially when looking at fine details like macro video, but the difference doesn't make TV shows or music videos "unwatchable," at least not to me. That doesn't mean everyone is going to like it, as seen in some of the comments. For what I have to assume is the majority of people, they won't notice or mind the difference considering the amount of data they're not using potentially saving them significant amounts of money. For those that don't like it, simply turn it off and enjoy video as you want to watch it. If you want to keep it, just keep it and enjoy it.
  • Why? You don't even live in America. Tend to your own knitting.
  • Wi-Fi. Problem solved. You're welcome. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "But I like watching endless hours of stupid cat videos while I'm on the subway/bus!" Boo hoo. My heart bleeds purple **** for ya. There is absolutely nothing so awe-inspiring/interesting/important - that last one is key - that anyone really needs to watch it taking a leak at Dunkin' Donuts. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Then why have a cell phone with data at all? Just wait until you are on Wi-Fi.
  • Wow, this is absolutely brilliant. All this time I've been leaving my magical wifi unicorn horn at home when I should have been bringing it with me everywhere I go! I feel so foolish now... Guys! Johnny over here has solved the world's data problems! Just use the WIFIs! Where's his nobel prize!?
  • I couldn't figure out why my YouTube videos were buffering so much. Then last week I turned off binge on and now my YouTube flies. Matter of fact all of the videos i watch are much faster now since I turned off that garbage. 64gig Gold Note5/AC App
  • I have unlimited data with MetroPCS, and they turned this service on by default when it launched without telling me. It caused YouTube videos to be unplayable, and in general caused buffering issues for all videos. Thankfully I was knowledgeable enough to determine what happened, and turn it off. The average consumer would have no clue. Even more irritating is that this service would be turned on by default even for unlimited data customers. If I'm paying for unlimited data why on earth would I want it throttled? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I was having issues and couldn't figure it out. Turned off the Binge On setting and now everything is smooth. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Since I've switched to tmobile I have had nothing but good things to say about them until now. The way they handled this whole binge on thing was shady... should never had put people on binge on without them asking to opt in. Hopefully tmobile s learned from this snafu. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No YouTube lag where I'm at. Getting 43.51Mb down and 12.60Mb up. Oh wait... I'm on AT&T ;) Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's slow compared to what I get most places on T-Mobile.
  • What do you usually get? We have two phones on Tmo, and they don't do well in our immediate area. Fine most other places though.
  • I have it turned on on my sons account and off on mine. Haven't noticed any difference on either account. He doesn't seem to have noticed any difference in quality on his N5 nor have I had any buffering issues.
  • I have the note 4 and I'm on the unlimited data plan. I haven't really noticed a difference in video quality. Also the bonus for unlimited data users is that when you use your hotspot watch Netflix or hulu doesn't count against your hotspot data. Also 1 free movie a month too!
  • I have a note 5 and a gs6 and both lag like crazy with you tube so much that u can't watch unless on wifi Posted via the Android Central App
  • Just chiming in here. I'm on T-Mobile and using a brand new Note 5. I haven't had any issues watching YouTube and Binge On is definitely turned on our plan. If anything, YouTube behaves a little worse on WiFi than on 4G. I'm grateful for Binge On to have been enabled; it gives me unlimited high speed data until March, instead of my normal 2.5 GB. Plus, should I REALLY want to, I can watch Netflix shows on my lunch break. I normally don't, but it's nice to have the option. Maybe why some have issues and others don't is more location or the exact route to/from the YouTube servers than the optimization? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have unlimited and haven't had any problems with YouTube. I read the forums about the binge on problem and went to my account to turn it off. It was already off. Cool story huh? Posted via the Android Central App
  • So basically what they're saying is, they're allowed to throttle as long as they don't call it throttling. The government needs to shut this down to show that they are willing to defend net neutrality in ALL cases. Once they allow a grey area to exist, more and more companies will start to take advantage of that in ways that aren't so beneficial to the consumer.
  • ^^^This is spot on. Posted from my Moto X Pure Edition via the Android Central App
  • I disabled Binge on as soon as it came out. I have noticed when playing YouTube now I have to go in manually and up the quality. It's a PITA. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have been a big fan of t-mobile for years. I was an authorized dealer for many years with tmobile att cingular verizon and sprint. T-mobile was the only company that truly believed in being pro consumer. This has changed since the failed tmobile sale.
    Turning on binge on to unlimited customers was a sneaky move
  • Seems like TMobile should just start selling 800x480 res phones because it is good enough for them. A couple questions I haven't found the answers for.
    With Binge On turned on does it allow you to increase the resolution in the youtube app, but still process this to 480p so essentially you can't increase the res from the app even though some people may think they are?
    Does anyone have any video captures comparing the TMobile provided Res to an actual HD Res on the same phone?
  • I'm just happy all my video streaming is unlimited now, 2GB fast cap I'll never hit!
  • you can increase resolution but it suffers buffering like hell because it tries to play HD with SD data speed. Binge-On is an option that you can disable but uninformed users don't know what is going on because it is turned on by default. they probably blaming on slow data network but it's not users' fault. I turned mine off on day one and never looked back. I intend to use up all my data every month not saving them by using less data. 10gig of LTE is for my multimedia streaming and tethering, after that 2g is enough for e-mail.
  • No its slower. And they dont load in hd i have to manually do it and it takes forever to load Posted via the Android Central App
  • Why is everyone whining about this? How do you think T-Mobile's network would respond to a load of video hungry streamers at 1080 or higher? I mean come on people.
  • T-Mobile has a crappy network. Posted on my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 on the AT&T Network.
  • Agreed I understand cost is a factor for a lot of people that's where subpar carriers like ****-Mobile and Splint really come into play. But if you want the best speeds, coverage, and reliability your have to pay for it,
  • i would assume like how AT&T and Verizon's networks respond. you are paying t-mobile for service right?
  • That's lawyer speak for throttling. They even admitted to downgrading the quality of the video. This is why I'm glad I'm not on T-Mobile. They're crap. Posted via the Android Central App on the Samsung Galaxy S6 active.
  • while I'm agreeing with you, Binge-On isn't permanent plan, it's an option you can disable if you wish to choose full LTE speed with streaming in 1080p+ quality . hence not being on T-mobile because of this reason isn't reasonable.
  • So do they allow users to distinguish between audio and video? I could see a use case where one would want "unlimited" audio streaming, but high quality video. On its it all our nothing? Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's what good networks are for to watch videos in full 1080 or 720p. This is just another way of T-Mobile slowing down customers on purpose I had to call them so they can turn this bull.... Binge on off on all 3 of my lines.
  • Optimizing = throttling you slowing you down
  • This video makes it look like you can't even turn binge on off:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD3YopSpBtE
  • Before they started Binge i had no issues with streaming youtube on unlimited data. Once Binge was started the buffering issues began to show. I had assume it was network issues. Once i figured out that Binge was turned on i quickly turned it off and have had no issues streaming in full 1080p on youtube. I completely agree that i should have been notified that they were turning on Binge. You would assume they would let their customers know this was going to be turned on rather than for customers to assume TMobile's network is awful.
  • I am on T-Mobile and I have not noticed any buffering while watching YouTube, having said that I would not be surprised to see buffering as I sort of expect some amount of buffering on a Cellular Wireless Network. BingeOn is about managing network resources, at the event which heralded BingOn I believe that Management said that they expect a 10% reduction is network load from video being downgraded to 480p.
  • Thanks I pay you for my wireless service not to be my guardian, if I want optimization I will manually enable it myself.
  • Even when they give free data people will find something to complain about. I'm a T-Mobile customer getting download speeds around 65mb down and 40 up, my high definition videos work fantastic. Using the Note 5 and love it. I have unlimited everything so I shut Bingen on off. I tried Bingen On and found video quality damn good, hard time telling 720 and 480 apart. If I didn't have unlimited data I would definitely use Bingen On. I found no buffering at all, just the opposite, videos loaded up very fast, long before I was 1/4 way thru the video had completely loaded. I found it worked great. How can people complain about free data? It's usually the clowns on a different Carrier just trying to be asss. Been with all the Carriers, for me T-Mobile has been the best, fastest and strongest data signal, real unlimited data without throttling, great job T-Mobile. Thank You T-Mobile, Thank You John Legere.
  • Cricket wireless is low grading my pictures and videos... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I suspect in reality this is a way they saw to try and make their clients use less bandwidth and thus help make the network over all "faster". Not the first time a carrier see that as a " solution " IMO if they want to give us an incentive to use less data and bandwidth bill your clients like Google does through Fi. Give me cash back every month for the data I didn't use and make it very clear what I got back. Never before have I been as vigilant about sticking to WiFi when possible and saving my data intense activities for WiFi when possible as I have been since switching to Fi. Sure I don't get as good a deal as I did on tmo or the coverage I got on att. But I get a really good compromise of coverage to cost along with the best billing system I've ever seen, much less for a phone carrier. Posted via the Android Central App