Don’t fear your data cap

In modern-day horror stories, the peril doesn’t come from ghosts, goblins or vampires. Rather in today’s tech-obsessed, always-on world, the real horror story comes when you’ve exceeded your cellular data plan.

Many of us live in daily (or at least monthly) fear of getting that email warning that we’re about to exceed our data limit, or if our carrier doesn’t bother with emails then we get slapped with a case of bill shock at the end of the billing cycle.

Even with smartphone apps and notifications galore, people still regularly go over their data allotment and because of that threat have had to make significant changes in how they use their mobile devices, including turning off cellular data capabilities when they get precariously close to running over.

But in another brilliant move that bolsters its position as the “Uncarrier,” T-Mobile hopes to change that. The carrier just announced that its Simple Choice customers will now be able to stream unlimited amounts of music from certain partners without having that usage counted against their data plan. A major wireless carrier is giving away data for free!

Other carriers have similar offerings, but it usually only applies to a pre-selected music streaming service or as an add-on to your monthly plan, like AT&T’s partnership with Beats Music or Sprint teaming up with Spotify, which gives unlimited downloads and streaming – however if you look at the fine print, data rates may apply.

T-Mobile’s Music Freedom plan allows customers to take advantage of unlimited music streaming on a number of popular services, including Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio and iTunes Radio. Because data charges no longer apply, millennials who seem to always have a headset attached to their ears and the rest of us who want to listen to some tunes once in a while won’t have to worry about how much data we’re consuming.

Truth be told, streaming audio only for several hours a week won’t eat up a ton of data, but not having to worry about exact amounts used will be a huge weight off most customers.

But could all this be too good to be true? When you have any discussion about carriers giving access to “preferred” content providers, the ugly head of net neutrality always seems to rear up. In this case, if you’re not one of the lucky few streaming services to be exempt from data usage caps, do you have any chance of finding or keeping an audience when customers know using your service over the cellular network will count against them?

At least T-Mobile had the foresight to address this, by allowing Music Freedom customers to vote on which services they want to see supported. Presumably the highest vote getters would join the elite list of sanctioned services.

So while T-Mobile has taken a giant leap to combat those nasty data overage charges, it seems to have opened up a whole new can of worms. But with carriers still making money hand over fist on tiered data plans, is T-Mobile’s strategy a sign of things to come or merely a distraction as it combats larger foes AT&T and Verizon.

For now it’s hard to imagine anyone switching carriers just to get “free” streamed music, but with rumors that Sprint is planning to buy T-Mobile as early as this summer, any kind of publicity is good publicity.

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Anita Karve
About Anita Karve 37 Articles
Anita is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering just about everything in the technology space with a focus on computer networking and telecommunications. She was managing editor of Billing & OSS World magazine and technology editor at Network magazine and most recently was in charge of newsletter coverage at TM Forum.

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