Verizon’s ‘Go Unlimited’ plan throttles all smartphone video streaming to 480p

“Today the biggest US carrier announced that its existing unlimited data plan is being divided into three new options: Go Unlimited (starting at $75 for a single line), Beyond Unlimited ($85 for first line), and Business Unlimited. Unlike the relatively straightforward unlimited plan that Verizon surprised customers with in February, these new monthly plans are chock-full of fine print and caveats,” Chris Welch reports for The Verge. “And in a move sure to anger net neutrality advocates, the regular ‘Go Unlimited’ plan throttles all smartphone video streaming to 480p / DVD-quality.”

“Before this latest change, the unlimited data plan placed no limits on mobile video whatsoever,” Welch reports. “This move on Verizon’s part was perhaps inevitable since nearly all of its chief rivals have already put in place some arbitrary restrictions on video quality or overall data speeds… [At AT&T] the cheapest unlimited plan similar limits you to 480p. And at all times, the fastest data speeds you can get are 3Mbps, which is… slow.”

“The baseline T-Mobile One unlimited data plan also throttles video to 480p; you’ve got to pay an extra $10 per month for the “Plus” plan to get HD video. But unlike Verizon and AT&T, the company doesn’t restrict everyday data speeds for apps and web browsing; you’ll just face the risk of slower speeds after crossing 32GB in a month if the network is congested. That’s generous compared to T-Mobile’s competitors,” Welch reports. “Sprint offers full HD streaming as part of its unlimited plan. Woohoo! But the company enforces stricter network management in other areas. Music streaming is limited to 1.5Mbps, for example, and you can’t exceed 8Mbps when playing games on your phone. Boo. And now with Verizon having joined the throttled video ranks, it might only be a matter of time before Sprint follows the crowd.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s “unlimited,” limited.

“Unlimited Go?” They should’ve named it “Unlimited GFY.”

Obviously, these 4G networks can’t handle what we’re trying/wanting to throw at them. Oh, 5G, where for art thou?

9 Comments

  1. This is NOT an example of why we need net neutrality.

    The aim of Net neutrality is (or should be) to prevent ISPs and other service providers from charging *content providers* extra to avoid throttling their content to consumers.

    Here, they are not forcing Netflix to pay extra to avoid the throttling, they are forcing the *consumer* to pay more for unthrottled service. Which for an “unlimited” data usage plan is perfectly reasonable.

    1. While this is not a Net Neutrality thing, mossman, you clearly do not understand the concept of Net Neutrality.

      “The aim of Net neutrality [sic] is (or should be) to prevent ISPs and other service providers from charging *content providers* extra to avoid throttling their content to consumers.”, is only a small fraction of what constitutes Net Neutrality.

      Stated as simply as possible: Net Neutrality is treating any legal material the same. A bit is a bit. All bits of the same type are treated exactly the same.

      Once a bit leaves the source until it reaches the end user all bits of they same type are treated the same with no exceptions. No bits are prioritized. No bits are forced to take different paths because of the content. No bits have an induced or arbitrary latency as opposed to others. And on and on.

      Verizon transcoding *ALL* 2160p to 480p (and 1080p to 480p and 720p to 480p) treats *ALL* bits of video the same. So, yes, Verizon’s actions do not violate the concept of Net Neutrality.

      That does not mean that anyone should be a Verizon customer. With this lunacy (maybe brought on by the eclipse?) no one, absolutely no one, should be a Verizon customer.

  2. This is totally wrong.

    Going from UHD (2160p) to 480p is NOT throttling. Going from HD (1080p) to 480p is NOT throttling. Going from 720p to 480p is NOT throttling.

    They are all transcoding. They are all changes in the format and imagery. They have absolutely nothing to do with delivery speed (which is what throttling really is).

    There have been many lawsuits over the years of owners of the copyrights on imagery and videos and movies going after people changing their original products. I have to wonder if such lawsuits will come out of this.

    I can understand slower speeds during time of network congestion, but blatantly transcoding all 2160p to 480p even if your device can actually show 2160p is just plain wrong! No one (and I truly believe no one) should be signing up for this service. People should be running away from Verizon as fast as possible.

    1. I don’t believe the provider (Verizon) is doing any transcoding at all, for the simple reason the cost of the hardware to do so across thousands of different streaming content would outweigh any savings (or the revenue from the $10/user/mo to go to the higher, unthrottled tier).

      It’s far easier to just limit the bandwidth available to the video stream. Netflix and other streaming services might start streaming in HD/UHD but will automatically drop the quality to match the available bandwidth to the consumer’s device.

      1. Dropping the quality of 2160p is not the same as 480p. Upping the lossy compression so there are more artifacts and noise in the final presentation is absolutely NOT the same as going from 2160p to 480p. It’s just not.

        If I were to sign up for Netflix to view a 2160p source, I wouldn’t expect reference level UHD Blu-ray quality. The bandwidth requirements are just not supported by Netflix even if I have gigabit service. Further, if I have a crappy 3 Mbps down service, Netflix may sense my download speed and switch to a more compressed (again, it is lossy compression) version and two things will happen, more buffering (and likely halting a view times during the full presentation) and more noise in what I’m seeing. Neither of these constitute going to 480p from the requested 2160p original.

        No one should ever directly equate “quality” or “compression” with format (2160p, 1080p, 720p, 480p, etc.). It is very possible to have reference quality 720p look much, much better than overly compressed 2160p.

  3. Video resolution is being targeted because it will have a large and immediate impact on overall bandwidth requirements. It is almost humorous to consider that televisions and mobile devices are heading to 4K and beyond while our data distribution networks are pushing us back to 1990-era video resolution. Crazy!

    In my opinion, this issue is in the gray area of net neutrality, depending on your definition. In my simplistic view of my internet access, I pay for performance (high bit rate and low latency) and quantity (total GB of data transfer. On my home cable connection, I pay extra to receive a higher peak theoretical speed (50 Mbps), and I also have a bandwidth cap of 250GB per month (which is not currently enforced, but which I have not exceeded). In that context, I believe that I should be able to download whatever data/bits I want, regardless of type, at the fastest available speed within my plan. I do not want someone deciding that my video will be 480p unless I pay extra. In my opinion, this is simply a way for Verizon and others to throttle bandwidth usage in a key area so that they can continue to oversell their networks and increase profits.

    This type of tactic is not new. In the old days of cell phones prior to unlimited talk and text, the providers coerced you into selecting plans with more minutes and texts in order to avoid heinous overage fees. It was much like buying insurance, and resulted in a lot of unused minutes and text messages. The restricted video resolution approach will significantly reduce system bandwidth without reducing consumer cost – they win and we lose…again.

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