Netflix confirms video quality throttling on mobile networks

Video streaming service Netflix has revealed it’s been lowering the bitrate of video it provides to customers on mobile data connections.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere recently implied its carrier rivals in the US, AT&T and Verizon, deliberately provide lower quality Netflix experiences, saying:

“Did you know that when you watch Netflix on T-Mobile you get it at 480p, and the duopoly actually delivers it at 360p? I bet you didn’t know that. Go check. It’s true.”

As a result, both carriers came under scrutiny for throttling video quality for its customers tuning into Netflix video content. It turns out that scrutiny was undeserved after Netflix came clear and said it was the one doing the throttling. A statement released by a member of the Netflix communications team, Anne Marie Squeo, said the OTT content provider has a global policy on bitrates for users on a mobile data connection, implying AT&T and Verizon had zero say on the quality they put through. By extension, one can assume T-Mobile either agreed an alternate bitrate or boosted the quality itself.

The statement from Netflix said it primarily aims to ensure higher customer satisfaction by not smashing through users’ data limits, and revealed it will be launching a data management tool within its mobile app in the next few months, for the data conscious.

“The data saver feature will provide members with more control over their data usage when streaming on mobile networks, allowing them to either stream more video under a smaller data plan, or increase their video quality if they have a higher data plan. We’re on track to make it available to members sometime in May.”

It continued by clarifying its stance on data caps and its blanket 600 kbps bitrate policy for all telcos.

“We believe restrictive data caps are bad for consumers and the Internet in general, creating a dilemma for those who increasingly rely on their mobile devices for entertainment, work and more. So in an effort to protect our members from overage charges when they exceed mobile data caps, our default bitrate for viewing over mobile networks has been capped globally at 600 kilobits per second. It’s about striking a balance that ensures a good streaming experience while avoiding unplanned fines from mobile providers.”

Meanwhile, a leaked document has suggested T-Mobile will be adding to the increasing commoditisation of mobile data by launching data-only mobile plans this week. Starting from $20 for 2GB, the plan also comes with unlimited text messaging, essentially encouraging all calls to be conducted via VoIP applications.

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