Three let customers 'Go Binge' on unlimited mobile data

7 July 2017   By Samantha Smith

THREE have removed data charges for certain streaming services, allowing customers to watch TV and listen to music without eating into their data allowances.

three shop sign
Credit: William Barton/

Such unlimited streaming is available as part of their new "Go Binge" service, a feature of all handset and SIM-only Advanced plans - as well as all pay monthly mobile broadband plans - offering 4GB of data or more.

With Go Binge, such services as Netflix, Deezer, TVPlayer and Soundcloud will be "zero-rated", meaning that using them won't count towards a customer's monthly data allowance.

However, while this sounds great from a narrow customer-service viewpoint, it risks undermining net neutrality, granting special priority to certain companies and services at the expense of others.

Bingeing is the new black

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According to Three, the impetus for launching Go Binge came from a survey they conducted of over 5,000 Brits.

It revealed that "more than one in five Brits (21%) say bingeing is now the only way they watch a TV series".

Not only that, but it found that 22% of Brits "binge" content while on the move, indicating the importance of their mobile data, particularly to those who travel often.

In fact, almost 40% of British adults also reported that they were often fearful about streaming via their mobile phone, and about eating up all their data before the month is out.

Three's 'Eureka' moment

As such, Three saw a gap in the market, with their CEO Dave Dyson explaining, "We know that from our extensive insight that bingeing on content has become part of everyday life, yet people have been unable to do that on the go as much as they'd like due to fears of exceeding data limits".

This is why they've launched Go Binge, which can be used to watch the aforementioned services indefinitely, so long as customers have some of their normal data allowance remaining.

If they don't, they'll have to buy a top up or wait for the next month to roll around.

Other than that, the feature has few strings attached, with the only other aspects of importance being that it can be used with Three's Feel at Home, and that customers can choose to opt out if they so wish.

A danger to net neutrality?

This latter possibility may seem a little odd, yet for those who are worried about what Go Binge might mean for net neutrality it could also be a very live option.

That's because, in giving network priority to such services as Netflix - already no stranger to the net neutrality controversies - Three are effectively giving up net neutrality.

They're allowing customers to use these services as much as they like, while restricting their customers' ability to use rival apps and websites, insofar as the use of such rivals will be subject to a data cap.

This clearly isn't 100% fair, and in this regard it's instructive to note that, a couple of weeks ago, Ofcom reported to the EU on the UK telecoms industry's compliance with European net neutrality legislation.

On the whole, Ofcom's investigations revealed that "there are no major concerns regarding the openness of the internet in the UK."

However, there was a minor exception: the zero-rating of certain apps or services, of which the regulator said, "[internet access services] with zero-rating should be assessed closely by [national regulatory authorities] to ensure that they do not undermine the goals of the Regulation."

Is 4GB 'significant'?

In the one specific case similar to Three's, Ofcom decided not to pursue any action, since they "noted in particular the very significant data allowance of at least 30 GB. This would ... reduce the incentive on users to restrict themselves to the zero-rated
music services."

Yet what's interesting in Three's case is that anyone with a data allowance of at least 4GB will now have access to zero-rated services. Given that 4GB isn't particularly "significant" as an allowance, there may be a strong incentive for customers to "restrict themselves" to the zero-rated services now being offered by the operator.

This would potentially violate the EU's net neutrality regulation, so it will be interesting in the coming months to see what action, if any, Ofcom will take.

For now, however, Three's customers should Go Binge on those episodes of Stranger Things while they still can...

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