T-Mobile Netherlands says that it wants to removes a number of conditions from its Oneindig Online op je Smartphone (“Neverending Online on Your Smartphone”) deal—the 480p limit on maximum resolution for streaming video and the restrictions on tethering, which effectively turns smartphones or tablets into routers. The fair-use clause will remain in place, forbidding “intensive tethering.” T-Mobile announced its unlimited data subscription—which costs €90.00 (US $102.00) per month and provides unlimited mobile internet—at the end of May as part of its Mobile First strategy. The operator said that in August it will look at which measures could be implemented to restrict traffic in the event that its network capacity should come under pressure. The operator has also been in more talks with Dutch regulator ACM about its Oneindig Online subscription. In August, regulators in Europe will announce their interpretation of the EU regulation on net neutrality, which is set to replace Dutch regulation. Within the law covering fair use, T-Mobile NL reserves the right to limit the excessive use of data. The operator will also limit the video resolution of streaming video when speeds and stability come under pressure.
In the data-hungry telecom markets of the developed world, unlimited data offers are of course extremely attractive to consumers. As such they are attractive to mobile operators looking to grab market share. However, they have often proved costly in terms of network capacity and have had to be scaled back or modified. In the U.S. market, for example, truly unlimited data is largely a thing of the past, and almost all so-called “unlimited” offers are actually throttled once the user reaches a limit—a strategy that has earned operators resentment from customers and disciplinary measures from regulatory agencies. (In early 2016 AT&T started offering unlimited data again, on a very limited basis.)
T-Mobile Netherlands has taken a different approach: offering unlimited data without throttling, but with only two restrictions, one with regard to video resolution and one with regard to tethering. Now the operator is intending to lift even these restrictions and planning to deal with possible drags on its network capacity by appealing to existing law that permits it to limit “excessive use” as needed, essentially on a case-by-case basis. We believe that this plan will serve the operator well in terms of public image and customer satisfaction, while removing the danger of regulatory action for net neutrality violations (ACM having indicated that limiting video streaming could constitute such a violation). In the Netherlands, T-Mobile is in the fortunate position of being able to take advantage of one law to save itself from the harm that could come from observing another law.