T-Mobile on stopping network abusers

John Legere, on the T-Mobile blog:

Some of you may have seen my Periscope this afternoon where I shared a preview of this blog -- and to those of you already supporting my position in social media, I appreciate it! However, I am following up now, because I want to make sure I am being really clear and transparent on this issue as we take action tomorrow morning.


Here’s what’s happening: when customers buy our unlimited 4G LTE plan for their smartphones we include a fixed amount of LTE to be used for tethering (using the “Smartphone Mobile HotSpot” feature), at no extra cost, for the occasions when broadband may not be convenient or available. If customers hit that high-speed tethering limit, those tethering speeds slow down. If a customer needs more LTE tethering, they can add-on more. Simple.

However, these violators are going out of their way with all kinds of workarounds to steal more LTE tethered data. They’re downloading apps that hide their tether usage, rooting their phones, writing code to mask their activity, etc. They are “hacking” the system to swipe high speed tethered data. These aren't naive amateurs; they are clever hackers who are willfully stealing for their own selfish gain. It’s a small group – 1/100 of a percent of our 59 million customers – but some of them are using as much as 2 terabytes (2,000GB!) of data in a month. I’m not sure what they are doing with it – stealing wireless access for their entire business, powering a small cloud service, providing broadband to a small city, mining for bitcoin -- but I really don’t care!

This is how you take action. Clarity and trasparency. Letting people know exactly what is happening and why can mitigate the potential fallout. If I hadn't read this first, and started seeing the inevitable headlines this morning, my opinion probably would have been swaying on the side of the users that Legere writes about.

I already see people throwing criticism at T-Mobile, saying that they shouldn't advertise "Unlimited" data if it's not truly unlimited. T-Mobile, however, clearly states that the unlimited data doesn't apply to tethering, which is totally understandable. Computers have the potential to transfer huge amounts of data (torrenting software, backing up a machine to the cloud, high quality Twitch streaming, etc.), whether intentional or not. Since that is something you agree to when you sign up for the service, why would it be any surprise that T-Mobile cracks down on you for going out of your way to subvert that limit and get extra stuff without paying for it?