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T-Mobile's War on Data Hogs Is Everyone's Fight

By Jeff Kagan
Sep 10, 2015 5:00 AM PT

Thank you to John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, for declaring war on wireless data hogs. Putting this burning issue on the front page is great. Everyone should know the problems caused by wireless data thieves. The reason is simple. Data hogs are threatening to spoil things for everyone. Yes, that means for you and your business.

T-Mobile's War on Data Hogs Is Everyone's Fight

Data hogs threaten T-Mobile's growth because they spoil things for regular wireless data users. However this is also a larger problem for the entire industry, and it needs to be solved before it affects other carriers as well.

When users can't connect for a wireless data session, or when their usage slows way down, they cry out -- who the heck is using up all my wireless data? We think this is new. We think we never had to worry about this before. Well, actually we did. We just didn't know about it. So thanks, T-Mobile, for having the courage to take this problem public and for shining a light into the dark corners of the industry so we can see these dirty little creatures.

Who Are the Data Hogs?

Are data hogs sniveling creatures that have figured out ways to bypass whatever restrictions carriers place on this kind of abuse? Actually, they could be ordinary looking people or even kids with no sense of right and wrong. If they want it, they take it -- without paying for it of course.

John Legere called them "clever hackers." They only amount to 1/100 of a percent of T-Mobile's 59 million customers, but some are using 2 terabytes of data per month. Boy the world is all screwed up, isn't it?

Some data hogs are T-Mobile customers who have figured out how to bypass restrictions. Others may not even be customers. Either way, their data thievery can have an impact on every customer, eventually resulting in poor connectivity, slower service and higher prices.

Data Hogs Threaten T-Mobile's Growth

T-Mobile has been on a great ride over the last few years. Its recovery from a near-death experience has been noteworthy. However, one important limitation it faces is insufficient wireless data spectrum. It faces challenges providing enough on-ramps to its customers nationwide.

T-Mobile didn't have enough spectrum until it got its hands on some from AT&T Mobility after a failed merger attempt a few years ago. That spectrum was the tool it needed to jump-start its recovery over the last few years.

That's why this limited spectrum problem hits T-Mobile especially hard. It needs more. That's why it needs to solve this data theft problem sooner rather than later. In fact, that's why every carrier needs to solve this same problem.

You would think an easy solution would be to simply add to the wireless spectrum it has, right? There's the rub. Wireless data spectrum is very limited, and there are quite a few companies that need it -- and they are all growing.

T-Mobile Has Little Spectrum

Of the big four wireless carriers, T-Mobile has the least amount of spectrum -- and if the bad guys are stealing it, the shortage may be felt by its customers. To make matters more challenging, it is still signing up new customers, stretching what it has thinner.

T-Mobile needs more spectrum. In fact, every wireless carrier needs more spectrum for the future -- but T-Mobile needs it now, and this war on data hogs is a sure sign something has to be done.

Not every carrier is in the same position. Some have more than others. AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have plenty of spectrum for today. However, tomorrow is always the concern if the current level of rapid growth continues.

That's the threat I have been writing about for years. This could make it difficult for all carriers to keep customers happy, just as it is impacting T-Mobile today. This is a problem we must solve as an industry.

T-Mobile Is Doing the Right Thing

T-Mobile is the first to take this kind of hit. That's why I think it is doing exactly the right thing. It is shining a light on a problem that's usually hidden in dark corners.

Although the wireless data thieves are a very small percentage of users, they suck up so much wireless data they can ruin the ride for everyone.

So I say good job to T-Mobile for raising this issue and making it public. It's an important issue the industry needs to solve. Going forward, if we all want fast service, we must get the data hogs off the networks. This is a dirty business, but somebody's got to do it. Thank you, T-Mobile, for putting this issue on the front page.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.


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