Confused person

“Premium Data” Is Losing Meaning At T-Mobile

For a while now, Verizon and AT&T have used the phrase “Premium Data” to refer to allotments of especially high-priority data. Subscribers with Premium Data may experience better speeds than other network users during periods of congestion.

In the last month, T-Mobile has started using the phrase “Premium Data” as well. If you go to T-Mobile’s primary page listing the carrier’s plans, you’ll find a table that lists the allotments of premium data on different plans:

Common sense might lead you to think “Premium Data” means the same thing regardless of what plan the Premium Data is attached to. That’s not the case.

Before T-Mobile started using the phrase Premium Data, the company made it clear that the Essentials plan had lower priority data than Magenta plans. The image below comes from T-Mobile’s old plans page:

Screenshot showing Essentials customers may experience slower speeds during congestion

While T-Mobile updated how plans appear on its website, it doesn’t look like the underlying characteristics of the Essentials plan changed. The plans page still has a disclosure explaining that Essentials customers have lower priority than Magenta customers:

Essentials customers may notice speeds lower than other customers and further reduction if using >50GB/mo., due to data prioritization.

QCI values indicate how traffic is prioritized on LTE networks. In 2020, I found the Essentials plan had a QCI of 7 while the Magenta plan had a QCI of 6 (indicating that the Magenta subscribers have higher-priority data than Essentials subscribers). Once T-Mobile started saying Essentials customers have Premium Data, I ran another QCI test on the plan. I still found a QCI of 7.

Test result showing a QCI of 7

Until recently, T-Mobile did a better job disclosing prioritization policies than the other major networks.1 T-Mobile is taking a step back by suggesting the Essentials plan has Premium Data.

As far as I know, Verizon and AT&T only use the phrase “Premium Data” to mean something like: “data prioritized ahead of the data used by a substantial portion of our other customers.” If my understanding of data prioritization on T-Mobile’s network is accurate, Essentials customers receive priority on-par with or worse than most T-Mobile Prepaid, Metro, and Mint Mobile subscribers.

While Essentials subscribers aren’t truly last in line, only a tiny fraction of T-Mobile subscribers have lower priority (e.g., some ultra-heavy data users and people on hotspot connections). It’s silly to call data “premium” when indicating something like: “data that’s not absolutely the lowest priority in the queue.”

As I’ve argued before, consumers ought to have access to better information about prioritization and congestion. The way T-Mobile is using the phrase “Premium Data” is going leave consumers confused. For what it’s worth, I don’t mean to suggest T-Mobile is intentionally hoping to mislead consumers about data priority on the Essentials plan. T-Mobile may have made an honest mistake when coming up with the latest iteration of its plans page.


Hat tip to Stetson Doggett for drawing my attention to this topic.

Footnotes

  1. T-Mobile’s Open Internet page is detailed. You don’t have to be a lawyer to make sense of it.

4 thoughts to ““Premium Data” Is Losing Meaning At T-Mobile”

  1. TMobile definitely got me with Essential “Premium Data”. When in a very crowded area the data is ESSENTIALly unusable. Just trying to load Google or any small site is an exercise in futility. SMS and calls work but don’t even bother trying to use data. You’re better served searching for a public WiFi.

  2. I’m curious how you run this “QCI Value” test. Reason being, I’m concerning switching from my current “grandfathered” “One Military Plan” to the Magenta Military. So I’m curious where my current plan falls on this “prioritization” list vs the newer plan with the “Premium Data.” From reviewing my current plans details, there is no mention of data prioritization except for a “Heavy User.” And I’m certainly not a “heavy user” as over the past 6 months, less than 2GB of data has been used across 3 lines.

    1. Hi Marshall,

      I explain how I run QCI tests here. The testing requires some particular software & hardware, so it may be more trouble than it’s worth to run your own test. But if you do, I’d love to hear what you learn.

      I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s extremely likely Magenta military gets high priority (probably QCI 6) like the normal Magenta plan.

    2. I was reading on their website that us on Military plans; we are not throttle or deprioritized unless above 50GB for the billing cycle, and the tower is congested and needs to prioritize traffic. I also saw the cost is a bit higher than the Military One, and I think I’ll stay with what I have for my family and me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *