T-Mobile CEO John Legere is declaring war on a new enemy: so-called data network abusers who are "stealing data from T-Mobile."
The outspoken T-Mobile US Inc. boss announced his plan of attack in an open letter Monday, saying that the carrier is "going after a small group of users who are stealing data so blatantly and extremely that it is ridiculous."
These users, who make up only 1/100th of a percent of T-Mobile's 59 million customers, are using as much as 2 terabytes, or 2,000GB, of LTE data by exploiting loopholes in the carrier's Smartphone Mobile HotSpot feature. This group of about 6,000 people is on unlimited LTE plans, primarily on Android phones, and are stretching T-Mobile's free tethering feature beyond the additional 7GB of monthly hotspot data it offers.
Legere writes, "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."
The end result could wind up being a degraded wireless experience for the rest of T-Mobile's LTE customers, Legere says. Starting today, T-Mobile plans to alert the first 3,000 customers it has identified as abusers that they'll be kicked off their unlimited plans if the behavior continues.
All of the wireless operators include language in the fine print of their service plans that allows them to reduce speeds, discontinue service or otherwise limit those extreme data users on their LTE networks, whether they are on an unlimited plan or capped options. Even Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), which positions itself as the champion of unlimited, has this type of language. (See Sprint Tweaks Unlimited Data Rules in Best Buy Plan and Sprint Drops Prices, But Also Speeds?)
By publicly declaring war on these extreme users, the T-Mobile boss is hoping to rally consumers behind his cause. There's been a lot of backlash in the past when carriers throttled data on so-called unlimited plans. The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have even gotten involved in more than one occasion, levying fines on offending carriers. (See FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit, Verizon Nixes LTE Throttling After Backlash and FCC Boss 'Disturbed' By Verizon Throttling .)
Legere says this is not the same issue. T-Mobile has even included extensive FAQs in the name of transparency and to head off some expected complaints, like it's doing this to extract more money from its unlimited customers.
"These abusers will probably try to distract everyone by waving their arms about throttling data," Legere writes. "Make no mistake about it -- this is not the same issue. Don't be duped by their sideshow."
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading