Dutch, German regulators differ about T-Mobile zero-rated streaming

Wednesday 20 December 2017 | 15:04 CET | News

Dutch regulator ACM said it does not, for the time being, see a connection between T-Mobile's StreamOn offered in Germany and the Data-Free Music (DVM) offer in the Netherlands. German regulator BNetzA has told Deutsche Telekom to adjust the conditions of its zero-rated services and to comply with the rules for net neutrality. ACM does not believe DVM has the same problems, which are mainly to do with bit rate and roaming, a spokesperson said. 

T-Mobile Germany limits the bit rate of videos and charges extra when roaming. Deutsche Telekom has been given until the end of March to make adjustments. 

The ACM has twice investigated T-Mobile’s DVM service. The first time led to the Dutch definition of net neutrality being thrown out. In the second investigation, based on the EU regulation, the ACM ruled that T-Mobile's service was in compliance with the rules.

The regulation must be interpreted in the same way in each country. EU regulator Berec published a set of guidelines on how regulators should enforce the rules, in August 2016. The rules themselves went into effect in April 2016. In an evaluation one year later, Berec reported that the application of rules is well on track. If an internet provider blocks or throttles an application, then the standards are clear.

The case about StreamOn, however, is less clear. One issue is the choice of content partners. Deutsche Telekom works with a number of content services for the zero-rating, but does not have an agreement with all providers. In addition, the video quality of services is limited to a certain bit rate. Both are considered a violation of the principle that services should be treated equally and not be blocked or delayed.

DVM is different from StreamOn

The ACM said in a reaction that the comparable parts of the two services –DVM and StreamOn- have been assessed in the same way. So it is the differences that are now in focus. T-Mobile Netherlands starts from a different point. The zero-rated service is only for music. The music providers deliver these at a fixed bit rate to T-Mobile. The mobile operator continues that signal unchanged. Secondly, there is a low threshold for music services that want to join. DVM not only contains familiar names such as Spotify and Deezer, but also all kinds of small providers that serve a very select genre, such as pirate hits.

The other point is about roaming. T-Mobile Netherlands offers DVM as part of its larger bundles. The offer contains all kinds of conditions for EU roaming, such as a fair use limit. Within that bundle usage, music streaming is treated in the same way. StreamOn distinguishes between domestic consumption and roaming in its conditions. Deutsche Telekom states that the service is a free extra, offered only in Germany. Deutsche Telekom has already said that the service is being adapted on a number of points, but is opposed to the conclusions taken about roaming.

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