T-Mobile Plots Punishment For 'Data Thieves' Using Unauthorized Smartphone Tethering

T-Mobile's outspoken CEO John Legere has never minced words when addressing the competition and he's been known to ruffle some feathers on occasion (you can ask Sprint boss Marcelo Claure about that). However, his latest Internet tirade isn't directed at Sprint or Verizon or AT&T, it's at a minority of customers who have been "stealing data" from T-Mobile through unauthorized tethering.

When customers purchase T-Mobile's unlimited 4G LTE plan for their smartphones, they receive a fixed amount of LTE for tethering at no extra cost. Legere frames the offering as a courtesy for those times when broadband access isn't available or convenient. Should a customer reach their high-speed tethering limit, speeds are slowed down and they can purchase more, if needed.

What Legere has a problem with is the 1/100th of 1 percent of its 59 million customers who intentionally bypass their LTE tethering limit.

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"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," Legere says. "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."

According to Legere, some of them use as much as 2TB of data in a single month. Not anymore. T-Mobile has supposedly developed a technology that can detect when people deliberately blow past their allotted tethering and effective today, abusers will receive a warning. If that doesn't work, they'll be booted off the Unlimited 4G LTE smartphone data plan and moved to an entry-level limited 4G LTE plan.

In a related FAQ, T-Mobile contends that it isn't doing this to extract more money from its heaviest data users, and in fact customers who end up moved to a new plan will actually pay less than their old plan. Nevertheless, Legere expects there will be some blow back over this.

"These abusers will probably try to distract everyone by waving their arms about throttling data. Make no mistake about it – this is not the same issue," Legere says. "Don’t be duped by their sideshow. We are going after every thief, and I am starting with the 3,000 users who know exactly what they are doing."