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Just when it seemed as though every company had already jumped into the music streaming game, T-Mobile went and announced its own intentions to offer users another option. As part of a partnership with Rhapsody, yesterday the wireless carrier announced the unRadio app, a music streaming service free to its unlimited data customers, and $4 for other subscribers who want access to the app. Even more interesting than that, though, is the announcement of “Music Freedom,” which doesn’t count streaming from many popular music services against customers’ data usage.

UnRadio gives users access to advertisement-free music streaming from Rhapsody’s library of songs. The service will also offer up “unlimited skips,” not to mention the ability to listen to music both online and offline. The app launches on June 22, so it’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up against other services that have been on the market for a while, and the ones that have just jumped on the scene.

As for Music Freedom, as great as it sounds, there’s a limited number of music streaming services that won’t count against a user’s data cap. Right now, those services include Pandora, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Rhapsody (obviously), Slacker, Spotify, and Milk Music. That’s pretty great, but that’s kind of a drag for those of us hoping to enjoy the recently announced Prime Music, or maybe our Google Play Music collection.

That last one is the way I happen to listen to my music, streaming the tunes I’ve uploaded to avoid taking up room on my smartphone’s internal storage. As a result of the unRadio announcement, I’ll definitely give that new service a try. But in the meantime, I’m hoping that Google Play is added to the list of approved services.

Meanwhile, some have expressed some concern over T-Mobile’s announcement. On the face of things, it all sounds like gravy for T-Mobile customers, and certainly won’t hurt in attracting new subscribers. However, a post on the Verge raises a very good question by comparing the announcement to our current struggle over net neutrality:

“T-Mobile has decided, arbitrarily, that some of the data traveling over its pipes should count against a cap, while other data should not. What’s to stop it from using data cap exemptions as a punitive measure against content providers that aren’t on good terms with T-Mobile (or its parent company Deutsche Telekom)?”

It’s a valid point, and does reveal the interesting situation we’ve got ourselves now, where home ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner catch heat for wanting to create fast lanes and slow lanes, while wireless carriers are free to do what they want with their data networks. The reason, however, is because most ISPs are just about the only game in town. If you want broadband internet through a cable modem, chances are you have only one choice depending on your territory. When it comes to wireless, you have lots of options, leaving those companies to decide how best to attract and retain new customers.

Will T-Mobile flex its muscles more and start freeing up data for some services while punishing services from others? Will Netflix take a hit if they don’t play ball? It’s possible. But for now, I’ll take this new announcement as a gift for my continued T-Mobile patronage. Hopefully it won’t bite me in the butt down the road.

[T-Mobile Music Freedom]


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