T-Mobile on Thursday announced it is jumping on the Pokemon bandwagon with an offer of unlimited data for Pokemon Go through August 2017 as a prize in its upcoming T-Mobile Tuesday giveaway.
The free data offer will be around every Tuesday through August 9, T-Mobile said.
T-Mobile said it will also offer 250 users the chance to win $100 to spend on PokeCoins and another five users the opportunity to win trips anywhere in the United States to hunt Pokemon with a friend.
Those prizes will be alongside the carrier’s standard giveaways of a free Wendy’s Frosty and a free Lyft ride up to $15, the carrier said. T-Mobile will also offer a prize of 50 percent off select accessories like battery packs.
The move comes amid a surge of data usage among Pokemon Go users on T-Mobile’s network.
According to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, the number of Pokemon Go users on T-Mobile’s network has doubled since last Friday, July 8 and data usage among users has more than quadrupled.
But some analysts have raised questions about the Net neutrality implications of the offer.
“I’m not a huge strict NN fan,” JackDaw Research chief analyst Jan Dawson wrote on Twitter. “Generally think innovation here is a good thing. But this definitely crosses the neutral line.”
This isn’t the first time the Un-carrier has faced questions about the legality of its offerings, though.
After launching its Binge On video streaming service to users at the end of last year, T-Mobile faced accusations that the program violated Net neutrality rules by throttling all video content regardless of whether the provider is a Binge On participant. The criticism was based on a portion of the FCC’s Net neutrality rules that states ISPs “shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service…subject to reasonable network management.”
Legere has defended the service by reiterating that Binge On is free and available to all T-Mobile customers, and said the service’s opt-out feature makes it “very pro Net neutrality.”
As noted by Dawson, T-Mobile’s offer of free data specifically for Pokemon Go doesn’t have the “open to all” defense to fall back on.
“Unlike Music Freedom and BingeOn, this isn’t even theoretically neutral,” Dawson said. “Explicitly favoring a single app.”
While the offer doesn’t appear to directly violate Net neutrality rules, critics have previously argued that zero rating programs violate the spirit of the rules by favoring certain games or websites over others.
Though the rules were recently reaffirmed in a District of Columbia appeals court, T-Mobile has previously encouraged the FCC to “tread lightly” in enforcing the regulations.
“The commission has to tread lightly, and certainly more lightly than for the wired world in the wireless space — when there is so much experimentation happening, so much differentiation happening, and a lot of it customers responding to,” T-Mobile Senior VP of Government Affairs Kathleen Ham said at a conference in February. “We do have to be transparent about it. We have to make sure the customer has choices, but I think it is wise to tread lightly in this environment when there is so much going on.”