T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced today that the mobile phone operator intends to acquire TV service Layer3 TV and next year offer a TV service that lets you watch "what you want, when you want, where you want" without the "complete bullshit"—contracts, forced bundles, and promotional pricing that expires after a year—that typifies the services coming from traditional cable TV providers.
Layer3 TV brands itself as "The New Cable." It currently operates in only a handful of markets, offering access to a wide range of HD and 4K channels (more than 275 in total), streamed using the highly efficient H.265 (also known as HEVC) video codec and a custom set-top box. It's a pure IP service—there's no tuner in the box, and it will connect over Wi-Fi—and to support it, Layer3 has built out a fiber distribution network and data center in Denver that handles transcoding shows into HEVC. It also has partnerships with Internet providers to provide the last mile connectivity. This private backbone network should mean that Layer3 doesn't suffer the kinds of issues that Netflix dealt with a few years ago when its links bought from Cogent became congested.
While the distribution and compression technology are modern, the rest of the current Layer3 service looks quite traditional. Level3 offers a basic package of about 150 channels—like regular cable TV, you'll get access to your local CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and PBS affiliates, among others—with add-ons for premium services like HBO, Starz, and Cinemax and additional bundles to add extra sports, music, or Spanish-language programming.