AT&T Introduces 'Sponsored Data' to Allow Businesses to Cover Cost of Mobile Data Downloads

AT&T LogoAT&T today announced a new Sponsored Data program to allow its customers to download content or apps over cellular data, with businesses picking up the cost of the data -- that is, downloads won't affect the users' monthly wireless data plan allotment.

The system, which works similarly to toll-free 800-numbers, was originally rumored nearly two years ago.

According to AT&T, the service will allow companies to sponsor data use across a number of industries including healthcare, retail, media and entertainment, and financial services, and giving a number of possible use cases in its press release announcing the program:

- Encouraging customers to try a new smartphone or tablet app.
- Promoting movie trailers or games.
- Providing patient healthcare support via wellness videos.
- Encouraging customers to browse mobile shopping sites.
- Allowing businesses with ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policies to pay for the data employees use for specific business-related apps and services.
- Enhancing customer loyalty programs by providing sponsored data access to products and services.

For users, the program will be nearly invisible, with post-paid customers receiving automatic access to Sponsored Data when on AT&T's domestic wireless network. Prepaid customers will not be able to use the Sponsored Data program.

U.S. cellular carriers have been in something of a marketing war in recent months, particularly between T-Mobile and AT&T. Recently, AT&T began a new promotion to offer up to $450 in credits to customers that switch to it from T-Mobile.

The new sponsored data program, if widely adopted, could reduce user concerns over data usage, particularly after AT&T has moved aggressively to wean customers off of its unlimited data plans.

Top Rated Comments

PusherRobot Avatar
95 months ago
This is the first step of the end of net neutrality
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nepalisherpa Avatar
95 months ago
If you really care about your customers then come up with better plans first.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tigres Avatar
95 months ago
The more complexity, the more I am turned off.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
springsup Avatar
95 months ago
This is the first step of the end of net neutrality

Absolutely. How long before they start selling off prioritised traffic, so every other business that isn't paying AT&T suddenly becomes slower?

This is the beginning of the end. They start with seemingly-innocent things like this, but then there's going to be pressure to get more companies on board in order to boost revenue, and that's when it's going to get ugly.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tdiaz Avatar
95 months ago
Seems to be that it would simply be easier to just go back to the way it was. Remove the limits. It's obvious the network is going to be used. All the overhead keeping track of bits and bytes just contributes to the point of diminishing returns.

If they want to charge for something, charge for levels of throttling.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jclardy Avatar
95 months ago
Oh dear, it is starting. And of course the harbinger is AT&T. They start by promoting this as a feature for the customers (Free data for you!), but eventually they provide preferred sponsors with faster connections and the free web as we know it is gone. Big players get faster connections meaning big sites become more established and small startups get shafted with slower connections.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
Google maps feaure green

Google Maps App for iOS Finally Updated After Four Months

Monday April 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Following the completed rollout of App Privacy labels for its App Store apps, Google today updated the Google Maps app for the first time in four months. Apple in December began requiring all new app submissions and app updates to include App Privacy labels, detailing the data that is collected by the app so consumers know what they're sharing. Google didn't begin implementing App Privacy ...
pixel watch prosser leak

Google Pixel Watch Allegedly Leaks with Circular Design, Rumored to Launch in October

Monday April 12, 2021 2:49 am PDT by
Renders of Google's first smartwatch, codenamed "Rohan," have been shared by Jon Prosser, showing that Google plans to adopt a circular design for its flagship wearable watch. Prosser shared the renders in an episode of his YouTube show "Front Page Tech," in which he claims they were made based on marketing material he had seen from a source within Google. The renders show that the Pixel...
apple event hashflag

Twitter Hashflag for April 20 Apple Event Goes Live

Tuesday April 13, 2021 2:21 pm PDT by
Following the overnight Siri leak and subsequent announcement that Apple will hold a media event on Tuesday, April 20, a new Twitter hashflag has appeared to help provide visibility for the event on the platform. For the last several recent events, Apple has utilized hashflags, which are little icons next to hashtags on Twitter, as a way to market its events. The company first started the...
macos catalina serial number

Apple Preparing Rollout of New Randomized Product Serial Numbers Ahead of 'Spring Loaded' Event

Wednesday April 14, 2021 2:08 am PDT by
Apple is advising its authorized premium resellers and dealers to prepare for new products with 10 and 12 digital serial numbers, days ahead of when it's expected to reveal a slew of new products. MacRumors previously reported that Apple plans to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021. The company now seems to be preparing for that roll-out, telling...
iphone12cameras

Kuo: 2022 iPhones to Feature 48-Megapixel Camera, 8K Video, and 6.1 and 6.7" Sizes With No 5.4" Mini Option

Tuesday April 13, 2021 10:45 pm PDT by
The upcoming 2022 iPhone lineup will feature two 6.1-inch devices and two 6.7-inch devices, with no mini-sized 5.4-inch iPhone, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Two of the iPhones will be high-end models and two of the iPhones will be lower-end models, similar to the current iPhone 12 lineup. Apple introduced the 5.4-inch...
AppleTV and HomePod Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on New Apple TV With Integrated HomePod Speaker and FaceTime Camera

Monday April 12, 2021 3:32 am PDT by
Apple is working on a combined Apple TV with HomePod speaker that has a camera for video calls through a connected television set, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions,...
epic iap feature 3

Tim Cook Says App Store Would Become a 'Flea Market' if Third-Party Payment Systems Were Allowed

Monday April 12, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about a wide variety of topics, ranging from App Tracking Transparency to Apple's ongoing legal battle over App Store policies with Fortnite creator Epic Games. Notably, Cook said that Epic Games' desire for Apple to let developers offer their own payment systems in apps "would make the App Store a flea market":At the...
tim cook toronto star

Tim Cook Says Apple is 'Not Against Digital Advertising' Ahead of iOS 14.5 Launch With App Tracking Transparency

Monday April 12, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
Starting with iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, Apple will be requiring apps to receive a user's permission to track their activity for targeted advertising purposes, as part of a privacy measure known as App Tracking Transparency. Ahead of App Tracking Transparency being enforced, Apple CEO Tim Cook has participated in a privacy-focused interview with the Toronto Star, telling the...