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.

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Top Rated Comments

PusherRobot Avatar
135 months ago
This is the first step of the end of net neutrality
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nepalisherpa Avatar
135 months ago
If you really care about your customers then come up with better plans first.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tigres Avatar
135 months ago
The more complexity, the more I am turned off.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
springsup Avatar
135 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
135 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
135 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)