Light Reading
One of the carrier's sponsored data providers, Syntonic Wireless, is opening up its content store for AT&T customers to use apps that don't count against their data caps.

More AT&T Toll-Free Data Apps Trickle Out

Sarah Thomas
7/10/2014
50%
50%

AT&T-sponsored data provider Syntonic Wireless opened its Sponsored Content Store for the carrier on Thursday, offering up more mobile apps and content that the carrier's customers can use without affecting their data plans.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) unveiled its plans for toll-free data, in which the sponsoring company pays for data usage stemming from its app rather than the consumer, in early January. The announcement sparked a lot of controversy at the time, with opponents afraid the carrier would create an uneven playing field by giving precedence to those brands that could afford to pay. (See AT&T Unveils Toll-Free, Sponsored Data and AT&T Toll-Free Data: Innovation or Rip-Off?)

AT&T has said it will not prioritize speeds or give undue support to brands that participate. Rather, it's positioning it as a way for brands to better engage with their customers, or for enterprises to connect with their employees. So far, most of the participating companies, like Hershey, appear to be using the service to offset the cost of delivering video adds to consumers.

The program, powered by Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), so far is supported by three sponsored data providers, including ad platforms Aquto and HipCricket Inc. , and startup Syntonic Wireless, which has built a storefront powered by its Connected Services Platform, which couples mobile apps and content with 4G connectivity.

AT&T postpaid customers who are on its HSPA+ or LTE network and have a compatible Android or iOS smartphone, tablet, or laptop will be able to access the content store and download apps they can use toll free. Syntonic isn't naming any participating brands, but notes that the program is still in beta, with a commercial launch planned for August.

While AT&T's toll-free data plan doesn't actually reduce users' bills, the carrier will include usage of the apps on their monthly statements to show them how much data they would've burnt up had it been counted against the cap. The carrier hasn't yet revealed one crucial detail -- what it is charging the content providers per megabyte to be exempt from the cap -- but the set-up of its sponsored data does let it essentially make money twice -- from its customers and the participating brand.

This type of app-based billing model has sprung up across the globe in the past few years, and Heavy Reading expects to see more of it going forward. Despite the controversy around AT&T's implementation, analyst firm Ovum Ltd. named it an "innovative service of the month" in March, noting that the "service introduces a new business model for broadband connectivity for AT&T and paves the way for others to follow suit." (See Carriers Warm Up to Service Innovation.)

"As with any new business models, success depends on how well AT&T educates potential customers about the benefits of using the service," Ovum analyst Sara Kaufman wrote at the time. "The visibility and management features along with the analytics tools should encourage enterprise sponsors to try the offer."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/14/2014 | 11:35:26 AM
Re: Partners?
So which operators, which brands have replicated this model? I expect it to fly in places like Africa and South Asia where consumer affordability is low, but corporates are eager to let the masses try their video infotainment content.
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 4:10:26 PM
Re: Partners?
Amazon would have been a surprising partner.. especially since its Prime video streaming platform currently *requires* a Wifi connection (and gives an error if it detects a mobile network). 

Toll-free data plans are puzzling to me -- will consumers really keep track of which apps are "toll-free" and which aren't? I doubt it, unless AT&T pops up constant reminders that say, "try this toll-free data!" which will probably annoy users more than provide them with a better experience. 

 
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 4:01:09 PM
Sprint and T-mobile are a bit too quiet about toll-free data...
I wish the "unlimited data" plan providers (Sprint and T-Mobile) would take a firmer stand against toll-free data and promote their unlimited data services, for gosh sakes. Instead, it seems they're hedging and saying that they're open to the idea of maybe someday offering a way for toll-free data to exist in their networks -- which spells the doom of unlimited data plans, in my opinion.

I believe T-mobile is already testing out a toll-free data plan with a sub-brand (GoSmart Mobile, anyone heard of it?)... so if there is any market traction for toll-free data, it looks like the Un-Carrier will be ready to jump over to AT&T's toll-free strategy. yay /sarcasm
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 10:15:07 AM
Re: Partners?
Yes, this will be a way to help AT&T pursuade customers they're getting something free. But, as pointed out, if the apps are of little use to most folks, there's no real bargain here. Eventually, though I'm guessing providers are just going to have to work on free data plans for all anyway.
SReedy
100%
0%
SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
7/10/2014 | 2:14:16 PM
Re: Partners?
So far, at least. It's still in Beta, so maybe they are trying to prove it out more before the big guys come on. Otherwise, everyone got worked up over nothing. Big names would definitely change that real fast though.
KBode
50%
50%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/10/2014 | 12:59:05 PM
Re: Partners?
Right? Visit our webstore that sells highly-fractured content I probably wasn't interested in in the first place? This idea only works for AT&T if numerous big name partners sign up, but it appears they aren't interested in paying AT&T an additional toll for the honor -- so far.
SReedy
100%
0%
SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
7/10/2014 | 12:50:11 PM
Re: Partners?
Yeah, I was intrigued when Amazon was a rumored partner, but not so impressed now. Thanks for not charging me for the video ads I didn't want in the first place!
KBode
100%
0%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/10/2014 | 12:35:38 PM
Re: Partners?
I still think the idea sets a very dangerous precedent, even though these initial partner selections seem intent on boring us to death? Perhaps more major partners don't want the controversy involved in being a target of the net neutrality brigades.
SReedy
50%
50%
SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
7/10/2014 | 9:51:27 AM
Partners?
This program makes a lot of sense for brands that deliver video ads and don't want to anger customers by burning up their data plan, but it has to get more exciting than that...right? I'll be curious to see what other brands get on board. Music apps seem to be the partner de jour. I still think Beats would be a good candidate for AT&T's program. That could be huge.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Documentaries
Optical Is Hot in 2015

1|23|15   |   01:56   |   (2) comments


Optical comms technology underpins the whole communications sector and there are some really hot trends set for 2015.
LRTV Custom TV
Policy Control in the Fast Lane

1|22|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


What's making policy control strategic in 2015 and beyond? Amdocs talks with Graham Finnie from Heavy Reading about some of the key factors driving change in the data services landscape. Find out what his policy management research reveals about the road ahead for policy control.
LRTV Documentaries
Highlights From the 2020 Vision Executive Summit

1|21|15   |   4:33   |   (2) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading brought together telecom executives in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss their vision for high-capacity networks through the end of the decade. The intimate, interactive meeting was set against the backdrop of Iceland's spectacular natural beauty. As one of the event's founding sponsors, Cisco's Doug Webster shared his company's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Harmonic, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment with Huawei

1|20|15   |   5:42   |   (1) comment


At IBC, Peter Alexander, Senior Vice President & CMO at Harmonic, speaks about the growing interest in pay-TV service and its branching into multiple devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sony Marketing Director Olivier Bovis Discusses the Outlook for 4K and Cooperation With Huawei at IBC 2014

1|20|15   |   6:50   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Envivio, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment

1|20|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Pay-TV's Networked Future

1|20|15   |   6:29   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about the future of the pay-TV industry and its transition.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Jeff Heynen: Distributed Access Will Help MSOs Compete in the Future

1|20|15   |   2:26   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about moving to distributed access and the future trend of cable business.
LRTV Interviews
Cisco Talks Transformation

1|20|15   |   13:02   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Steve Saunders sat down with Cisco VP of Products & Solutions Marketing Doug Webster at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. They spoke about Cisco's approach to network virtualization as well as how service providers can begin to monetize high-capacity networks through the end of the decade.
LRTV Interviews
Bob Wilson, Arsenal Legend: The Light Reading Interview

1|16|15   |   35:36   |   (3) comments


Arsenal goalkeeping legend Bob Wilson was Light Reading's guest interviewee at the 2020 Vision Executive Summit in December. See what the former soccer star and sports broadcaster had to say when he took to the stage in Iceland.
LRTV Custom TV
What MEF Third Network Initiative Means for SDN & NFV

1|14|15   |   6:13   |   (0) comments


Vitesse Semiconductor CTO Martin Nuss discusses the importance of the MEF Third Network initiative and why it's good news for SDN/NFV industry initiatives.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Frank Miller: Distributed Solutions are the Best Build for the Future - Part II

1|9|15   |   2:46   |   (0) comments


At SCTE, Frank Miller, Global CTO of MSO at Huawei, speaks about Cable 2.0 and its innovative future.
Upcoming Live Events
February 5, 2015, Washington, DC
February 19, 2015, The Fairmont San Jose, San Jose, CA
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 9-10, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2-3, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
Infographics
Hot Topics
Cuomo Unveils Broadband Aid Program
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 1/19/2015
FiOS Picks Up Pace Again
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 1/22/2015
BlackBerry Wants Net Neutrality Protection -- That's Just Sad
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 1/22/2015
Indiana Carrier Takes Fiber to the Farm
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 1/22/2015
Verizon Ready for Google MVNO Challenge
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/22/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive