AT&T promises sponsored data services in coming months
By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK -- AT&T plans to give cash-strapped consumers options to save money on mobile data fees as soon as this quarter while offering sponsors a new way to entice consumers to use their services.

The company said it will announce details Monday at AT&T's developer conference at the Consumer Electronics Show. The offering will let sponsors subsidize consumer's data fees, which have gradually gotten more expensive in recent years as phone companies charge for mobile web-surfing based on how much data their customers download.

AT&T (T), the No. 2 U.S. cellphone service provider, compared the offering to 1-800 telephone services where businesses such as florists pay for inbound calls with a view to attracting more consumers.

It will start with deals from companies including a health insurer, an advertiser and a software firm but may expand to businesses ranging from media companies to retailers.

AT&T and its rival Verizon Wireless (VZ) (VOD) have both talked about the idea of offering sponsored data for two years, but the plans have been slow to materialize as the operators sought partners and worked out how best to offer the service.

AT&T's first partners include insurer UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Boston-based advertising start-up Aquto and Orlando-based mobile software developer Kony Solutions.

It said the offering could also work well for retail, media, entertainment and financial services customers or could be used by employers aiming to sponsor their own workers' data usage for certain corporate applications.

Under the new service,
AT&T said data charges from use of sponsored content would be billed directly to the sponsor and will appear on the consumer's invoice as sponsored data.

For example AT&T said that UnitedHealth customers could view health care information or videos from their insurer without incurring data or customers using Aquto's service could watch ads without incurring data fees.

Kony customers, which include hoteliers, could potentially use its reservation systems to let customers book hotel rooms while on the go without having to pay AT&T for the airtime.

Mark Collins, AT&T senior vice president for voice and data products, said the service would complement existing data services for cost-conscious customers.

Collins declined to disclose financial arrangements for the service but said that agreements would differ between sponsors depending on their agreements and that some companies will engage in revenue-sharing deals with the operator.

ReconAnalytics analyst Roger Entner said UnitedHealth was a good launch partner for AT&T because it could provide an important service by giving lower-income consumers easier access to key health information.

"Consumers will like it. Americans always like 'free,' " Entner said.

Jan Dawson, analyst at Jackdaw Research worried that unless AT&T provides strong safeguards there could be a potential for fraud if providers of bandwidth-hungry applications falsely claim to be offering sponsored data.

But he said that the service was an important milestone since it would mark the first time an operator would charge someone other than its customers for its data services.

"It will have the biggest impact for applications involving video, since that's the biggest driver of bandwidth consumption, but it will be useful for other services, too," Dawson said.

AT&T said sponsored data will be delivered at the same speed as any non-sponsored content. It will provide more details along with executives from the three sponsors it named to an audience of developers and media at the CES show in Las Vegas.

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Att is trying to buy tmobile customers for $450 what kind of service is that? U know y? I believe most of tmobile customers came from att b4 and theyd switch to tmobile cuz they like thier service better. Att only want ur $$. They only care about ur $$ not cstmer service. Hope tmobile sue att for buying thier clients.

January 07 2014 at 5:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I will never ever go back to ATT never in my life. 6yrs in att, when smartphone came out im paying almost $200mnth, 2lines me n my wife. Send text or photo 20cents, rcvd text or photo even u dont want $10cents, over limit data $10. Went to att branch to fix my acct., the guy gave me good discount in the end of the total i just save $8bucks still SUX. After 3months end of 2yrs contract im so happy to get out sucker. WENT TO TMOBILE GAVE ME UNLIMITED EVERYTHING FIX MONTHLY 2lines $98/m with discount from my job and NEW TWO GREAT SMARTPHONES. Now i read the news ATT is buying tmobile costumers for $450 suckers im 4ever TMobile carrier, good news tmobile and metropcs are together same coverage both unlimited data even u reach the limit u will still get slow internet but still Internet. Tmobile n metropcs i like them both. Thanks!

January 07 2014 at 4:45 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

No usable AT&T signal anywhere in America beyond 1 mile of their towers. How they get away with lying about their coverage is beyond me. I wouldn't sign on with AT&T again even if the service was free.

January 06 2014 at 11:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jim Craigs

I switched to AT&T from my local cable provider for a 30 day trial. It was absolutely the WORST service ever. My internet speed dropped in half, I didn't get the pay channels I was promised. The phone did work OK, but calls to Canada were not allowed and when I tried to get my number back, they wouldn't release it until the 33rd day of my trial. If I had kept the service for 33 days, I would have been committed to a years service with them. When I cancelled my service and got a new # from my cable company, I had to stand in line at the UPS Store to return the equipment because so many other AT&T customers were doing the same thing, getting rid of AT&T. NEVER AGAIN. They are the WORST!

January 06 2014 at 7:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

great. when will aol sign on?

January 06 2014 at 6:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Don't sign up with AT&t they just sent me a 1800.00 bill because I closed my account early due to bad service and not having a working phone most of the past month when I signed up I was told 300.00 to close early after 30 days ....THIEVES

January 06 2014 at 5:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


January 06 2014 at 4:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply