Verizon jumps into sponsored data, joining AT&T

Users will get free data clicks on content or entire apps or websites

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Credit: Stephen Lawson

Verizon announced a sponsored data service on Tuesday called FreeBee Data, which offers mobile users toll-free data either via gigabytes or on a per-click basis.

One of the models, called FreeBee Data 360, is available in beta starting Tuesday. Under the plan, content providers can give some or all their mobile content to consumers via an app or mobile website on a per gigabyte basis without using up a consumer’s data plan.

The other model of FreeBee Data, which goes into beta on Jan. 25, allows a content provider to sponsor specific consumer actions, such as watching a mobile video clip, listening to an audio stream or downloading an app. Content providers are charged on a per-click basis, but the data is free to users. The broad outline of the service is described for businesses on Verizon’s website.

Verizon said per-click participants so far include Hearst Magazines, AOL and Gameday. They will sponsor some free mobile content for 1,000 test subscribers. A commercial version is coming later in 2016.

Verizon described the advantages to content providers as offering the ability to build smarter mobile marketing campaigns. For consumers, access to content and other data, either per click or for an entire app or website, will be free.

AT&T announced a similar sponsored data program in October called Data Perks, which allows customers the ability to accumulate up to 1 GB of free data per billing period. Customers accumulate free data by clicking on special offers from companies like Fandango, Hotel Tonight, Rosetta Stone and others.

With AT&T’s service, one recent offer from Target that was tested by Computerworld offered a user 1,025 MB by signing up for a Target RED debit or credit card. Users could also get 458 MB by signing up for a free one-month trial of GameFly, a video-game rental service.

T-Mobile recently announced its Binge On free wireless video service, but T-Mobile is not charging 24 video-streaming service companies to provide the service. AT&T and Verizon charge their third-party vendors.

The concept of sponsored data has raised concerns from net neutrality supporters who question whether the services violate the spirit of an open Internet. However, supporters of sponsored data say it won’t cost anything to explore the marketing offers and claim the sponsored traffic is not prioritized over other Internet traffic.

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