Report: AT&T Wireless Program To Let Subscribers Get Free Data From Advertisers

Data is a precious resource for mobile consumers and the wireless companies that serve them. The two are always in a trade-off: data caps, overage pricing, unlimited plans, zero-rating… there are loads of different iterations (and shenanigans) in that sphere. And now, reports indicate AT&T might be trying out a new one.

The report comes from tech site VentureBeat. The program is called Data Perks and AT&T is going to announce it next Tuesday, VentureBeat reports.

Here’s how it works: you, the customer, could really use some more data this month. But you don’t want to pay through the nose for it. So instead, you can watch an interactive ad, click through to sign up for a service, or download an app. Boom! That company has paid for data — say, a spare 1 GB — and now it’s yours, to use however you please.

According to VentureBeat, 30 brands have agreed so far to participate in the service, including Rosetta Stone, Fandango, and Hotel Tonight. The program would be available to the 50 million subscribers to AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plans.

Data Perks is related to, but not the same as, AT&T’s existing sponsored data program. With the sponsorship plan, companies pay AT&T to have their service not count against consumers’ data caps.

So if Streaming RadioCo becomes a sponsor, they would pre-purchase a specific amount of data from AT&T. Then RadioCo users on the AT&T network wouldn’t see their data allowance take a hit when getting material from Facebook. That data would, instead, be charged on the other end, against RadioCo’s allotment.

With Data Perks, on the other hand, the brands providing the “free” data would not be the ones you are necessarily using that data for. As VentureBeat explains it, the program would basically let you accumulate a wallet of Data Perks points, which consumers can then transfer to their AT&T wireless accounts (kind of like frequent flier points).

In both cases, the underlying concept is basically the same: to shift the cost per unit of data consumed to a business, instead of to an individual subscriber… and there are strong incentives for participation. AT&T gets the benefit of drawing customers by offering free data. Customers get the benefit of free data. AT&T also gets the benefit of fat checks from participating brands, and brands get consumers to engage with their advertisements and sign up for services.

But of course, “free” is a relative term. Consumers would be trading personal information, or having to make purchases that are then tracked, in order to receive their perks.

So is it really going to happen? AT&T strongly denies the rumor — at least, parts of it.

In a statement to VentureBeat, AT&T said, “We do not have any agreement to announce and have made no announcement about a new data program,” which is not quite the same thing as saying that no new program exists.

AT&T to give free broadband to subscribers who interact with brands [VentureBeat]

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