Feb 272012

The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T is working on a new service that will allow developers of mobile apps and content providers to pay for users data usage charges to the wireless carrier.

John Donovan – AT&T’s network and technology head provided the details of the service to WSJ at the Mobile Congress 2012 that kicked off today. He compared the service to the toll-free calling for mobile broadband.

Last week, a study revealed that messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook (Messenger) may have cost carriers $13.9 billion in lost SMS revenues in 2011. So it is not surprising to see carriers like AT&T trying to figure out new ways to generate revenue from the data traffic to augment the loss in revenue from the traditional sources of income.

Wall Street Journal reports:

“A feature that we’re hoping to have out sometime next year is the equivalent of 800 numbers that would say, if you take this app, this app will come without any network usage,” Mr. Donovan said on the sidelines of a mobile-industry conference here.

It’s far from clear how willing technology companies would be to pay wireless carriers for data use. Mr. Donovan said there was interest from companies who could use the feature to drum up new business from customers wary of using data-heavy services like mobile video.
Donovan believes that content publishers could use the service as an incentive to customers to download a movie without eating into their monthly data limits. He compared it to free shipping offered by online retailers. In this case, the customer would pay the regular price for the movie, while the cost of the data usage for downloading the movie will be paid by the app developer or content publisher to the carrier.
It is not clear if AT&T has Apple’s backing and how it will be implemented in iOS.
While AT&T it sounds good from a customer point of view as the cost of the data usage for downloading the movie will be paid by the content publisher, we’ve a creepy feeling that the cost will be ultimately passed on to the customer and it would be like paying a tax for downloading content. It also sounds terrible from developers point of view as it will be become even more expensive to develop and support an app, which will hurt us as customers as it could stifle innovation.

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