AT&T Working on System to Allow App Devs to Pay for Customers’ Data Usage

28th February 2012

AT&T plans to offer app developers and other mobile content providers the ability to pay for its customers’ data usage on the carrier, according to the Wall Street Journal. The carrier compares the proposed service to toll-free 800-numbers for the mobile-broadband world.

[AT&T senior executive vice president for technology and network operations John] Donovan likened the service to toll-free calling for the mobile-broadband world. The move comes as carriers are hunting for new ways to make money on the rising data traffic on their networks, while mindful of limits on what consumers are willing to spend.

“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.

Customer use of AT&T’s data networks has exploded in recent years as smartphones have become increasingly popular. AT&T has made several moves to limit data usage, includingdropping its unlimited data plan option and slowing the download speeds of its heaviest data users.

For customers on data-limited plans, the option to download a movie without it being charged against his or her data plan could be a motivating factor. Donovan compares it to including the cost of shipping in a catalog order. Of course, much like with “free shipping”, while the customer wouldn’t have to pay for the extra data usage directly, the cost would instead be bundled into the price of the app or service. Developers could, however, end up paying less for data than individual customers do if AT&T is willing to offer bulk purchase agreements.