Finally it is here: The mobile data equivalent of toll-free numbers. Last week AT&T unveiled a “Sponsored Data service”, meaning that their customers are able to use participating services without eating in to their data allowance. AT&T will treat Sponsored Data traffic no differently to regular data traffic, thus providing digital retailers and OTT service providers with an efficient way to communicate and trade with their customers.
Coleago has long argued that with the growth in the digital economy, sellers of physical and digital goods and services are looking for the mobile data equivalent of a toll-free number. In the past many businesses encouraged consumers to trade with them over the phone by publishing toll-free numbers. The growth of online shopping with mobile devices provides impetus for extending the concept to mobile data. The message from retailers to consumers is “it does not cost you anything to visit our digital store”.
The good news for mobile operators is that this provides an additional revenue stream. But the concept could be taken further. In Europe, North America and other markets where most people purchase their smartphone from mobile operators, these operators can control what consumers see on the screen of their new smartphone when they take it out of the box and switch it on. A smartphone screen provides the digital real estate for sponsored apps. Apps placed on the home screen would be the most valuable, and the giants of ecommerce such as Amazon may have the scale to pay to have their app on the home screen. EBay, travel and financial sites and many other e-tailers may also be interested in sponsoring apps placed on subsequent screens.
Of course users can delete and move smartphone apps. However, judging by how many people do not bother or do not understand how to change their browser home page, it is likely that many of the preloaded apps will stay where they were first placed. This effectively means that mobile operators become landlords in the digital economy.