Free content – the answer for mobile operators?

My last blog talked about how mobile companies will start working together more often to share the cost of providing a basic network so they can then differentiate themselves on their service offering – which may well include the type of content available.

AT&T is following this strategy with the recent news that they are rolling out a sponsored App store where the App creators – or other sponsors – fund the data use by the end user. For the customers it means that Apps in this separate store can be downloaded and used without any impact on their agreed data plan.

Critics are arguing that it means AT&T can charge customers to use data and sponsors to offer Apps with the data use paid for so they get two bites at the cherry when users download these apps, but some analysts believe that this is an interesting strategy.

Analyst firm Ovum praised the AT&T initiative for encouraging greater mobile data consumption while extending the cost of that additional consumption to others besides the end user. “AT&T is able to encourage more usage on its network, while the sponsoring company is able to promote and encourage the desired customer behaviour on their Website or interaction with their online or mobile service,” said Ovum research analyst Sara Kaufman.

Personally I tend to agree with the Ovum view, but I would go further and suggest that this is the start of increased collaboration with content providers to further encourage customers to join a network – or stay with a network. The networks that win will combine quality content with a great user experience – the network has to be good, but so does the content.

What’s your view on the mobile sector? Do you believe that contracts are still sold on call minutes or have you seen additional services such as free content becoming popular? Leave a comment on the blog or tweet me at @simondillsworth.

$ at&t (David Byrne bike rack design)

 

Photo by Zombieite licensed under Creative Commons

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