Syntonic’s zero-rated data app is now available through the two largest mobile network operators in the U.S.
The Seattle-based startup announced a deal to make its Freeway app available to Verizon customers with iOS and Android devices, enabling sponsors to pay the freight of delivering content to those users. Syntonic became an early player in the zero-rated data segment in 2014 when it notched a deal with AT&T; it launched last year in India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
“Our support for Verizon Wireless with Freeway by Syntonic is a tremendous milestone for our technology, and the progression of sponsored data services as a whole,” said Gary Greenbaum, CEO and co-founder of Syntonic, in a prepared statement. “Sponsored data business models are quickly gaining in popularity, and content providers are the immediate beneficiaries of our cross-carrier, multi-platform solution—giving them the reach and flexibility to deepen their engagement with massive audiences that want greater access to mobile content.”
The company aims to give content providers and advertisers a way to access younger users on their phones without having an impact on those customers’ data plans. Users install the app and can accept mobile data offers to download other apps, try specific features or share with friends with no data charges applying.
U.S. carriers have tinkered with zero-rated data for a few years—T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to try to leverage zero-rated data in a significant way, first with its Music Freedom offering in 2014 and then a year later with Binge On for video—but it became a hot topic last year as both Verizon and AT&T began to pursue the model aggressively.
Some services have come under fire from net neutrality proponents, however, who claim they allow deep-pocketed media companies to pay for access to mobile subscribers, giving them an unfair advantage over smaller players. That concern is only magnified when carriers make their own content available to wireless users data-free, as AT&T does with DirecTV Now, barring other content providers from leveraging the scheme. T-Mobile has consistently been accused of violating net neutrality rules, and the FCC recently began questioning both Verizon and AT&T over their policies.
Those regulatory concerns may fade away under President-elect Trump’s administration, however. Telecom analysts generally expect regulators to display a far lighter regulatory touch after the president-elect takes office, and Trump’s first three FCC transition advisers have all been vocal critics of the net neutrality rules that were a top priority under Chairman Tom Wheeler during the Obama administration. Even if net neutrality rules aren’t rolled back entirely under Trump, zero-rated data services aren’t likely to face much regulatory opposition.