Verizon patent filing hints at groundwork for sponsored data program

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) filed a patent application for a blueprint to establish a sponsored data program, according to the application.

The application, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office on Dec. 18, 2013, was revealed today. Although there is no indication that Verizon plans to commercialize such technology, it could be a step toward launching a sponsored data service. Sponsored data plans give customers free access or zero-rated data for certain services that the providing companies subsidize.

Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis told FierceWireless the company files lots of patents but did not have anything more to say on sponsored data plans at this point.  

The patent filing's abstract describes the basic mechanism for a device determining whether content has been sponsored or not and then charging either the subscriber or the sponsoring company for the data usage accordingly.

"A device receives an identifier associated with a user device, and receives information associated with data usage by the user device," the filing reads. "The device determines whether the data usage is sponsored by a sponsor based on the identifier and the information associated with the data usage. The sponsor sponsors data usage associated with particular content accessed by the user device. The device assigns charges for the data usage to an account associated with the user device when the data usage is not sponsored by the sponsor, or to an account associated with the sponsor when the data usage is sponsored by the sponsor."

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) has taken the lead on sponsored data with 10 customers identified in its program, some of which sponsor data so that subscribers can see video advertisements without incurring data costs. AT&T has Sponsored Data agreements with Aquto, Liberty Mutual, Macheen (which was purchased by Good Technology), Wazco, DataMi, Syntonic Wireless, LotusFlare, HipCricket, WPS/Kingsoft and 5 Screens Media.

According to VentureBeat report, AT&T has plans to launch a new sponsored data program that offers customers the ability to get free mobile data if they look at advertising from marketers. 

That program, called Data Perks, will be available to postpaid customers on Mobile Share Value plans; AT&T has around 50 million such customers. Data Perks is apparently a lead generation campaign and subscribers will be rewarded with data when they sign up for services, learn about new products, discover new apps or click through and purchase something at a brand's e-commerce site.

AT&T is staying mum on Data Perks for now. "We do not have any agreement to announce and have made no announcement about a new data program," the company said in a statement.

For more:
- see this USPTO filing

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