Verizon to follow AT&T's lead with sponsored data launch in Q1 of 2016

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is following AT&T's (NYSE: T) lead and preparing to launch sponsored data offerings early next year that won't count against users' data allotments, Re/code reported.

Verizon EVP Marne Walden told Re/code that the carrier has the technology to "break down any byte" on its network and sponsor some or all data, enabling users to consume it without incurring data charges. Verizon has only a handful of partners during a current testing phase but plans a larger commercial rollout in the first quarter of next year.

Verizon said several months ago that its Go90 mobile video service will also include sponsored data.

AT&T first announced its own Sponsored Data program early last year. The carrier further experimented with sponsored data a few months ago with the launch of Data Perks, an app that offers free data to users willing to view ads, take surveys and sometimes buy products. And T-Mobile offers both video streaming (Binge On) and audio streaming (Music Freedom) from certain content partners without data charges, although those services aren't sponsored.

Verizon will almost certainly market any sponsored-data offering as a positive for both advertisers and consumers, but some critics argue that such services are at odds with the FCC's net neutrality principles. The agency's guidelines are generally intended to prevent wireless carriers and other ISPs from transmitting some kinds of content differently than other kinds.

The FCC's net neutrality push is facing challenges from the cable and telecom industries, however. A U.S. appeals court is weighing whether the FCC overstepped its bounds by classifying mobile operators and other broadband providers as "common carrier" service providers, which exposes them to net neutrality laws.

For more:
- see this Re/code article

Related reading:
Strategy Analytics: Sponsored data plans growing in U.S., China, Europe and elsewhere
Updated: AT&T launches new program with Aquto to give subs data for looking at ads
Verizon's OTT mobile video service will support sponsored data

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