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Toll-free data plans are growing worldwide

July 16, 2014

While AT&T has been trying to expand the list of companies involved in their “Sponsored Data” program, interest in the program has been basically non-existent with just a few smaller companies having signed on. AT&T’s program only works if a number of big-named companies agree to be part of the program and so far it appears that few if anyone want to join it.

Other companies have also been trying to slowly implement their own toll-free plans in the US. T-Mobile has launched their Music Freedom which exempts data on a customers plan from streaming music services.

Yet, GigaOM wrote a very interesting piece showing that nearly half of the world’s mobile carriers are exempting at least one app from data charges according to bandwidth manager Allot Communications.


According to Allot, 49 percent of worldwide mobile carriers offer a plan that exempts certain apps or traffic from customers’ data plan. Facebook was the most included application being found in 65 percent of these plans.

As GigaOM notes:

“For instance, in Brazil, Claro offers a social media package that includes unlimited and unrestricted use of Facebook and Twitter. In Cameroon, MTN is bundling WhatsApp usage into prepaid plans.” – GigaOM

As has been discussed previously, Sponsored Data plans will unfairly gives bigger companies a significant advantage over smaller companies who will not be able to afford the fee required to highlight their own content.

As Karl Bode notes at DSLReports, what AT&T wants is a troll toll imposed that allows AT&T to bring in new cash and impose their power on a content ecosystem that operates better with AT&T out of the way. AT&T’s layering their network with completely arbitrary usage caps and overages untied for network or financial realities, and now wants to charge content companies a completely unnecessary toll to bypass them. The result is content development costs that get passed on to consumers, with AT&T picking application winners and losers based on who ponies up the most cash.