AT&T Talks Up Content Subsidized Data Plans

CEO Randall Stephenson said he believes “toll free” data plans, which would exclude certain types of content from counting toward a customer’s monthly data allotment, likely will catch fire in the next 12 months, reports Fierce Wireless.

He said he can envision a model where content providers pay to bring customers to their content.

Additionally, reports Fierce Wireless, Stephenson talked about spectrum policy. He said that while more spectrum is needed, getting an additional, say, 50 MHz of spectrum into the market for six carriers to fight over is not enough. He said that federal regulators need to evaluate ways in which spectrum in private hands can be more easily transferred between companies and put to the most efficient use.

Stevenson may want special favors from lawmakers — in the interest of free enterprise. The company would like to buy spectrum from Dish or Clearwire at below market rates since the company’s spectrum strategy was deficient.

AT&T is short of spectrum. While Verizon is planning to buy nationwide AWS spectrum from cable operators, AT&T is giving their AWS spectrum to T-Mobile as part of the fee for their failed merger. Sprint doesn’t have any AWS spectrum (1.7/2.1 GHz), but it does have lots of PCS (1.9 GHz), which it is using for their FD-LTE — in addition to a huge chunk of 2.6 GHz spectrum in association with Clearwire.

AT&T may well want a piece of the 40 MHz of MSS (2.1 GHz) spectrum currently owned by Dish Networks. But they may have to compete with content providers like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others. Apple’s Tim Cook said they won’t buy spectrum. Depending on how you read the tea leaves, that could indicate Apple will subsidize ad-supported content over AT&T’s network.

Getting content providers to subsidize data service would be tricky if AT&T has no spectrum to subsidize.

The four national US operators offering or announcing LTE service include

AT&T’s 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum won’t sustain their data growth for more than a few years. Then what? Dish Networks and Clearwire spectrum are low hanging fruit for both content providers and carriers.

See Dailywireless: Tim Cook: Apple Won’t Buy Spectrum, Dish to FCC: More Time for MSS Terrestrial Buildout, U.S. Cellular Goes LTE, T-Mobile & Leap Wireless Do Spectrum Swap, C-Spire Goes LTE, AT&T Competitors: No 700MHz Roaming, Verizon-Cable Deal: Too Cozy?, Cross Marketing of Verizon & Cable Begins, Mr Ergen Goes to Washington, FCC Judgement on Lightsquared: Fail, Sprint Gives Lightsquared 6 Weeks, Dish Clarifies LTE-Advanced Plan, Dish: Show Me the Money!, Dish LTE-Advanced Called “Ollo”, Dish Talks Up Terrestrial LTE, ViaSat-1 Launched, Charlie Ergen’s Spectacular Triple Play, Charlie’s Big Play

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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