AT&T had three major announcements at this year’s CES. First they unveiled Sponsored Data, allowing businesses to pay for users’ mobile data consumption. This in turn will make some apps and services 100% free, without their usage adding to customers’ data bill. When using these sponsored apps/services, users will see a “sponsored” symbol in the status bar so they know it is free to use.
While this sounds cool, it can actually kill competition in certain segments of the market. Just imagine a scenario in which big corporations like Google, Apple and Microsoft can offer their music and video streaming services free of charge, while the likes of Spotify, Rdio and Pandora can’t afford it. This could work for as long as there are smaller companies in the space, after which only the big boys would be left standing. So we agree with net neutrality advocates protesting against AT&T’s Sponsored Data service.
The second thing AT&T announced is HT Voice, which will be launched later in the year, offering improved voice quality and sound for calls between phones. The same service is already being offered by T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as a number of operators in other parts of the world.
Finally, AT&T unveiled its connected service platform AT&T Drive and testing facility (AT&T Drive Studio) that promises to turn vehicles into mobile computers. And they already have the first customer in place – Tesla Motors, which will rely on the carrier’s network to power its remote diagnostics, entertainment, live traffic reports, weather and navigation services.