‘Zero-Rating’ Spreads: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint & Comcast So Far

– ‘No Data Charges If You Watch My Stuff for Free on My Network’

There are moves called “zero-rating” that are underway by pay TV services and cellcos that will enormously increase the demand for mobile bandwidth, moves that are exemplified by AT&T’s announcement this month that its DirecTV and U-verse subscribers can now stream live and on-demand video content without counting toward their monthly broadband data plans.

DirecTV and U-verse have apps that allow their subscribers to use their mobile devices to watch most anything they could on a TV set that is connected to a STB. DirecTV’s app, which we decided to test this week, includes some 20,000 movies plus TV shows on linear channels, including the local stations, and even programs recorded on the DVR at home. A bonus: recorded content can be downloaded to a mobile device for viewing offline.

David Christopher, CMO of AT&T’s entertainment group, said, “Our customers want to take their TVs with them, and our new DirecTV App allows just that. You can get the content you want, when you want it … your living room channels and your recorded content anywhere you go.”

AT&T is also preparing to launch DirecTV-brand over-the-top pay TV services. They will be “skinny” channel bundles like the ones Dish offers.

As is the norm these days in the US cellular market, the first cellco to off zero-rating was T-Mobile USA for its “Binge On” video and “Music Freedom” music services. Verizon, the US’ largest cellco, followed with its ad-supported Go90 video platform. Then Sprint followed by lowering the price of its data plans although sprint does not have video services to offer as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have. Comcast, the US’ largest pay TV service, has tripled the data caps of its wireline broadband subscribers from 300GB to 1TB.

The “zero-rating” movement will put pressure on cablecos to offer large networks of Wi-Fi hotspots free to their subscribers and ally with a cellco to fill the gaps between the hotspots.

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