Verizon is the latest US operator to chance its arm with 4G-based zero rating following rivals AT&T and T-Mobile US.
The operator announced trials of two models for zero rating, which offer free services to end-users. Verizon’s service is called FreeBee Data.
Verizon said one model called FreeBee Data 360 is “commercially available on a beta basis” from today.
With FreeBee Data 360, content providers can sign up to provide consumers some or all of their mobile content – whether in an app or mobile website – without using consumers’ data plans.
Verizon bills content providers for FreeBee Data 360 using a per gigabyte pricing model. The content providers can use this service to sponsor data for all the operator’s postpaid base.
On 25 January, Verizon will begin a beta trial of a separate FreeBee Data service which works on a pay-per-click basis. Commercially availability is expected later this year, said Verizon.
Some companies have already signed up for this service, including Hearst Magazines, Gameday and Verizon-owned AOL. These content providers will sponsor some mobile content for 1,000 test subscribers. Other companies can still sign up for the trial.
Re/code reported last month that Verizon was planning a sponsored data trial and today’s official announcement gives more details about its plans.
Verizon is not the first US operator to offer a zero-rated service to end-users. Most recently T-Mobile US launched its Binge On service in November 2015. The service enables T-Mobile US subscribers to stream video at lower quality from the operator’s content partners without hitting their data allowances.
But Binge On has courted controversy with claims that it impacts quality of video for all subscribers, so raising concerns of a breach in net neutrality.
Meanwhile, AT&T has been offering sponsored data for a good while longer without attracting the same level of attention as T-Mobile US, although the Federal Communications Commission recently wrote to AT&T asking for further information about the service (it did the same with T-Mobile US). AT&T is thought to have signed up at least six partners for its sponsored data service, although Re/code said it is still run on a trial basis.