AT&T Sponsored Data lets businesses foot the bill for consumers' wireless data use

At AT&T's Developer Summit today, the wireless operator introduced what it calls Sponsored Data, something it likens to a 1-800 number for wireless data. Sounds strange, but this new wireless data model is pretty straightforward. The service, which is mostly geared towards businesses, allows users to test out or view applications, games, upcoming movie trailers and even websites without impacting their monthly data plans.

Sponsored Data is, of course, all about consumer engagement... and data mining. With unlimited data fast becoming a rarity, consumers need to monitor their data consumption to avoid blowing past caps. It's easy to see how that cautious behavior doesn't translate well for businesses looking to hock their virtual wares and glean insight into consumption habits. Sponsored Data then removes that concern, offering users a way to browse the web or test drive new apps freely on their phones with the same 4G speeds they'd normally enjoy on their personal data plans and it gives business access to key usage info. Though consumers won't be charged for taking advantage of Sponsored Data, they will see it appear within their monthly billing statement. The fees, however, are entirely the province of business partners backing that "toll-free data."