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Looking For Free Mobile Data

My latest mobile gadget has sent me on the quest for free mobile data. Most services are based around watching advertisements, but is there a smarter way?

Under the Christmas tree I discovered Father Christmas had left me a shiny new PS Vita.

I’d been only expecting the Wi-Fi model, Sony Santa’s elves had very kindly upgraded bundle to include the 3G model. Whilst I don’t really need the 3G connection, like many other devices (iPad being a great example) it has assisted GPS (A-GPS) which means without a SIM in the device, you don’t get the location services.

So I’d really like to play with this feature, but not so much that I’d sign-up for a new SIM-only plan.

If only I could get my mobile service for free.

Well of course, as I always say, nothing is new and in this case I’m not the only person who has looked for a free mobile service. There have been a number of free services launched over the years, with advertising ‘paying’ for the service.

There are two approaches to combining advertising and the wealth of consumer data available from mobile operators. One is to force people to watch ads. The other is to look at what people do, and sell that knowledge to advertisers who hopefully use it to promote something interesting.

Following the first option, Blyk UK required customers to watch ads in order to earn airtime minutes for voice calls and text messages. When you ran out of credit, you had to watch some more adverts to top up.

It was targeted to 16-24 year olds, and the users figured out pretty fast that they could run off to make a cup of tea while the ads played. Further, many of the customers were students without much disposable income to spend on the products advertised. Blyk ended service two years or so after launch. (The company still exists, but has repositioned itself as an operator partner.)

Now there’s a new company, Samba Mobile giving out free 3G mobile broadband for desktop PC, laptop and tablet users. So unlike Blyk there’s no voice, but for me that wouldn’t be an use. I didn’t spot any specific references to working with the PS Vita, a number of forum posts suggests it should work okay.

As for the second approach, looking at consumer behavior, so far I’ve not seen any MVNO or operator talking that approach.

However I think we will see it. For an advertiser which is more valuable – me ‘watching’ a 30 second advert because I have to, or the information that I’ve been researching my next vacation?

Google have used this model for many years, but as we move to a more mobile centric world, then a PC centric based approach misses more and more information. It also can’t see other indicators – for example that I’m at the airport and could be interested in some promotions for duty free shopping.

A number of mobile operators are now starting to look at how big data can provide better consumer insights, and so creating the potential for a smarter free service in the future.

As for my PS Vita, a new ad funded SIM has been ordered – and I’ll see how it goes.