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Toll Free Data = Sending Party Pays

The other day, Fierce Wireless had a special report on the subject of "Toll Free Data." It's concise, timely and relevant to the changing market of mobile data where consumption is going to outstrip plans sometime soon. But, it's anything but news to me. In the past, I have written about the concept of "Sending Party Pays" which is identical to Toll Free Data. Sending Party Pays is the phrase pal Martin Geddes proffered up at least three, if not four years ago, over dinner at Smiths of Smithfield in London.

It's a subject I have mentioned relative to Sponsored Wi-Fi Access (November 2009), How the iPad would bring the model to content providers (May 2010) and again in Sending Party Pays (December 2010) in relation to a Bloomberg story about European mobile operators asking Apple and Google to Pay Up in relation to Facebook and other heavy traffic.

I don't believe that Toll Free Data or Sending Party Pays is an aberration, but actually is truly the way things will go as already as the report points out, it's being done, and has been done for a few years by Amazon with their 3G Kindle devices. To me, it's a "when" not an "if".



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Calling it "sending party pays" is not the right view, because on the internet, there is no real division between "sending" and "receiving." if I am uploading a photo, you would call me the sender, but if the photo sharing site is paying, that's what I would call toll free data.

In fact, the actual way this would be done is "server pays" which means the party who initiates the connection is the one paying, even if it means that the initiator is mostly the receiver of data.

Now I personally feel that this is a horrible idea, because it slows down the deployment of the way the internet is meant to work, which is "both parties pay for their connection to the middle point." I even argue, and many agree, that if you are not paying this way it is not the internet, it is one of the older network architectures that the internet rightly defeated, brought back to life and stuck on the side of the internet. It looks good at first, very seductive -- it has seduced you -- but in the end kills innovation because it requires that all apps have a financial justification before you can try them out.

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