Airfox, the Boston start-up, launched by two ex-Google employees, has some big plans. It aims to find new revenue streams for US carriers to help reduce service costs for subscribers by serving them ads on locked screens as well as brand-sponsored data plans.
Airfox coming out of beta
Yes, that’s a big goal, but it’s not exactly new. Other companies have previously launched similar products. However, most of them are apps, such as Sliide. Jana, offers free data connections for markets in Indonesia and India for users trialling apps. Unlockd has also partnered with Tesco to reward subscribers for viewing ads.
Airfox has been trialling its platform with telco Life Wireless and has just come out of beta. Essentially, the company offers a free, basic zero-rating plan to enable marketers to sponsor unlimited access to a particular app. Android users can then opt in and receive rewards and deals as well as free data in exchange for viewing sponsored content.
Sara Choi, COO and co-founder of Airfox, explains:
“The concept of apps that don’t consume bandwidth is especially compelling to these users.”
Over 60% of US Americans now own a smartphone. However, 23% had to cancel their services because they couldn’t afford them.
Whilst a data-for-ads type connection plan presents a great opportunity in developing countries, it could be the future of mobile everywhere in an effort to keep advertising going.
Some other big telcos are already getting on board. For example, T-Mobile is trialling a Binge-On programme which lets users watch as much video as they like without using up their data. Earlier this year, Verizon launched a better mobile data rewards programme, FreeBee Perks, to reward loyal mobile users.
Choi explains that mobile operators are struggling to find new revenue streams. She adds:
“Speaking in broad categories, we tend to do well with CPG brands and apps, goods that aren’t necessarily tied to income. People buy CPG products and use apps regardless of who they are and how much discretionary income they have.”
Life Wireless now has over one million subscribers.
William Curry, President and Founder, Life Wireless, says:
“Our customers want to be engaged, but oftentimes they’re the hardest-to-reach demographic for advertisers. […] Our target demographic doesn’t always have access to traditional means of media, like cable TV, which can make it difficult to advertisers to reach them. But when they enroll with us, they get a truly connected device, not just a qwerty keyboard or a flip phone. It’s a conduit for engagement.”
Life Wireless noted a 10% engagement rate with Airfox across locked screens. The company recently also announced $1.1m in funding led by Project 11 Ventures.