The Norwegian web browser maker is launching a new service today for carriers called Sponsored Web Pass. It's an expansion on their existing Opera Web Pass service, and it adds a new advert-sponsored option to the tech that lets mobile carriers grant users free access to the web.
Opera Web Pass enables telecoms to sell time-limited mobile data plans similar in concept to the hour, day, or week access plans offered by Boingo at certain Wifi hotspots. And now with Sponsored Web Pass, those telecoms can trade limited free access in exchange for a user watching an advert.
I don't use mobile data all that much but I have seen similar ideas being applied in various airports. For example, Chicago-Midway lets travelers browse the web over Wifi for 20 minutes before requiring them to pay for a Boingo plan (or log in via some other service). And I have been in a couple airports over the past several years that allow free access to the Wifi after watching an advert.
And now Opera wants to offer a similar service for mobile web browsing.Here's how Opera described it:
All the user has to do is to is watch a short advertisement from the sponsor before continuing to their content, similar to the way an ad from a sponsor airs before the start of a TV program. Users are then free to engage with the content in their Web Pass for its entire duration.
When the Sponsored Web Pass expires, users are given a soft landing with the option to continue browsing after purchasing a paid Web Pass, or to re-engage with different sponsors and continue browsing at no charge. Opera’s Sponsored Web Pass now allows operators to increase their revenues from data services by enabling their participation in ad revenue monetization.
Do you really suppose there's a market for this?
TBH I've found that free Wifi has been so readily available that I've only very rarely been tempted to pay for mobile data. In fact, free Wifi is so prevalent that I haven't paid for a mobile data plan for (I think) 2 years now. I'm pretty sure the last time I used either 3G or 4G to browse the web I was at CES 2012. Ever since then I have been using the free Wifi at hotels, airports, coffee shops, and convention centers.
It's tough to compete with free, but I bet Opera has already done the math and found a way to do just that.