New Wireless Model: Earn Data Over Time with Aquto App

Boston-based startup Aquto launched this week with an interesting business model, one that allows wireless customers to pay for data by watching ads, taking surveys, downloading apps, or devoting time to a brand. For example, if a consumer views a 30-second ad via the Aquto app, that individual could earn 5 or 10 megabytes, about enough to download some images or check an inbox. Aquto is limited to Vodafone customers in Portugal, but plans to roll out in the U.S. next month with a “very large carrier.”

“It’s an intriguing option for customers, who, until now, have had only three options when they hit their limits: Curtail use, pay overage charges, or upgrade their plan,” reports Businessweek. “With Aquto (say ah-koo-toe), customers can use their earned data right away or bank it for lean times. Text messages from their carriers alert them to credits, which will also appear as line items on the monthly bill.”

Aquto also plans to include mobile ads. “Someone listening to Pandora on an iPhone, for instance, might tap on a banner ad and then see an offer to get data in exchange for watching a video,” notes the article. “The point, from the advertiser’s perspective, is to increase the chance of engagement by dangling data as a reward. Aquto gets paid by the advertisers — via mobile ad agencies and networks — and either buys data in bulk from wireless providers or shares revenue with them.”

“If you have more time than money, by all means watch the ads,” says Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics. “If you have more money than time, skip the ads.”

Advertisers should be aware of the type of customer they are most likely to reach with this approach. It would probably not be the best advertising platform for high-end products, since the service will likely attract college students and young singles.

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