The data plan is showing its age and is no longer working for many people. Today’s consumers have a voracious appetite for content. It’s what they understand and value. They don’t understand, demand, or value data.

The data plan is also no longer working as well for mobile operators. Mobile data has become an undifferentiated commodity. Gone are the days when coverage, performance, or customer support could be used to differentiate one mobile operator’s data from another. Data sold today by mobile Operator A is indistinguishable from data sold by Operator B. The commoditization of mobile data has put mobile operators at an inflection point. They can continue to sell commodity data with an inevitable race to the bottom over pricing, or they can transform themselves from network providers to content service providers.

To realize the transformation there has to be a shift in the business model – away from commodity transactions to content models. The content models aren’t new. They’re the same consumer friendly and proven models used in broadcast, such as free to air or cable where consumers are offered ad supported programming, pay per view, or subscriptions.

The mobile ecosystem – carriers, content providers, and consumers – all benefit from this transformation to a content-centric model. Mobile operators can grow flattening or declining ARPUs, reduce churn, and add new subscribers by providing differentiated offers. App Developers, publishers, and content providers get new tools they can employ to raise brand awareness, acquire, engage, and monetize consumers. Consumers gain ready access to the content they want.

Sponsored apps and sponsored content models are providing a new currency for the mobile ecosystem.