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Verizon Launches Go90 Free Mobile-Video App to Chew Up Wireless Bandwidth

Verizon on Tuesday rolled out a private beta version of Go90, a free mobile app stocked with dozens of TV episodes and video clips — a service designed in large part to push wireless customers to use up more megabytes of their data plans.

With Go90, the telco sees a revenue opportunity in selling advertising aimed at millennials audiences, and it’s making the service free to anyone, not just Verizon Wireless customers. (However, Go90 will not initially use ad-tech platforms from AOL, which it acquired for $4.4 billion earlier this year.) The Go90 name, first reported by Variety, is a reference to rotating a smartphone horizontally by 90 degrees to watch video.

But Verizon also has another big profit motive: It wants to hook consumers on bandwidth-hungry video content, so that they’ll potentially upgrade to more expensive plans.

Verizon Wireless — which boasts that it operates “America’s fastest and most reliable network” — currently offers new subscribers four main tiers with varying data-usage limits. Those start at 1 gigabyte for $30 per month for the “small” plan, up to 12 GB for $80 monthly for the “XL” option (in addition to $20 per month for each smartphone line plus taxes and other fees). Super-heavy users can pay up to $750 per month for a 100-GB data plan. All overages are billed at $15 for each additional gigabyte used.

That means Verizon Wireless customers on the entry-level plan could use up their entire monthly data-usage allotment by watching less than three hours of Go90 video, given that 4G video streaming consumes 350 megabytes per hour, according to the carrier. When Go90 becomes generally available, Verizon Wireless customers who use Go90 will receive an additional 2 GB of free data for three months, after which regular rates will apply.

Another way Verizon expects to drive up wireless-data usage with Go90 is that it’s a “social entertainment platform,” according to the company. The service will let users discover shows by following others with similar tastes, and will let them clip and share segments of a show.

Also worth noting: Verizon Wireless last week disclosed that it has dropped the $5-per-month fee for all customers to access live-streaming football games via NFL Mobile on smartphones.

Video will continue to be a key application fueling usage of future high-speed wireless networks. Next year, Verizon expects to start testing 5G technology, which is up to 50 times faster than 4G connections.

Content partners for Go90, as Verizon has previously announced, include Viacom — which has licensed shows for the service from Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and other networks — as well as Discovery Communications, ESPN, Scripps Networks Interactive, Vice Media and DreamWorks Animation’s AwesomenessTV.

Verizon has no plans to introduce a subscription-based version of Go90, a company rep said. The service is debuting as a mobile app, and eventually may be extended to other platforms like connected-TV devices, according to the company.

Go90 is being delivered using technology Verizon obtained through its 2014 acquisition of Intel’s OnCue division for about $200 million. However, whereas the original vision for OnCue was to provide an over-the-top subscription TV service, similar to Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Verizon shifted gears and decided to make Go90 a free, ad-supported mobile-centric service instead.

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