AT&T today announced a new program that will allow businesses to subsidize data for end users consuming select content. 

The new 'Sponsored Data' program is specifically available to customers on HSPA+ and LTE devices.

In a press release, the carrier describes the initiative as "similar to 1-800 phone numbers or free shipping for internet commerce." With the new service, data charges resulting from eligible uses will be billed directly to the sponsoring company. Customers will see the service offered as AT&T Sponsored Data, and the usage will appear on their monthly invoice as Sponsored Data.  

AT&T said Sponsored Data will be delivered at the same speed and performance as any non-Sponsored Data content.

The idea of ad-supported data has been talked about for a long time but carriers in the United States have struggled to figure out a way to implement and manage such a program. 

Under AT&T's program, companies can select which kinds of content they'd like to sponsor, such as video, music, web pages, pictures or files and enable them to be accessed under sponsorship. Data charges are then billed directly to the sponsoring company. 

The program is available to post-paid and session-based customers who have an active AT&T data plan, an HSPA+ and LTE capable device, which includes smartphones, tablets, laptop modems, and mobile hotspots.