Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Andreessen-Backed Start-Up ItsOn Raises $15 Million to Help Make Mobile Service More Flexible

Just recently, major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T started allowing customers to share a pool of data among several devices. But that’s just the start of how flexible cellular options could be.

“Most people don’t use the majority of the service they purchase,” says ItsOn CEO Greg Raleigh. Imagine a world where one could buy a day of streaming video, or a week’s worth of Facebook.

ItsOn says its technology — which requires special software on a smartphone — can do that and more. However, ItsOn doesn’t plan to reveal exactly the kinds of service options it will power until it is ready to launch commercially with carriers next year.

ItsOn is announcing on Monday that it has raised a further $15.5 million from backers, including Andreessen Horowitz, Silver Lake AG Fund and SV Angel.

“We like the big challenges and this is definitely a big challenge and a big opportunity,” Andreessen Horowitz general partner Marc Andreessen told AllThingsD.

Andreessen notes that carriers have had to spend a fortune on capacity to meet growing data demand, but still don’t have all of the commercial options they need to profitably deliver that service without overcharging the average user.

“Today,” he said, “a large number [of customers] who don’t use much data are subsidizing a small number of people who use a ton of data.”

Technology such as ItsOn’s also opens up the ability for sponsors to pay for specific types of data use. A commerce company like eBay or Amazon might happily pay for high-speed access for those browsing the virtual shopping aisles. Indeed, eBay already does something similar for inflight Wi-Fi access on Virgin America. Meanwhile, a snack company might pay to sponsor a streaming sporting event.

Other options, Andreessen said, include being able to split work and personal data use, or allowing parents to reward a child who does his or her chores with extra Facebook time.

“ItsOn,” he said, “is the way all these problems, we think, get solved.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik