Carving up the mobile data pie

It's time for the telcos to start diversifying their mobile data plans. American service providers are already offering family-based data plans so when will our operators join in?

With tablet and smartphone sales skyrocketing in Australia, so too is data consumption. According to recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the overall volume of data downloaded increased by 26 per cent since June 2011 to 345,518 Terabytes.

Based on ABS figures, the appetite for mobile broadband in Australia is ramping up, with 47 per cent of internet connections coming through mobile broadband. The ABS report also notes that household subscribers grew by 2.7 per cent to 8.9 million.

In the US, Verizon Wireless has just unveiled its “Share Everything” plan.  This is a great example of how family members or even a small business could share a common data quota among members, using up to 10 devices on the same plan. And just like how hungry kids might take more than their share of pie, heavy data users will be able to share from a common pool of data, using – and this is important — the mobile device of their choice.

There’s little doubt that shared plans such as these will have a substantial impact on the market.  Consumers and business users share an insatiable need to be connected using different devices, as evidenced by the tremendous uptake in smart devices, but don’t want to sign up for individual per-device data plans.

Amdocs’ global research indicates that shared plans are high on service providers’ list of planned services.  And there are many flavours of these plans being examined – single user/multiple devices, multiple users/multiple devices (i.e. family or enterprise), multiple network types (share a quota across 3G and LTE).  The list goes on.

Shared data plans also showcase the value of integrated policy and charging.  These dynamic capabilities are needed to ensure that data usage and balance on all devices in a shared plan can be metered in real-time.  This matters for several reasons:

  • To monitor status of individual usage vs. personal quota, as well as aggregate shared plan usage, and to alert customers in real time about their usage vs. plan, while managing that balance in real time.
  • To enable quota to be redirected among family or enterprise users during the billing period or to know when to request a top-up.
  • To ensure that the service provider knows (via policy mechanisms) which device is being used, which quota to draw against (individual and account level), and track this all in real time while multiple devices are attached to the network simultaneously.

Over time, we’re going to see shared plans evolve to become more targeted and personalised to individual users beyond simply sharing a common data volume. Flexibility will be the key.  The designated owner of the plan should be able to view data usage by family members as it happens, and make adjustments on the fly (for example. I’ll have 5 more gigabytes—or another piece of pie).

How about applying additional controls within a shared plan?  For example, parental controls could be possible so that a parent could restrict access to Facebook or YouTube during school hours.  Or give some members access to volume top-ups or speed boosts, but not others.  Or unmetered “happy hour” access to certain applications during specific times of day.

The key is that sharing the quota in a plan paves the way for more shared innovation using intelligent policy and charging capabilities that can be applied to individuals or devices within a shared plan.

Given the nation’s voracious appetite for data and consumers’ unflagging love for smart devices, we do anticipate seeing shared data plans such as Verizon’s rolled out by Australian service providers shortly.

Ann Hatchell is the Director, Data Experience Marketing at Amdocs

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