This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Next Gen Mobility magazine.
Data traffic flowing across mobile service provider networks is going through the roof. And as quickly as the service providers are implementing faster networks, mobile device manufacturers are introducing products with higher resolution screens and processing speeds that consume much higher data rates. In fact, these two dynamics will never completely balance each other; operators will always need more network bandwidth and throughput at more economical pricing with exceptional quality of service.
That is quite the tall order.
Just look at the specs for Apple’s (News - Alert) new iPad. Because it has a higher resolution display than current HDTVs, it could require more network bandwidth to stream video content. The VUDU Internet video streaming service recommends that a user’s Internet download access speed range between 4.5mbps to 9mbps to access video content in 1080p format. With the new iPad at 50 percent more resolution than 1080p, one can extrapolate that the bandwidth requirement to stream the iPad’s native resolution video would range from between 6.8mbps to 13.6mbps. So, even at 6.8mbps, a user would be fortunate to see the first 10 minutes of iPad native resolution video content with a 4 GB mobile data plan. Even at 1080p resolution, one would watch 15 minutes of video at the most. Not to be outdone, the first batch of 1080p display resolution smartphones is right around the corner, if not already available by the time you read this.
So how can service providers meet these new challenges and remain profitable with their existing data plan services? They have a choice to continue to offer unlimited plans where subscribers go well beyond usage expectations and overwhelm the network, or deal with subscribers who are dissatisfied about how fast they are running over their current data plan limits. If data service plans remain status quo, then subscribers who want to stream the best quality video content to their mobile devices may have to curb their videophile tendencies or go back to renting DVDs.
The ability for mobile service providers to offer personalized services is the future for mobile data plans.
Sure, there are a core set of common applications and websites that we use every day, but progressing into the future requires service providers to provide economical plans that cater to the usage patterns of their subscribers. This could include, for example, tiered charging for VoIP, video, and gaming. This would enable the service provider to cater to subscribers’ interests without breaking their fixed quota limits or getting a warning from the service provider when the unlimited plan usage becomes unbearable for the service provider’s network.
Another personalized service plan possibility, as “free” smartphones become ubiquitous, offer smartphones that are tied to a collection of zero-rated applications. This would essentially give the subscriber free access to an application portfolio with a particular device and associated data plan. Other variants of this plan could allow these applications to have free access during certain times of the day or limit an individual’s sessions per application.
Traditional data service plans have been tied to one mobile device; but again, service personalization can play a critical role in improving this service model. Many of us have gone from one to several mobile devices that we use daily, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. A more flexible model for data plan subscribers is for all of their devices to consume data from a single plan’s usage quota. This would take the burden off subscribers to manage multiple plan limits, while giving them more efficient plan usage right up to the quota without concern about balancing usage among all of their devices. Even unlimited plans can evolve to a service personalization model; the service provider could tailor offerings such that subscribers can choose the quality of service they wish to pay by selecting among tiered bandwidth service plans.
Over the next few articles in this column, we will look at service options like these that mobile service providers can implement in their networks today. I will review the technologies that service providers employ to help get to this next generation of personalized mobile services, allowing them to achieve mass market customization and incremental revenue streams with high service velocity. Not only will they be able to handle an increase in data flows, but they will benefit from the additional cash flow.Ken Osowski is director of solutions marketing at Procera Networks (News - Alert) (www.proceranetworks.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi