There is plenty of ongoing discussion in the wireless industry about whether or not carriers will be able to provide the bandwidth necessary to meet the rapidly growing demands of mobile users for access to vast quantities of wireless data. Most operators - including the giant tier one players - are struggling to ensure that the need is met. Meanwhile, just the other day Mobile Future pointed out its own concerns that the spectrum necessary for building out sufficient wireless data capacity is not being freed up at a rapid enough pace to meet demand.
Though we are not nearly as pessimistic as Mobile Future that the needed wireless data bandwidth will materialize over time, we cannot ignore that currently demand is beginning to outstrip availability. Supply and demand of course suggests that wireless data may simply become more expensive in the foreseeable future, but it isn't in the best interests of either the operators or our rapidly expanding mobile social world for wireless data to become more expensive.
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Rather, the wireless carriers need to offer effective ways to both manage mobile user wireless data activity while at the same time keeping those users satisfied. It is a daunting challenge that requires long term expansion of available spectrum and bandwidth, but there are ways to accomplish these objectives in the short term. One way to solve this challenge is to make sure of real-time 3G and 4G data metering.
Effective data metering allows wireless carriers and providers to accurately manage data usage on their networks. In addition to being able to monitor wireless data usage, alerts can be sent to subscribers based on reaching certain usage thresholds, and it can also offer subscribers a utility to monitor their own data usage activity on their mobile devices. A good example of a vendor that offers such a tool is Telespree, a company focused on managing cloud-based wireless data services for carriers, retailers, MVNOs, and other wholesale providers.
"The increase in mobile broadband usage makes it critical that we provide real-time, always-on information to consumers about their data use to drive the best possible experience regardless of device," notes Dennis Henderson, CEO and co-founder of Ready Wireless. "As we offer customers more control over their service, real-time 3G and 4G data metering will play a critical role in helping us further differentiate our brand, provide additional revenue streams and better manage network costs."
Telespree offers an Active Session Monitoring solution to authorize and control access to 3G and 4G data services in real time across a wide range of mobile devices, including smartphones, mobile hotspots, tablets and USBs. Active Session Monitoring meters mobile data services, tracks time and data usage activity, and – if or when needed – cuts off and redirects data sessions in real time to a self-service portal for consumers to purchase additional sessions or receive new offers. A key to keeping consumers happy is to prevent unanticipated wireless data charges. Left unchecked, such charges can balloon significantly, putting both the consumer and the wireless carrier at odds with each other.
T-Mobile and Sprint currently not withstanding (as they are looking to differentiate through making unlimited data access plans available), most wireless carriers are moving away from unlimited data plans. Tiered plans - along with newly introduced shared family plans for wireless data access - set hard limits on data access and set potentially high costs against going over plan limits.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - which to a large degree is one of the entities that is responsible for allocating spectrum for wireless use - has mandated that consumers need timely access to their current data usage. These alerts and monitoring capabilities are slowly falling into place, and Telespree is a key vendor helping to meet this need through its real-time tracking and display of 3G and 4G data usage.
"Consumers want information about their data service in real time, which requires that service providers manage the customer experience in real time or risk losing revenue and market share," according to Ellen Schwab, Telespree's chief executive officer. "With the rise of new broadband services such as location, video, social networking and commerce, Telespree enables service providers to launch new offerings to their subscribers that fit their needs while helping subscribers avoid possible bill shock associated with increased data usage."
The bottom line is that both the wireless data provider and the mobile users that consume that wireless data must become vigilant about wireless data usage, especially in the short term, as the wireless industry looks to ramp up not only spectrum availability but also next generation technology such as LTE. Controlling costs is key to ensuring that the wireless data market continues to thrive.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman