Operators are increasingly engaging in value-based service plans, in which they assess charges based on the perceived value of a service rather than on time, volume or speed, according to mobile service optimization company Allot Communications. The company's most recent quarterly report on mobile charging reveals that some 46 percent of operators sampled offer value-based packages based upon elements such as multiple devices, applications, parental controls or time-shifting.
According to Allot's MobileTrends Charging Report for the second quarter of 2012, the percentage of operators offering a multiple-device plan is 29 percent. Such plans have generated mixed reactions. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) recently prompted a firestorm of comments, both positive and negative, with the announcement of its Share Everything data plans, which begins on June 28. Other operators, including AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), have already indicated their interest in following suit with similar offers.
Allot's study covers more than 100 mobile operators worldwide with conclusions based on data collected from publicly available sources. More than a quarter of operators sampled for the report offer application-based tiers, in which customers are given a choice between different levels of access to applications, such as unlimited use of social media apps or VoIP minutes. In addition, the company said 24 percent of operators studied provide a parental control option, while 10 percent market a time shifting option, such as free data service during certain off-peak hours.
Source: Q2 2012 Allot MobileTrends Charging Report
Allot's study found that the percentage of operators marketing value-based plans was identical across 3G and LTE networks. According to Monica Paolini, president of Senza Fili Consulting, "We will see even more pricing choice offered to LTE subscribers over time, as subscribers increasingly expect their broadband plan to reflect their preferences with regards to content, usage and services that are valuable to them and give them the flexibility to make the choices that work best for them."
In addition, revenue-sharing collaboration between operators and over-the-top (OTT) providers is on the rise, said Allot. The company noted 33 percent of operators sampled market some type of cloud-based services in partnership with companies such as over-the-top music providers Rhapsody, Spotify and Deezer.
Operators are even starting to recoup losses on services that were previously not billable. Allot said 32 percent of operators sampled offer paid Wi-Fi access, turning Wi-Fi into a new revenue source rather than just a traffic offload mechanism. "The challenge for operators is to incorporate offloaded traffic into their existing policy control and charging architecture," said the company.
The number of sampled operators charging for tethering almost doubled over the past nine months from 15 percent to 29 percent, "marking a rise in operator efforts to closely monitor and monetize the interminable surge in data consumption," said Allot. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) recently began tracking usage of its mobile hotspot and tethering services, allowing the operator to enforce an existing 5 GB cap on those services for the first time and frustrating some users who thought they had signed up for unlimited hotspot or tethering service.
Allot said there is an ongoing shift away from penalizing policies such as speed throttling toward customer-centric policies that give users more choice and control over their data usage. Only 33 percent of operators in the company's most recent study throttle data overages. In its November 2011 report, Allot found that 48 percent of operators throttled data in unlimited plans.
- see this Allot release
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