Verizon patent would allow auction of unused bandwidth

Based on a patent filing made public last week, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) may be working on what it calls "dynamic auctioning of unused network capacity." The technology would allow service providers to sell unused capacity to subscribers for a pre-determined amount of time.

"Systems and methods described herein enable wireless service providers to identify, offer, and monetize unused network capacity that would otherwise be wasted," the filing says.

The patent describes the auction system as a means of allowing customers to "dynamically" change quality of service (QoS) levels for a short time, perhaps even through a "self-service portal," or user-controlled interface.

"For example, a subscriber enrolled in a very low cost service, may for a brief episode, such as an important video conference call of one hour, require a higher QoS level," the filing explained.

According to the filing, through the user portal, network customers could see a variety of unused capacity options on their devices. The amount of data for each option would be offered in a "costing matrix," which the filing said would price individual data segments for the end-to-end path. Following a customer's data segment selection, the device would send information to the network, automatically altering "the network infrastructure to support the selected service plan option."

The patent includes a variety of potential means of communicating the selected service plan to the network based on packet information and application data flow (ADF), which it sorted using QoS parameters.

"For example, at the network layer, adjusting Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) markings may be used to control packet flow," the filing said. "In another example, at the data link layer altering 802.pq priority markings may be used to adjust packet flow. Additionally, in the Radio Access Network (RAN), QoS class identifiers (QCIs) may be adjusted to control packet flow."

Verizon, and most other technology companies, generally declines to comment on specific patent filings. Wireless carriers -- and technology companies in general -- routinely file a wide range of patents on technologies that never see the light of day. Thus, patent filings like Verizon's offer only a glimpse into the work conducted by technology companies and are not necessarily an indication of actual products or strategy.

For more:
- see the filing here

Related articles:
Verizon files patent for ultrasonic frequency-based messaging
T-Mobile patent points to efforts to improve video call quality
Analysts: Verizon could run out of network capacity in 2-3 years

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