With a new, subtler breed of application-specific policy control systems, understanding the context behind what a consumer is doing can allow service providers to offer richer and more personalised data plans to those consumers.
With respect to creating sophisticated pricing packages that allow consumers to alter their data usage by using personal preferences, policy control holds an advantage for the near future where consumers can create customised services and applications.
One way could be to integrate Web actions into pricing plans. Consumers cannot conceive of the actual cost for them to access the Internet on their mobile device and send a message to a friend on Facebook. So instead of charging for something as abstract as data access, what if the Text-Savvy Package included 1,000 messages (SMS, Facebook and Twitter messages). Access would be provided only for the desired Web actions and wouldnt require a base data plan. The Movie Buff Package would be structured more like Netflix, per movie rather than per megabyte.
It is not about paying for something that was free before; it is about having a fixed price or bundle for a mobile-based action which, to many people, is as integral a part of the mobile experience as sending an SMS or making a voice call.
To roll out richer pricing plans which are more relevant to consumers lives, operators need to find a more dynamic, application-aware version of policy control with greater transparency so consumers can self-regulate. Without it, the tiered pricing model will be fraught with confusion and dissatisfaction.
Making the right decision
Although policy control tools are readily available for todays 3G networks, they are often a second thought for operators. Carriers who deploy their long-term evolution (LTE) networks are likely to see more sophisticated use of policy control. The right media optimisation solution can help power a more service-oriented policy management plan, opening up the door to the market demands for dynamic and targeted data plans. Furthermore, it can also provide capabilities to mobile network operators to predetermine automated actions to be taken as soon as the mobile network reaches certain thresholds. With this competitive advantage, operators can have better control over their cost and simultaneously provide congestion free and context aware optimisation for consumers with different value pricing models that suits their personal lifestyle.
Ken Denman is CEO, Openwave Systems.
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