Three Tips For Forming Your Over-the-top Billing Strategy

Over-the-top services are popular with subscribers but a hassle for operators. After thinking about and discussing this topic over the past few months, it’s clear that there is no silver bullet. What may work in one market may not be the right solution in another market. For example, simply telling customers that you are planning to charge more when they surpass a predetermined threshold can cause a lot of controversy in certain regions. Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos even went as far as calling it a “human rights violation,” describing the broadband caps implemented by ISPs in Canada. Before you jump on the bandwagon and mirror other providers’ billing policies, you should do your homework about your own environment. Here are three tips that will guide you in the research process:

1. Gather meaningful data

Data can be powerful, but only if you gather the right type of information. Knowing that your network carried 4 trillion packets today is cool but more or less meaningless. Collecting network usage data is the first step in dealing with the OTT challenge. Useful information comes from knowing the four Ws: who consumed the data, what type of data it was, when it was consumed, and where it was used. When combined, these aspects help you gain a full understanding of your network traffic but they are far less useful when separated.

2. Analyze the data for usage patterns

Once your network traffic data has been collected, it’s important to plot the data to look for consumption patterns and anomalies. Plotting the data will allow you to establish top-talkers and understand when, where, and what is causing traffic congestion. This is especially crucial if your service-level agreement is ever broken. Remember not to make any knee-jerk reactions because of a single spike. Network data should be plotted over several months in order to identify any real trends in subscriber behavior.

3. Model and test billing policies

Now it’s time to figure out what policy will fit best with your network and subscribers. Modeling different policies will help you pinpoint what type of action to take and how many customers it will affect. Here’s a scenario to illustrate just some of the things you may need to consider:

John Doe pays for 50Mbits service, but is using 100GB every week. Since John is such a heavy consumer, throttling him down might help network congestion. Should you simply quiet him and the other top-talkers during peak hours? What if the top-talkers have nothing to do with network congestion? What if the larger group of regular subscribers is the root cause of congestion? Then you may want to consider a more customer-wide excess chargeback.

Armed with the right data and the right analysis, you can come up with the right policies that will guarantee your desired revenue. Modeling will also let you gauge the response from your subscriber community.

Whatever your plan is to deal with OTT, remember to keep your customers happy.