Unlimited mobile data is seeing a resurgence, with all major carriers in the USA offering some form of unlimited services. Looking at these next generation unlimited services reveals innovation lessons that are relevant to fixed broadband providers who are attempting to address exponential growth in bandwidth consumption.
The table below shows the service definition of the new 4G unlimited mobile data plans from three top-tier carriers. As you can see, unlimited does not mean unfettered access.
|Data Cap||22GB Phone10GB Mobile Hotspot||28GB Phone10GB Mobile Hotspot||22GB Phone10GB Mobile Hotspot|
|Enforcement Action||Phone||Users exceeding their data cap have lower priority during congested periods||Top 3% of users who have exceeded their data cap will be throttled to 3G speeds on congested networks||Users exceeding their data cap have lower priority during congested periods|
|Mobile Hotspot||Speeds revert to 3G after exceeding data cap for remainder of billing period||Speeds revert to 3G after exceeding data cap for remainder of billing period||Throttled to 128kbps out of bucket|
|Video Policy||Native format video||Native format video||Video streamed at 480P (default)|
|Zero Rating||FreeBee Data 360||Binge-on app offers zero rated video delivered at 480P||Sponsored Data (e.g. DirectTV)|
Why are mobile operators focusing on unlimited rather than tiered plans? There are many reasons for the shift, including competitive forces, lack of regulatory constraints, and evolving user needs. Generally speaking, customers are willing to pay a premium for cost certainty.
One of the key enablers to profitable unlimited services is network traffic management using policy control. Unlimited mobile data plans demand precise management of service delivery because of the finite amount of capacity available. This same dynamic is beginning to exist on fixed networks as more video is consumed at higher quality, leading to peak-period congestion that demands either new investment or active management. Tactics that fixed network operators can consider include:
It’s better to think of unlimited as “controlled and managed” rather than “unrestricted”. Next generation unlimited services on mobile networks are showing the need to bring traffic management and charging together in subscriber services to realize profitable and popular broadband service offerings.
Incognito Active Broadband enables fair unlimited broadband services with a service management system that enables usage metering, tiered services, and policy control without the need for network appliances or in-line servers. To learn more about how Active Broadband enables policy control for service innovation, visit activebroadband.incognito.com/what-we-enable/fair-use-services/