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Bridgewater Joins Rush to Apps Store

SINGAPORE -- CommunicAsia 2009 -- Policy management specialist Bridgewater has joined the apps store revolution by developing downloadable data usage tools for iPhone and BlackBerry users, the company announced here today. (See Bridgewater Adds iPhone Policy App.)

Bridgewater is one of a number of companies that have developed network-based policy control platforms that enable service providers to set rules around their subscribers' data usage: Such systems include the bandwidth control capabilities that have proven controversial. (See Probing Net Privacy and Policy Rules?)

Now, though, Bridgewater has extended its policy software to develop modules, dubbed "myPolicy" applications, designed to be branded by mobile service providers, placed in the BlackBerry and iPhone apps stores, and downloaded by individual users who want to track, manage, and cap their data service usage by setting their own alarms, limits, and cut-off points.

Setting limits, which can be based on data volumes or the value of services used, helps mobile data users avoid large unexpected bills -- or "bill shock," as it's become known -- especially if they are roaming or are even unaware they may be repeatedly using an expensive application.

And while a number of firms, including Openet Telecom Ltd. and Roamware Inc. , have tackled the issue of bill shock with systems that are deployed in service provider networks, Bridgewater claims to be the first company to allow individual users to set and manage their own thresholds on their devices, and take full control and responsibility. (See Bridgewater Touts Smart Caps and Openet Wins Mobilkom Deal.)

The myPolicy applications can also be used by enterprises to monitor and limit data usage per employee, and are set to be extended to further smartphone operating systems, including Android, Symbian, and Windows CE, says Bridgewater senior vice president David Sharpley. The apps allow users to set alerts (text message, email, or pop-up window) when certain limits are reached, and can even block individual services if a limit is hit. Users can also check their up-to-date data service use at any time on their handsets.

Demo applications will soon be available to download from the vendor's Website and the RIM app world, says Sharpley. Commercial applications that can be used in anger by users -- that is, to track their actual use -- will only be available once Bridgewater has a signed deal with a service provider. Sharpley says that, while there are no signed deals yet, Bridgewater is "engaged with a number of operators," and he's confident he'll be announcing some operator deployments before the end of the year.

The greatest opportunities are in Europe and Asia/Pacific, notes Sharpley -- hence the launch here at CommunicAsia. "The timing and location were right," says the marketing executive.

Sharpley has every reason to be confident, believes Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie, who believes Bridgewater is "knocking on an open door, as mobile operators are keen on deploying policy control capabilities."

He adds: "It's an interesting idea, and a nice reworking of Bridgewater's basic proposition, with a focus on individuals and devices -- they've done a good job in allowing users to take control. A lot of the success of this will come down to how easy it is to use."

Finnie points out, though, that the voluntary nature of the myPolicy application -- the mobile phone customer has to want to use it -- means it couldn't be used to meet regulatory requirements, in cases where a national or regional telecom regulator forces operators to tackle the problem of bill shock.

In Europe, for example, the European Commission has proposed new regulations that could come into effect early in 2010 that would make it obligatory for all mobile users in the European Union to have a set data roaming limit, with that limit either imposed or voluntary.

Bridgewater, though, has already developed a product called "Smart Caps" that allows operators to impose data roaming limits on customers who are using services outside their home countries.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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