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Mobile Ops Make Policy More Popular, Less Punitive

Mobile network operators are eagerly embracing policy management, but they say they are going to use it in more positive and less punitive ways, according to new research released today by U.K.-based analyst firm Telesperience . Within the next two years, virtually all mobile operators will be using policy management tools, up from about half that are using those tools today.

The survey was conducted on behalf of Volubill , maker of policy management and charging technology, and was released today as the company also launched its new Volubill Edge Offload product, which pushes policy controls to the edge of the network to allow traffic to be shaped and offloaded before clogging up backhaul bandwidth. The research, conducted during February and March 2011, focused solely on wireless and mobile operators, with the majority of the 30 operators surveyed from North American and European markets. (See Volubill Pushes Policy to the Edge.)

According to the survey results, only 20 percent use offload technology today, but almost three-fourths plan to adopt it within the next 18 months.

Mobile operators started using policy management in ways that were more focused on network optimization, which led to policies such as data caps that tended to tick customers off, says Teresa Cottam, Telesperience analyst. Now they are becoming more sophisticated and customer-focused in their use of policy management.

"What is happening now is that it's not just the network engineers involved -- the business, finance and marketing people are getting involved," Cottam says. "They are seeing that they can use policy management to make offers, and delight the customers rather than making them angry."

By combining policy with real-time charging, mobile operators also enable differentiated services that can create new revenue streams, Cottam says. For example, mobile marketing folks may want to target gamers and offer them a specific quality of service for which they may be willing to pay more.

The alternative -- throttling back specific traffic to address congestion -- is what got Canadian carrier Rogers Wireless Communications Inc. (NYSE: RCN; Toronto: RCM) in trouble, when angry consumers went to regulators with complaints that proved accurate, and generated significant bad press for Rogers, Cottom recalls.

In general, restraining communications in any way to address the mobile bandwidth issues misses a revenue opportunity, she adds, and the research shows mobile operators are getting this message.

Other findings of the Volubill-funded survey:

  • Sixty percent of mobile operators are using policy management to handle a capacity gap while they build out more infrastructure

  • Usage-based pricing is most often used for traffic-shaping, with 43 percent doing it today and 10 percent more planning to.

  • By contrast, only 7 percent of operators use differentiated QoS plans today, but 53 percent are "actively investigating" those options. They are mostly looking at prioritizing by service type (37 percent) or by user type (23 percent).

  • One-third of those surveyed use WiFi offload today, and 30 percent more are looking at this option. Another 30 percent are using femtocells for offload and 27 percent said they are looking at this option.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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