As the mobile device market continues to evolve, and as price points on new devices drop, making them more affordable, one clear need will be a plan for handling multi-device data plans, as a result of two trends: single owners having multiple devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and family environments becoming filled with multiple connected devices.
Even today, users are facing the prospect of severe bill shock, not truly understanding what they are paying for or what is consuming their data usage.
Extend that to multi-user plans and the potential for bill shock increases significantly. Imagine two kids streaming Netflix all afternoon without switching to WiFi (News - Alert) connections – that will quickly eat into monthly allotments.
This creates a strain on existing BSS/OSS systems, which are not designed to handle today’s complex networks, usage patterns, and corresponding billing plans.
The problem is that traditional data usage models don’t work with multi-user plans. It’s quite simple, actually: currently, your device measures the amount of data it receives from and sends to the network. That practice, fundamentally, will not work when multiple devices are pulling from the same data limits.
As Stephen Rickaby, GM of the Americas region for DigitalRoute noted when I spoke with him at Management World Americas, accurate reporting of data usage in multi-device plans requires access to back office systems in order to accurately get measurements of want the collective user group has experienced during the billing cycle.
What DigitalRoute proposes is a unified usage management solution that addresses more than traditional billing and usage models, adapting BSS/OSS systems to today’s environments. It’s an intricate combination of understanding which device or user is creating traffic flows, as well as understanding of the type of traffic to enable flow-based charging.
Finally – and what really becomes the key in multi-user or multi-device models – is the ability to not only aggregate the data from each device, but to deliver relevant messaging and offers in a timely manner.
“It’s about being able to manage the usage as it pertains to all the different devices and price plans,” says Rickaby. “Providers would like to offer shared data plans, but they aren’t in a position to be able to do it yet – the issue remains the management of the shared volume data.”
Once that issue is resolved, a number of new usage models can be implemented and integrated into back office charging and billing systems, including family and corporate shared usage plans, cross-network and multi-service plans, and multi-device plans.
There is no question the days of unlimited usage are over – the only question now is how can operators manage the data to accurately bill their subscribers, and how can they build creative and flexible usage plans that entice subscribers to spend more.
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow Erik on Twitter (News - Alert) @elinask.
Edited by Jennifer Russell