At the Mobile Broadband World conference in London today, we heard from a number of operators that are actively considering launching service plans based on QoS as a differential. QoS, according to at least one speaker, would offer the next generation of choice for users.
To date, we have primarily considered two dimensions on which broadband plans can be differentiated (beyond a simple yardstick, such as price) – speed and the mode of access. The addition of quality as a third dimension opens up the possibility for new models and new revenue streams, potentially heralding a new generation of associated services.
First, quality can be paid for directly by the end user – perhaps dynamically to increase download speed or to guarantee quality for a video session. Secondly, quality can be paid for indirectly by the end user, as in cases where the service provider delivers an enhanced package but pays the network operator for the additional quality levels, the differential being transparent to the paying consumer.
At least one of the operators present is taking the first steps towards such a model, distinguishing between different traffic classes, such as “conversational” “streaming” “interactive” “background” in plans that are offered to paying customers.
This is a key step forward. Cementing the concept of quality as a service within price plans and business models is a necessary step to the goal of capturing more value from consumers and delivering the kind of intelligent services operators will need to protect and grow revenue and margin.
Of course, these are early days and these ideas are bound to evolve. But, incorporating QoS into pricing plans is a clear recognition that operators can add value to subscriber sessions in ways that are uniquely within their control. This is an opportunity to claim more value – both to downstream customers and to upstream service providers.