Mobile data deluge calls for customization

John Hayduk
28 May 2013

Even conservative estimates of mobile broadband growth paint a startling picture of the sheer volume of traffic mobile network operators can expect in the future. Data consumption rates are expected to grow by 40-50 times the current levels, driven by our increased reliance on tablets and smart mobile devices.

There is a wave of data headed our way and a risk that without some robust thinking, many mobile operators will simply drown under demand. Ernst & Young forecasts that mobile data traffic in Asia Pacific will grow at a CAGR of 84% in 2011-2016.

Whereas voice used to be the driving force for mobile, statistics now indicate that tablet and smartphone users are more likely to be using social networking, chat services and internet before voice services. Meanwhile, the GSMA says that mobile data will completely outstrip voice traffic by 2018.

That changes the dynamic between operator and end user dramatically. Thanks to the vast increase in data consumption, the economics of mobile data have changed - with the days of unlimited data plans coming to an end.

Where we might have simply bought a standard data plan before, we’ll be looking to customize our mobile data service in the future. The obvious analogy is the car industry – you can buy the basic model, but the chances are you’ll be tempted to invest further in the add-ons that will make a difference to you, whether that’s tinted windows or leather seats.

As end users change the ways they engage with mobile services, so too operators need to adapt to new business models – models that will enable them to value bill for the services that really matter. For example, business-class users might be prepared to pay a premium for guaranteed levels of roaming services or access while a casual consumer might be willing to accept best effort without incurring additional costs.

Similarly a sports fan might be willing to pay an additional sum to ensure that despite the density of demand during busy matches, he or she has access or priority access data (video re-plays, etc.). This level of complexity needs careful management.

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