The three pillars of shared data plans

Randy Fuller
23 Nov 2011

In September, StarHub became the first operator in Singapore to offer a post-paid plan that allows subscribers to share data, minutes and SMS messages with other users. While shared voice and SMS message have been common for many years, the introduction of shared data is a much newer – and rapidly growing – development.

A Tekelec-sponsored study by Infonetics Research shows that devices sold globally on shared data plans will grow at an average of 89% per year, reaching nearly 187 million in 2015. Analysts linked the most rapid adoption with countries where there is advanced 3G competition, including Japan and South Korea. Singapore also qualifies, of course, with more than 60% of StarHub’s subscribers using smartphones and tablets.

Infonetics identified two forms of shared data plans. One allows a mobile broadband subscriber to apply a volume of data to more than one device, such as a smartphone and tablet. The consumer eliminates separate plans per device, consolidating data into one bucket. The only additional cost is a minimal monthly fee to provision multiple devices to one user.

The other involves multiple users and devices. A family or small business receives a pool of data to share across any number of devices – smartphones, tablets, USB dongles, etc. – allowing individuals to select their preferred devices and making adoption of multiple devices more desirable.

However, a third option involves a combination of the two. Such plans will increase the proportion of mobile broadband devices sold on shared data plans to all such devices from just over 2% in 2011 to more than 15% in 2015. Smartphones, tablets and USB cards will comprise 89% of the shared data devices in 2015.

This growth shows exciting opportunities for new tariff plans and service innovation, but operators lack the full range of network equipment to support it. To scale shared data plans across nationwide networks and a range of 3G and LTE devices – with granular controls such as Wi-Fi offload for video and parental controls – service providers need three key foundational elements.

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