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4G World: Shared mobile data plans on the rise -- if networks allow


As mobile operators continue to move away from unlimited (with Sprint the latest, CP: Sprint ends unlimited plans for mobile dongles and hotspots, smartphones beware), they need both good ideas and the systems to implement them, according to a new survey from Infonetics.

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The research, done on behalf of vendor Tekelec, found that shared data plans – in which pools of data usage are shared across multiple mobile devices – will grow an average of 89% from 2011 to 2015. Almost 187 million phones, USB cards and tablets will be on such plans this year.

The predicted move is important for a number of reasons. Mobile operators are rapidly moving away from unlimited plans as mobile data usage with no caps is limiting their ability to maintain their margins, even as data services explode. At the same time, as customers start to want to consume video and other high-bandwidth content such devices and networks enable, they are going to need plans that don’t cap out early or cost a fortune in overages.

Shared bundles, time-of-day plans, application-based rules and other more sophisticated pricing schemes are needed to both satisfy that customer demand and help rein in operator costs. “We believe shared data plans will become an integral weapon in the operator arsenal of packages designed to attract new subscribers and reduce churn, said Infonetics analyst Richard Webb, in a statement announcing the results.

What’s Tekelec’s interest in such matters? Known historically for its SS7 and TDM monitoring gear, Tekelec is neck-deep in next-generation policy, subscriber data management and IP signaling/routing via acquisition and internal product development. Demonstrating that carriers will need more network smarts to drive their 4G service and pricing strategies can only propel those new product directions.

Infonetics and Tekelec have also sponsored a white paper on this topic: All in the Family: How Shared Data Plans are Driving New Requirements.


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