As the net neutrality debate rumbles on, operators get innovative

Written by on May 24, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments

By Sergey Nivens /

The net neutrality debate looks set to rumble on for months, if not years. The impact on operators will differ region by region. But operators cannot afford to sit still and do nothing until the shouting has died down. They need to offer attractive services to their customers, or make the conscious decision to be the most efficient network they can be, and become the dreaded ‘dumb pipe’.

The good news is that operators are taking advantage of the hiatus. In the US, the return of unlimited data has started a war that will quickly become a price war. The bad news, according to Chetan Sharma, the impact means that mobile data revenues are in the red for the first time in years.

Elsewhere though, operators are taking advantage of the situation and offering a variety of services that are very compelling. A new white paper from Openet lists many of these, but some of the more interesting include:

Ireland – where Eir is offering application passes to specific services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and more recently PokemonGo and YouTube. The offer is aimed at prepaid customers, and as long as they top up by €20 a month, they can have ‘more than they can eat’ of these services.

A variation of this kind of offering would be to provide bundles, such as a ‘social media’ bundle, ‘entertainment bundle’ or even perhaps a ‘personalised bundle’.

In the Netherlands, a strong proponent of net neutrality, T-Mobile won a case that allows them to offer data free music. They had to go over the head of the local government and appeal to the EU, which allows such services.

In Brazil, Banco Bradesco worked with the four main operators in the country to zero rate traffic to their app. This meant that customers know that the banking app does not take up their data allowance, and it means that use of the app is saving the bank millions by dramatically reducing the number of in-branch transactions.

In the US, Verizon launched FreeBee Data which allows companies to improve the performance of their own app by zero rating traffic to it. More recently, they introduced FreeBee perks, which allows service providers to reward customers (who, for instance, fill in a survey) with free data.

The opportunities of net neutrality and zero rated data are not the preserve of developed countries alone. Connecting the unconnected brings tangible benefits, and was the principle behind the beleaguered effort from Facebook.

As the Openet paper explains:

“When people living in emerging markets are connected to the internet, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day decreases by a third. Access to the internet also increases the annual income for someone in an emerging market by $450 to $630, the equivalent of a 29% increase in per capita income for someone in India”. According to GSMA Intelligence the main issue is not lack of coverage.

The net neutrality debate will rumble on, but the encouraging news is that operators can – and are – rolling out compelling services, that comply with the law and are keeping them competitive.

The paper is definitely worth the read, and you can download it here, for free, in return for a quick (one minute) registration

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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