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Mobile operators handed content billing blueprint

YouTube at 50 cents a month, Skype for €3

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An allegedly leaked presentation from Allot Communications suggests that mobile customers might end up paying €3 a month for Skype, and 2 cents per MB for Facebook.

The leaked presentation isn't an operator plan, despite how DailyTech describes it - it's just what infrastructure providers Allot and Openet think would be appropriate. But as both companies supply billing and management systems to significant operators, it's worth taking a moment to see how they envision the future.

The unlimited, or fair-use-capped, data tariff fades in favour of tariffs based on the services and when they are used, with payment for data being bundled in the price of devices and applications as well as tariffs. So using Facebook costs 2 cents a MB, while the operator's own content is free and evening and weekend data is charged at a lower rate.

Data billing laid out

The presentation (pdf) goes on to suggest that devices might be sold with unlimited data, but limited functionality, and that applications could come with a quantity of data bundled with them.

None of this is new - Orange already provides discounted data in the evenings for users of Samsung's Galaxy Tab, while Amazon bundles unlimited data (for downloading books) with its Kindle e-book reader. Three already provides application-specific bandwidth in the form of free access to Facebook (over 0.facebook.com), and few operators count browsing of their own pages towards the fair-use cap already imposed.

In fact the only thing missing is the ability to pay for bandwidth when buying an application, which is logistically difficult given the number of players involved, but will surely come.

The other thing that is missing today, critically, is much in the way of transparency and fairness. The majority of mobile data users just want occasional Facebook access and are currently subsidising those few who do hit their data caps on a monthly basis, not to mention that all data users are still being subsidised by those who pay for voice calls by the minute - who contribute more than 70 per cent of operator revenue, despite accounting for less than five per cent of the traffic on a network such as Three's.

That situation is obviously unsustainable: we're going to have to pay more for our data, the only question is how we go about doing so. ®

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