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Operators seeking to charge by content type

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Almost 90 per cent of operators now charge for data by volume, but billing by content is growing, with free access to social networking and partner sites becoming commonplace.

The figures come from Allot Mobile, providers of caching and content delivery for mobile operators around the world. The company reports annually using the accumulated data, and continues to show mobile data consumption shooting up (77 per cent up on last year); even the way that operators change for it is changing rapidly.

Around 89 per cent of operators now charge a premium for excessive data consumption, pushing users onto higher tariffs or billing for topped up data, and fewer than half of operators (49 per cent) still offer a "unlimited" tariff at all. But more interesting is the 32 per cent of operators who vary the price of data dependent on the application, generally offering unlimited access to specific social networking services – such as Three's free access to Facebook.

Operators love that kind of thing, as it provides market differentiation without getting into a price war. Even better than that, bundled application access makes price comparison more difficult than ever. It's also not social networkers who are overloading the mobile networks: 29 per cent of mobile traffic, globally, is peer-to-peer file sharing, generally thought to be done mainly by PAYG dongle downloaders seeking to avoid their residential address being identified. That traffic is only exceeded by video streaming (39 per cent, the vast majority of that being YouTube).

Operators see video traffic as potentially generating revenue at some point. They'll charge extra for guaranteed quality if they can't squeeze money out of Google to avoid the opposite, but heavy P2P users will increasingly see their mobile operators trying to find ways to get money out of them. ®

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