Shared data is a success story for savvy mobile operators. In today’s multidevice ownership market having a pool of data that different customers, with many mobile devices, can share is proving a win-win for operators and customers. In order to work correctly and deliver the desired results there are some basic building blocks that shared data plans need to be incorporated into the Telco OSS/BSS .
These technical foundations include Real-Time Usage Tracking and Balance Management ; Shared Allowance Profile Management; On Device Plan Self Management ; Adding parental Controls and Offer Management via a catalogue. As most of us already know that the central importance of real-time capabilities in OSS/BSS permeates all aspects of operational, network and business management. Since many new services demand real-time support, operators must either transition to real-time OSS/BSS capabilities or forego these revenues. According to Current Analysis Operators will be “using virtualization to drive innovative service creation, especially the creation of services and apps that require time to market intervals of only days, even hours.
There is a wide range of applications of shared data. These include multidevice plans, family plans, group plans and business plans. There are two foundations of success for shared plans. First is giving the customer control in setting the plan and second is real-time balance management. With many different users and devices using the same data pool, it’s vital that balances are managed in real-time, and that customers are fully in control of their usage and have real-time visibility of their charges. A look at the Q2 2014 results of some of the main innovators of shared data underlines the benefits that operators are realizing.
AT&T’s Mobile Share shared data plans, now represent more than 41 million connections, with the number of Mobile Share accounts more than tripling year-over-year to reach 14.6 million, with an average of about three devices per account. 49% of Mobile Share accounts had 10 GB or larger data plans, up from 25% in Q2 2013. Mobile Share has helped drive year on year increase of 20% in wireless data billings. Year on year Verizon has increased revenue per account by 4.7% and growing the percentage of accounts on More Everything plans from 36% to 50%.AT&T’s plans cover up to 10 devices per Mobile Share Plan and range from 300MB to 50GB of data to share. Plans included unlimited voice and SMS, and AT&T also offers 50GB of free cloud storage with AT&T Locker, which is marketed as a secure and safe place for customers to store their photos. When it comes to devices to add as well as smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and so on.
Operators want customers to use tablets on their networks. Tablets are driving subscriber growth and operators are rolling out innovative offers to get customers buying and using cellular enabled tablets. As an example of contributions tablets can make to an operator’s results, of the 1.4M retail net customers Verizon added in Q2 2014, 304,000 were postpaid phone net additions and the remaining 1.15 million were postpaid tablet subscribers. Mobility is a key driver for mobile data connectivity on tablets. This is particularly the case in emerging markets, where a higher proportion of tablet users than in more-mature economies report using their devices outside the home and on the move.
While the global tablet market is stabilising (IDC forecast 2014 worldwide tablet shipments of 233.1M units: a 6.5% year on year growth rate, after several years of double and treble digit growth), the number of cellular enabled tablets is on the rise. In Asia-Pacific, according to IDC, 25% of total tablet units shipped in the region have built-in option of voice calling over cellular networks (a 60% year on year growth). Shipments of tablet PCs to South Africa increased 107.1% year on year in the final quarter of 2013 to total 513,000 units .
In August 2014 T-Mobile also launched a tablet promotion for its customers on their Simple Choice plan. T-Mobile are matching the amount of data of a customer’s smartphone to their tablet for $10 a month (up to a limit of 5GB). This level of pricing shows how eager operators are to get customers using tablets on their networks. T-Mobile’s messaging pushes ‘ no overage charges’ (they throttle speeds) in a drive to increase cellular tablet usage.Consumers increasingly watch TV and video on tablets. This will not be lost on operators who are looking to offer entertainment services—such as LTE broadcast and roll out TV / video partnerships. Getting tablet subscribers on board now may help ease the launch of these services as operators look to offer entertainment bundles to existing tablet subscribers.
One of the pioneers of shared data plans, Bell offers ‘Family Shareable’ and ‘Personal Shareable’ options. Customers can connect up to 10 devices or family members to the share plan, and also offer Mobile TV as a plan add on. The Mobile TV add on enables customers to watch over 30 live and 14 on demand TV channels for $5/ month per device for 10 hours. Bell’s $50 and $60 share plan includes the Mobile TV add-on free for 3 months.
Telstra Australia launched their “shared” data plans for consumer plans in 2013. The plans are pretty simple once you get your head around it. Basically, it’s available as a bolt-on option with Telstra’s Every Day Connect consumer-level plans. It’s not included for free, however: you’ll be paying for the privilege. Every Day Connect plans come with one SIM card by default, but you can have up to three SIM cards connected to the one plan for data sharing with your SIM-enabled tablet. For example, say you have a phone with Telstra and an additional SIM-enabled tablet. The $60 Every Day Connect Plan gets you $600 of calls, unlimited text and MMS plus 1GB of data. To activate data sharing, you’ll pay $10 for the Every Day Connect Data Share Plan, then an additional $10 for the additional SIM card for a final cost of $80 per month.
Sprint’s Family Share Pack allows customers to connect up to ten devices or family members to a shared data bundle. Data bundles start at 600 MB and run all the way to 60 GB along with free unlimited voice and text. As well as their smartphones, customers have the option of connecting tablets ($10) and other mobile broadband devices ($20) to the plan. Where this offer is particularly interesting is in relation to new customer retention, Sprint will pay termination charges of up to $350 for customers porting over to this plan from another operator and also waive any access fees. This new plans has a limited running time, finishing at the start of 2016, which suggests Sprint are looking to entice new customers to sign up as well as make their current customer base “stickier”.
In the UK, Vodafone is offering their own shared plan called “Red+”. The plan aims to allow up to nine separate SIMs to connect to one “group leader plan”. The group leader signs up to a data plan with an allowance of either 2GB, 4GB, 7GB, 10GB or 13GB and then defines how much of this allowance each member should receive. The plan is aimed primarily at families where the group leader would be one of the parents. Red+ plans allow the leader to both cap or expand the usage of each member, which is perfect for a parent whose teenager is a “data hog”, and also offers free calls and texts to all members within the group. The really interesting part of this offer though is the fact that not only are there data notification alerts at 80 and 100%, but also you can’t go over your allowance, unless you add extra data, meaning the subscriber is always in control.
UK 4G operator EE promotes flexibility in their 4GEE share plans, by enabling customers to add people to their plans at any time they want. The message is that if a friend (potential share plan member) is in the middle of a contract (presumably with a competitor) then the customer can add them when that contract finishes. This is a good example of using share plans to attract new customers. Starting at 250MB for $15 going up to 100GB for $750 Verizon’s More Everything data share plan also provides unlimited talk and text offers. It also is offering a range of add-ons as standard – e.g. the plans come with 25 GB cloud storage and American Football (NFL) app offering NFL content and live games, an educational tools app, as well as the ability for customers to use their smartphones as a personal hotspot to get wi-fi enabled devices online.
There is no doubt that in the face of declining revenue from voice and messaging services, operators look for ways to monetise on data services and for pricing models that encourage customers to stay with their provider. Offering customers the option to sign up several devices with one subscription is not only attracting subscribers to sign up more devices (for example, by acquiring a connected tablet rather than a Wi-Fi only tablet), but also provides customers with an incentive to stay with one provider, if a single subscription provides cost savings, better matches their data consumption behaviour and facilitates the billing process.
Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )