Variable Pricing Coming to Mobile Broadband?

As people start taking advantage of always-on access to mobile broadband, and new fourth generation cellular networks are deployed, carriers are considering how to protect their data services revenue. They don’t want to make the mistakes made in the broadband wireless world that led to ISPs becoming dumb pipes. They also have to consider how to best use more constrained network resources.

Right now many “unlimited” mobile broadband plans have very real limits (about 5 GB per month in the U.S.). But faster networks encourage more devices (not just mobile phones) to hop on and try to stream videos, share files and generally use network resources, which means carriers need to think about out how to control data usage and keep their profit margins healthy.

Congestion pricing, under which carriers could charge more for different speeds or based on the time of day, appears to be one alternative. Bytemobile commissioned a study on congestion pricing that found that 60 percent of those in the mobile service industry think it’s likely carriers will adopt such a pricing model. Bytemobile sells telecommunications equipment that would enable such pricing, but others in the communications industry have offered congestion pricing as a possible way to manage the network and keep margins in line.