Flat rate: Can’t live, with or without it

Services and applications need to be launched in conjunction with LTE infrastructure, so the telecoms industry doesn’t experience the same problems it faced with the deployment of 3G – years of carrying voice applications eventually resulting in network issues when data finally took off.

The warning came from Ken Wirth, president LTE and 4G networks at Alcatel-Lucent, who was speaking at the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam on Wednesday. “We need one common set of infrastructure that drives one common set of services, and we need quality of service (QoS) across the entire network infrastructure, not just spectrum and the uplink and downlink, but across every element of the network, so we can drive new applications and voice over IP in an IMS powered way,” Wirth said.

Sitting on a panel session with Stephen Bye, vice president of wireless at US cable carrier Cox, Wirth said that there are many lessons the mobile operator community has learned from fixed broadband players and how those applications extend to wireless.

“We can’t live with or without flat rate tariffs,” Wirth said. “If you don’t give consumers flat rate they won’t use the services, but with it they abuse it.

“But we also have to get away from charging on a per bit basis, because consumers are unable to judge data consumption, and the problem is that flat rate tariffs are deployed everywhere. So what we need is a willingness to pay that maps to the infrastructure and operator assets.”

LTE is expected to dramatically reduce the cost per bit when compared to other technologies, as well as offering increased quality of experience. Over the top applications which are developed on the infrastructure but can’t be monetized at present need to be embraced by allowing developers to build on top of this infrastructure

To this end Alcatel-Lucent is driving new services ands applications via its ng Connect program, which consists of 35 partners in gaming, media, and devices among other areas, to develop proof of concept designs like the LTE connected car on display at the event.


  1. Avatar Adrian Gurr 20/05/2010 @ 8:49 am

    “consumers are unable to judge data consumption, and the problem is that flat rate tariffs are deployed everywhere. So what we need is a willingness to pay that maps to the infrastructure and operator assets.”

    Err – Don’t we just NEED AN APP FOR THAT?

    The main consumer users of data are open OS smart-phones, so you just need a widget that the network sets the per bit rate and charging period and sends it to the subscriber so a “gauge” sits on screen and tells the user how much data they’ve used this month.

    The fundamental issue for subscribers is awareness and cost control, they don’t like “bill shock”, so in a second phase you introduce a “cost/bit plan” and the widget shows the amount of data used and cost this month. It could potentially show the saving if they were to get under say 80% of their data allowance, or migrate to a cheaper data limited plan.

    So after they get to see how much data they typically use in a month, you can get the subscribers to migrate to data limited budget plans, or provide “discounts” (like an insurance no claims bonus) if they use less than say 80% of their plan monthly quantity. Alternatively if they go over you can either discount, or penalize depending on the network capacity and policies.

    In summary
    Subscribers need to have access to information (Widget), choices (plans), and ultimately cost control to set their own maximum comfortable spend & data usage.
    But I agree that the i-phone experience tells us that it’s providing the apps people want, is an easy to use format, that will drive the data take-up rate.

    • Avatar wand123 25/05/2010 @ 2:38 pm

      As a consumer being on flat rate I don’t care how much Mbits cost those nice pictures in the on-line articles. The “usage widgets” would make people aware how much bandwith they waste on downloading ads which they don’t need to see.

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