It’s been an interesting few weeks in the world of net neutrality. Regulators and law courts in Europe and the US have been making rulings and giving guidance that offer a little more freedom to the operator community to get inventive with their customer offers. Stephen O’Loughlin, VP Product Management of Openet takes a look at the new landscape and outlines the new opportunities that are being opened up to operators:
Ten ways to avoid being stuck in neutral
Net neutrality is one of those issues that seems to divide opinion. The equal access for all argument is fine, but as long as access carries a price – some will always be able to buy more and buy better access. That service providers and content providers will also want to compete to attract the wealthiest audience is also understandable.
But it now seems that, treating issues on a case-by-case basis, certain customer incentive practices are becoming increasingly seen as acceptable. Here then are ten ways to get inventive with applications and services that don’t fall foul of net neutrality regulations.
Make some apps free to use: Zero rating data on some popular apps for pre-paid customers if they hit a minimum top-up level of, say, 20 Dollars or Euros, means operators can get inventive and follow hot trends. In Ireland, EIR were quick to jump on the Pokemon Go bandwagon and zero rate that app for example.
Add choice to the package: Providing a choice of zero-rated data bundles is a natural extension. It lets the customer choose what’s important – zero rating social media chit and posting; or zero rating selected music and video players.
Get real specific: Targeting a certain group – say sports fans? Then remove the high-cost of streaming live TV and roll-out specific services like TV Everywhere. This can be great route for operators to capture a bigger share of the household’s digital entertainment spend.
Let the music move you: In the Netherlands net neutrality rules said T-Mobile couldn’t zero-rate its music service; but a Dutch court said they could as European law allowed it. In Europe, therefore, the music is playing loud and clear.
It’s Happy Hour: Time-limited promotions, sometimes specific to a location, are a great way to spring engagement. Temporarily zero-rating your music player on the cell sites at large festival for example; or looking to grab the commuter audience with news or sports based video content.
Show me the money: In Brazil, one of the leading Banks worked with all the mobile operators to zero-rate data use of its app to encourage more mobile transactions. This enterprise-led initiative could be used by operators to encourage other organisations to adopt mobile commerce solutions.
Playing to win: In the US, Verizon has made big strides with its FreeBee perks approach. Businesses and app developers can offer free data as a reward for taking part in a promotion – such as playing a game or completing a survey. Promotions can also be tied to specific events or locations – see Happy Hour above.
The upgrade incentive: This starts to get nearer the edge of acceptability in some eyes, but making certain attractive services free to use on premium plans is allowed in Europe. Deutsche Telekom’s Stream On service, for example, bundles a host of popular music and video into its 3GB pay-monthly plan, but not into the 1GB plan. The difference: about €10 a month.
Mine’s the best: This runs right into the heart of the original net neutrality debate, and the argument is that no organisation should be able to pay for prioritization or ensure their service gets preferential treatment. But there are some QoS issues where a form of prioritisation is applicable and video is a prime example – if a customer wants to pay for and view in HD, then the network must serve that up even when others are watching in SD.
For the greater good: Getting the unconnected online and giving access to educational resources, healthcare and other internet services we take for granted is inherently good. In some cases, cost is a barrier to entry yet internet access can boost household income and living standards. Operators can work with Governments to drive take-up and zero-rate access to socially beneficial services.
So, there you have it: ten examples of approaches that are good for the operators, good for the consumers, good for the app developers and those businesses wanting to reach the consumers. What’s more, they are initiatives that shouldn’t incur the wrath of the regulators. And now that you are not stuck in neutral, it’s time to get moving and start innovating.