One of the features being investigated and added is the Sponsored Data Connectivity feature in the Evolved Packet System. This feature has lots of backers as this is deemed to be a new source of revenue for the operators.
In Release-10 one of the items for this is titled 'Policy Enhancements for Sponsored Connectivity and Coherent Access to Policy related Databases (PEST)'
The justification for PEST is as follows:
With the emerging of innovative IP services, the transactional data usage is becoming more and more prevalent on the mobile. For example, the user downloads a purchased ebook from an online store; the user purchases and downloads a game from an operator store; the user views free trailer clip from an online library to determine whether to buy the entire movie or not. In many cases, the Sponsor (e.g., Application service provider) pays for the user’s data usage in order to allow the user to access the Application Service Provider’s services. This enables additional revenue opportunities for both the Application service providers and the operators.
In particular, such dynamic data usage provided by the Sponsor allows the operator to increase revenues from the users with limited data plans. The user may have limited data plans allowing only a nominal data volume per month and the Sponsor may dynamically sponsor additional volume for the user to allow access to the services offered by the Application service providers.
The PCC framework can be enhanced to enable such use cases, in particular, it allows the operator to provide service control based on such sponsored services. For example, it allows a dynamic IP flow to be excluded from the user’s data plan since a Sponsor might sponsor the data usage for the identified IP flows. For example, the user may use the limited data plan to browse an online store for interested books; but once a book is purchased, the data usage for downloading the book can be granted for free. In addition, the IP flow may also be granted certain level of QoS (e.g. video streaming).
TR 23.813 studied the feasibility of these scenarios of sponsored connectivity in the key issue 1 and converged into a set of extensions to the PCC procedures which will allow the operator to provide sponsored connectivity to sponsor entities.
In addition to Key Issue 1, SA2 also studied the feasibility of Key issue 2 - Coherent access to Policy related databases within TR 23.813. It enables UDR (User Data Repository) in the PCC architecture as an optional functional entity where PCC related subscriber data can be stored and retrieved by the PCRF through the Ud interface. This deployment scenario does not require SPR and allows the PCRF access to the PCC related subscriber data stored in the UDR.
In Release-12 PEST is linked to another new feature titled, 'Interworking between Mobile Operators using the Evolved Packet System and Data Application Providers (MOSAP)'
The Justification of this is as follows:
Mobile operators have to deal with increasing flexibility of data services delivery on different devices.
The data services could be hosted by the mobile operators in their data centers within 3GPP domain or could be hosted by 3rd party data application providers that could be outside of the mobile operator domain.
Current practices involve individual mobile operators negotiating agreements with data application providers resulting in proprietary additional functionalities in 3GPP networks which results in non-standard 3GPP interfaces. With the advent of new models of services delivery like cloud computing and Application Stores, it is important that the mobile operator minimises upgrades to the network and associated backend integration.
Also the mobile operator has the opportunity to explore various charging models in this interworking scenario with data service providers.
Sample services/capabilities that mobile operators can provide to data application providers are customised billing/charging, promotional services, group addressing capabilities, identity services, statistics, etc.
This WI proposes to enable the mobile operator to use enhanced functionalities and interfaces to meet the needs of the rapidly changing industry models. The WI is expected to develop requirements and architectural frameworks for authentication, authorization, policy, charging, mobility and session continuity aspects for various interworking scenarios.
The existing schemes for authentication/authorization and charging need to be studied and updated/enhanced, when deemed necessary, by liaising with other 3GPP Working Groups/SDOs/fora in charge of them.
This WI was de-prioritised in Rel-11. The Rel-12 work will take into consideration the new TS 23.682 developed in Rel-11 (Architecture Enhancements to facilitate communications with Packet Data Networks and Applications).
What are you your thoughts on sponsored data connectivity?
I had a quick discussion with Dean Bubley on twitter and here is what he thinks:
Key question is what use cases & how the biz model / sponsor interaction works. 1-800 model is a #UselessCase for example. I think tollfree/1-800 apps is a nice idea, but totally unworkable when you drill into the practicalities. There are a few corner-cases & niche exceptions (eg govt-supplied apps) but proposed case for general apps / content is a chimera.
More details on what Dean Bubley means is on his blog post here.
The comment at the end is very interesting, summarising the hurdles that exist in providing 'Toll-free data'.
My belief is that since the operators are running out of the options in generating new revenues, they may make a compromise and find a middle ground for making the 'Sponsored-data' to work