Shared Data Plans Set to Make Global Impact

By Craig Galbraith Comments
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4G WORLD — Shared data plans will become much more common by 2015.

That’s the finding of a new study from Infonetics Research, released today by Tekelec. The number of mobile devices sold with shared data plans will nearly double (89 percent average increase) each year over the next four years, the report says, reaching nearly 187 million units by 2015. Nearly nine in 10 of those devices will be smartphones, tablets and USB cards.

Only a little more than 2 percent of devices sold this year will be on shared data plans, but that will be up to more than 15 percent globally by 2015, Infonetics says. The plans are predicted to first gain traction in North America, Western Europe, Japan and other places where 3G competition is fierce.

“Smartphones and tablets are already highly desirable devices, and shared data plans will further accelerate demand and adoption as the costs of dual ownership declines," said Richard Webb, directing analyst, microwave and small cells. “We believe shared data plans will become an integral weapon in the operator arsenal of packages designed to attract new subscribers and reduce churn."

For operators, the growth of shared data plans will require a customer-centric approach, the report says. Network complexity is an issue, with the approach requiring “a radical change from the way in which customers have been managed to this point," said Shira Levine, directing analyst, next gen OSS and policy. “Shared data plans – whether across multiple devices for an individual or across multiple subscribers – demand that operators rethink their operational systems. Service providers cannot offer must-haves like parental controls, time-of-day management and application-based rules without advanced policies and subscriber intelligence," said Levine.

Infonetics also believes that the increased behind-the-scenes traffic that shared data plans will generate will drive demand for Diameter routing equipment. Policy- and charging-related information traverses networks via the Diameter protocol, and the report predicts that strain will increase as signaling transactions increase. DRAs can “better manage the onslaught of Diameter messages exchanged among network elements."

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