The concept of shared data has been around a while. Discussions at conferences revolved around ‘the family’ and a nominal father figure controlling the spending of his family, topping up his daughter’s texts before she went out and limiting his son’s Facebook time after 10 in the evening.
Now shared data is here, bigger than we thought and more profitable than anyone could have guessed.
It is also a tipping point on two counts. First, it is the point at which operators genuinely begin to innovate, having started the real time journey with control in mind. Secondly, it is now the proven moment when those revenues that we all saw being eroded by the pesky OTT players are replaced by new services.
Both points were presented by BillingViews’ friend Martin Morgan of Openet during a webinar (which you can listen to here – 30 minutes long). When real time charging went mainstream, it was because the Regulator was moved to do something about bill shock. Customers should be warned when they are at their data limit. So they were warned, throttled and cut off. Then Marketing, probably pushed by Customer Service getting angry phone calls, said ‘why don’t we tell them before they get to their limit and offer them an extra lump of data for a decent price?’ This was the moment when Marketing was given the keys to network. Who knows what is now possible?
Actually, the TM Forum’s newest report, Real time charging accelerates multi-party services, provides some answers. Among the many statistics in the report, perhaps the most surprising (in a good way) was that, in two years’ time, over 60 percent of operators will be supporting OTT collaboration projects with their real time charging and policy management functionality.
Shared data is the first step along the road of this kind of innovation.
It is good business too. As Morgan pointed out, “AT&T have grown their shared accounts from 10 million in the first quarter last year, to 30 million this. And 46 percent are now on 10GB + plans.” Verizon is on the case, too, and grew their Mobile Share Account plans from 30 to 50 percent, increasing ARPA from just over $150 per account to close to $160. Our favourite is Sprint’s version where the more people you bring to your shared data plan, the less each pays – nice marketing.
For Morgan, shared data delivers four benefits for operators (click on the chart below):
1) it is a proven ARPA driver
2) it gives operators in Europe and Asia a ‘first to market’ opportunity
3) the more devices customers have, the less likely they are to churn – AT&T now allow you to add your Audi to your shared data plan
4) it is bringing in a new way of reporting – moving from ARPU to ARPA.
The conclusion must be that shared data is good for customers and good for operators. And in a wider sense, it is the first step on the road to real innovation from operators.