More than a third of consumers in Western Europe will access the Internet from their mobile phones by 2014, according to a Forrester Research report released earlier this year. This massive increase in mobile data usage has created many challenges for operators, including managing excessive volumes of traffic and maintaining a consistently high quality of service.
Initially designed to enable feature phones to browse operators' portals and a small number of mobile-aware sites, mobile Internet gateways are evolving to manage excessive volumes of diverse types of traffic over the open Internet. As the mobile Internet market becomes more mature, revenue generating services will be deployed that take full advantage of the benefits of mobile browsing.
The mobile Internet gateway evolution can be broken down into three phases that address short, medium and long-term market needs.
Today, operators are using mobile Internet services gateways to provide data optimization and a basic set of value-added services, including basic content control and Web-to-mobile content adaptation for a high quality user experience. In the near future, new revenue-generating services, including tiered pricing plans, advanced parental control and context-based targeted marketing, will be launched to provide competitive differentiation. Finally, once the mobile Internet ecosystem is fully developed, advanced user profiling and location-based features will be launched that will harness the full potential of mobile browsing.
Phase One: Managing Mobile Traffic Growth and Providing a Quality User Experience
With the exponential growth in traffic, upgrading to LTE and throwing bandwidth at the problem is not enough; operators also need to increase network efficiency. Over the past six months, there has been a dramatic increase in the need for Web and video optimization to make streaming and downloading data more efficient and affordable.
Mobile Internet gateways that are currently deployed optimize Web browsing, video streaming and P2P traffic to speed up browsing and downloads and provide smoother video. Policy-based mechanisms dynamically adjust optimization techniques according to network conditions, congestion and forecasted traffic volumes to help alleviate bandwidth bottlenecks, especially during peak periods.
Phase Two: Offering Premium Revenue-Generating Services
Once quality of experience and cost-effectiveness issues have been resolved, operators can shift their focus to new, revenue-generating services in order to create differentiation and keep their position in the value chain.
By enabling subscribers to opt-in for personalized content and services, operators can advise and not advertise, making targeted promotions a welcomed service. For example, users who are browsing for information on their favorite band can receive recommendations to download the group's latest music video or buy the latest wallpaper from the operator's portal at a better price, using convenient payment methods. Content providers also benefit since personalized content is more likely to be shared with friends, especially when subscribers are also using social media on the mobile.
In addition, existing services such as content control can be enhanced with an additional level of personalization. Parents can customize access to content for each child based on his/her individual needs and family values. This includes specifying which types of content should be blocked and when children can browse the Internet – for example, only after school hours. The same application can also be used to limit Facebook access for employees to after-work hours.
Phase Three: Ultimate Personalized Mobile Internet
By opening a new communication channel with their subscribers, operators can enable users to manage their service packages, quotas and even pay their bills using a mobile Internet application. Differentiated pricing plans can be put in place that will adjust tariffs based on individual usage patterns, including the time of day for each service.
Operators can track subscriber quotas over multiple timeframes and service buckets – applying charging, bandwidth, blocking or other policies when quotas are reached, including custom user notifications and upgrade options.
Advanced user profiling provides insight to users' location, purchasing mood, social circles, etc., which can be used to address advanced marketing requirements such as subscriber acquisition and location-based promotions.
The Future Promise of the Mobile Internet
Subscribers' hunger for data is insatiable. As mobile data traffic grows, there will be a continual need for data optimization for best capacity utilization no matter how much bandwidth is added.
With integrated social network capabilities, content and promotions selected based on the individual interests of the consumer and a fast and secure purchasing channel provided by the operator, mobile Internet gateways can provide users with a wide range of services with unique added value.
Once the mobile Internet has been fully developed, the mobile Internet gateway will expand from providing enjoyable browsing to targeted differentiated services on the go, realizing the ultimate revenue potential of the mobile Internet.
Merav Bahat is vice president of marketing at Flash Networks.