Two days back, Tata DoCoMo has announced new pricing model for data users. Dubbed as ‘Per per Site’, the model charges users based on websites they visit. Unlink earlier models, where you end up paying for amount of data/contents you consume, this model could turn out to be different. Here, DoCoMo offers you bundles of sites based on different categories, like Social Networking Pack (includes Orkut, Facebook, Twitter, Linkdin) or Email pack ( Gmail, Yahoo etc) and based on the bundles you select, you will be charged ( Of course there’s usage limit with this too). More details can be found out here.
Now let’s see what other telcos are doing in Data pricing. TeliaSonera, the company behind world’s first LTE network has done something innovative earlier. Dubbed as “Value based pricing”, users will be charged based on type of content you consume. So let’s say, you are consuming video quite often rather than reading contents, then you will be priced for contents as well as for network resourced consumed. Also, if user is listening streaming music, then he will charged for content (music), as well as for network resourced consumed by user’s session. Though report says that “Value based pricing” hasn’t been implemented anywhere yet, TeliaSonera doesn’t deny innovating data pricing model further.
The basic difference in pricing Voice and Data services arise because we measure their usage/consumption differently. Unlike voice (measured in Erlang per pulse rate), where we ‘pay per sec’, data is measured in KiloBytes/Megabytes (KB/MB). In voice calls, unless you are using VoIP, end to end call requires a circuit seizure at both ends. So for normal voice calls, resources are reserved exclusively for end users (either on air or in switch). The longer you talk, the longer resources will be reserved for you and so the pricing will be costlier. This is very easy to understand.
In case of data (or content), there starts bit complications. For 2G GSM services, Data is a Supplementary or Value Added Service. For data/content transport, you need to support basic TCP/IP protocol, in which content flows in form of ‘Packets’ of pre-defined size. Unlike voice, where we reserve trunks for end users, Data doesn’t demand trunk or circuit reservation. In fact, flow of data packets is entirely random or based on route discovery. This means, we can’t apply same model of voice pricing to data pricing. So you will find that data consumption is always charged, based on how many ‘Packets’ you consume (KB/MB) at certain bandwidth allocation (Speed). More you consume (of course at higher speed), more you pay.
Either ‘Value based’ or ‘Per site’, we need more innovation in Data pricing models. DoCoMo’s ‘Per site Plan’ may pave way for more innovative content pricing models, which may bring cost of content consumption down in India. Let’s wait & watch!