Carriers Considering Charging Per Service

OpenNet and Allot Communications, who sell “subscriber management tools” to companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Vodaphone, discussed the possibility of charging customers a fee depending on what services they use on their mobile devices. For example, charging 50 cents per month to use YouTube, or making users pay 2 cents per megabyte to use Facebook. Allot claims that they could even scan encrypted network packets to determine the types of services being used. Scary stuff.

[We use] a number of different methods to accurately identify the application — methods like heuristic analysis, behavioral and historical analysis, deep packet inspection, and a number of other techniques. What’s key is that we have the best application identification available on the market, which means that even applications that are encrypted or use other methods to evade detection will be correctly identified and classified… We essentially feed this real-time information about traffic and application usage into the policy and charging system. Each subscriber has a particular service plan that they sign up for, and they’re as generic or as personalized as the operator wants.

They are targeting customers who use the most data-intensive applications (Skype, for example), and pinning a surcharge to the monthly bill. It’s unknown what kind of changes would potentially be made to data plans, but the obvious goal is to increase profits. I wouldn’t put it past the networks to advertise a lower monthly cost, but slip these service-specific charges in the fine print.

If this makes it to primetime, it would be a serious blow to the consumer.


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