back to article Mobile operators handed content billing blueprint

An allegedly leaked presentation from Allot Communications suggests that mobile customers might end up paying €3 a month for Skype, and 2 cents per MB for Facebook. The leaked presentation isn't an operator plan, despite how DailyTech describes it - it's just what infrastructure providers Allot and Openet think would be …


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  1. Gordon861


    If this happened on mobile ISPs it would only be a matter of time until it ended up on your home internet as well.

    But, until all internet providers actually supply you with an accurate way of monitoring your internet use so you can accurately tell how many MB/GB/TB you need each month how can they really blame people for using too much?

    Just telling people to download 3rd party apps onto each home PC/Laptop etc just doesn't solve the problems, as these often just record data passing through the network port etc.

  2. AdamWill


    That's the most ridiculous article on this leak I've seen on any tech site. Trying to paint the idea that the Internet should be turned into a glorified cable network where you pay for artificially-differentiated access to an arbitrarily-defined limited range of 'services' as a mere technical question over how we're going to be pleased to pay more for our data is...well, jaw-dropping, really.

    Aside from that, if data usage is such a huge problem for the networks, why is 3 perfectly happy to sell me 500MB of data for a fiver? (Let alone 15GB a month for 16 quid, for monthly mobile broadband). That's not some kind of complicated bundle they're trying to sell me to get me to spend more money on phone calls. No. It's a straight-up offer for PAYG customers. Five quid, 500MB of data. Why would they do that if they don't make money on it? What possible motivation could they have? And if they can, right now, sell me 500MB of data usage for a fiver, why should anyone have to pay more than that in future? Capacity should increase (greatly) with time, not decrease.

    BTW, my favourite thing about this truly idiotic proposal that I don't think anyone's noticed yet is the simple hubris in the diagram. Allot sees fit to represent their 'Policy Enforcement & Charging' service as bigger than the entire Internet. Yup, Policy Enforcement & Charging is where it's at! That whole Internet thing is just a sad little cloud, tacked on behind the exciting Policy Enforcement & Charging as an afterthought...

    1. Andrew Woodvine


      Nice rant. It does annoy me how Bill Ray goes on about voice calls subsidising data usage.

  3. ScottME

    What a ridiculous idea

    Operators naturally dread becoming just a commodity pipe through which anonymous data can flow - but that is in fact their natural position. For a mobile operator or ISP to charge different amounts for network traffic dependent on what its origin or destination is equally absurd as it would be for your water supplier to charge different amounts per litre depending on whether you use the water for cooking, washing or watering the garden. It just doesn't make sense, except in the wild fantasies of operators and the network equipment vendors who would love to sell them the hardware to make this rape and pillage of customers possible.

  4. dotdavid

    Just like the good ol' dial-up days

    Remember the days of 56K dial-up? Before all that 0800 number nonsense? People used to merely go on the net to check emails for an hour or two a week. Having to worry about every time you open up Google Maps or your browser, or every thing your newly-purchased iPhone Fart App is sending or receiving may well herald a return to those good old days.

    Regardless of how fair and cheap per-MB billing is, I will avoid contracts that include it and I am unlikely to recommend such contracts to less tech-literate friends and family who are quite likely to not understand the importance of watching what you download ("I spent all day on YouTube on my trip to Edinburgh, why am I being sent a bill for £100?"). And if there are no contracts that don't, I'll probably be buying a cheaper contract anyway (or PAYG) as I hardly use any minutes or texts. This could lead to a net loss of revenue for the operators.

    1. Uplink

      Hope this doesn't happen en masse

      @dotdavid: We're lucky to have someone here who, single handedly, can cause a loss to the operators based on what he chooses to buy :)

      The sad part is that the majority of sheeple slaves out there will likely bend over and take it, in a very democratic fashion, so the only loss caused is to us addicts, unless we make our salaries go through the roof in order to pay for our tools of trade (the Internet isn't just a LOLCAT source to us, but an extra limb, and we'd be handicapped if it were restricted or removed). When BT will see that all their consultants ask for insane fees after BT charge insane prices for the Internet, maybe then they'll understand why they shouldn't be doing it this way. This subsidy of the 95% to the other 5% isn't wrong at all. It's a necessity.

    2. lucmars

      and end-up to unlimited access

      Will the history repeat again ? Or maybe the mobile operators and ISPs believe that the consumer devices can enable them to put their own silo as AOL tried to do a long time ago ?

    3. Andus McCoatover

      "Regardless of how fair and cheap per-MB billing is"

      Er, bollox. It ain't fair.

      I enjoy unlimited 3G access here for €5/month. OK, 1Mb/sec, but...Bloody hell, I also get the same on my N8, using the same number - BOTH costing together €5...

      Point being, if it's offered and sold as 'uncapped', and YOU have a contract, how the devil do they think they can change it?

      Yesterday I upgraded Ubuntu 10.4 to 10.10, using my 3G dongle.

      OK, the bloody thing dropped into 2G/EDGE and the damn thing timed out, but after a reset/reboot, it picked up where it dropped. "File 500 out of 1500" was next inline.

      Then, her indoors wanted a nice cup of tea, and during the actual install "Do Not Interrupt this process!!!"*, swapped the kettle into the socket I was using. Bless her cotton socks...cost her a couple of beers to placate my anger. (Hence the Icon)

      D/L cost? Nowt. Just a bit of the unlimited €5/mo.

      *(Bloody amazing, this morning on reboot, buggered. So into "recovery mode", dpkg from the menu - couple of hours of it thrashing it's disk later, thing's back 10.10 sweet as a nut).

  5. Anton Ivanov
    Thumb Up

    IMS did not work, let's use a replacement

    Not entirely unexpected.

    The entire financial model of 3G/LTE revolves around value added services allocated to punters and billed via IMS. Data was supposed to be merely the conduit and punters were supposed to be billed predominantly for services.

    That FAILED. Epic FAIL. So now, a mechanism is being sought to replace it. Otherwise the financial model of the network does not come up and the ROI will not be there to pay for the licenses and all that gear that is already being put out into the field.

    There is a problem however and it is called Revenue Assurance. IMS is interfaced to the actual application and passes through a ton of checks in PCRF and other places along the way. As a result it matches what the punter wants by design. So the bill is precise and deterministic.

    This "silver traffic analysis bullet" however is nothing like that. It is based on DPI detection and traffic analysis. Regardless of how good it is, it will have a significant amount false positives as well as cases where a service has failed to be billed. There is nothing wrong with that in general. You can build the whole economic model around the probabilistic part. Been there done that - in one of my "previous lives" I wrote most of the traffic accounting and billing for an ISP which billed around these principles in 1998. However, in order to do that you have to prepare yourself for the fact that billing becomes a probabilistic process, you have to convey that to the customers and set out the contracts accordingly.

    That is where the problem is - the entire billing process, contracts and regulation for current telecoms billing including mobile is deterministic. If you feed information that is uncertain (and in reality it is regardless of what the vendor says) the entire billing process as the mobile operators know it will collapse. It will be great fun watching that.

    In any case, the fact that they are actually looking at this is an open admission that IMS and the 3GPP architecture as defined in the standard have failed. That is as good of a Christmas present as there can be for all of us which have been saying that it is "spaghetti networking" and "kebab nework economics" for the last 10 years.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Just like Google's minimalist homepage, with 300k of css and other crap just to display 31 words, 1 image and two buttons.

  7. smellmyfinger

    So voice will fall in price...

    because it will no longer subsidise data?

    Like fuck it will, this is just another wheeze by already profitable companies to exact more profit.

    All the Telcos need to do now is to figure out how to convince everyone they are too big to fail, give themselves bonuses on imaginary products when sold, and have us pay for the evaporation of the imaginary profits on the imaginary products when everyone wakes up. ie. when they realise how crapulous "products" like Facebook, et al, are.


  8. gautam

    Data Myth

    The whole idea of Data as a tangible, tradeable and finite commodity is a myth. It is inveneted by the operators (dumb pipes) to keep them afloat by mesmerising the users that they are getting something of real value, when the reality is that they are only dumb pipes tranfserring thru bits and bytes all that the content providers have "made". The only true cost to the operators is maintenance of these pipes and Electricity for these "flows" of data.

    And the article above is the logical conclusion and culmination of this attitude. Believe your own lies and they become truth to you. And then foist it upon the paying public..

    A bit like the RIAA and MPAA now! Judge and Jury. A snapshot of whats coming, guys.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    why should we pay more to use facebook but not other social networks?

    This is a stupid and unworkable idea.

    Start charging people extra for facebook and watch how quickly that gets circumvented with proxies.

    The analogies suggested regarding common utilities and their usage is bang on.

    Internet access is just that, access to the internet. If people cant make money out it as it is by locking people into 24month contacts(!!!) and imposing fair use of 500MB per month on 'unlimited' tariffs then they are doing it all wrong.

    I cant get adsl where i live, so i have a three mifi router which is usually pretty good in providing me a 4Mb/1.5Mb connection costing £25 / month for 7GB.

    While 7GB is harsh cap you cant run over, when it runs out it runs out. Terrible customer service aside (and i do mean terrible in excess of any other company i have ever dealt with) they are making money for hutchinson with this model and are not charging me based on which websites i visit.

  10. M. Stratos


    If we let operators have an inch, they will take a mile. If we allow such plans to go ahead we will most likely revert to the days of dial-up (as dotdavid stated) where we are charged for each mb used.

    This plan is simply preposterous, the thought of reverting to "dial-up" conditions is amusing at best. I am quite amused as to how El Reg showed this plan as being "good" for consumers.


  11. Robin Bradshaw

    Too much like the great firewall of china

    Im going to go out on a limb and suggest that if such nonsense were ever to happen then the response will be to create an internet of proxies to facilitate access to premium cost services as base cost rates.

    Then theres the matter of youtube wanting their cut and charging the network operator to enable access from their IP ranges, it will all go wrong very quickly.

    And i bet none of it will work with IPv6.

  12. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    What a good idea.

    On the "Stinker" contract that I'm sure they have already thought of, access to the Sun web site would be free, and reading BBC news web pages, £1 per minute. When it's on their network, they're in control. There's also an educational web site and 5 minutes porn free-view, after that it costs the same as the BBC.

  13. JaitcH

    Sounds more like price fixing or conspiracy to price fix

    Consumer law is pretty well defined concerning collusion between suppliers.

    Could an enthusiastic prosecutor make some charge against these characters. Obviously the defendants wouldn't select a jury trial as most of the jurors would be likely victims.

  14. Deadly_NZ

    And if you actually used the device for what it was origionally designed

    Then WHO cares what the vendors/ripoff artists charge I have a flash 3g phone but i only use it for Calls and texts Much to the disgust of my carrier who tried to get me to use mobile data yada yada yada And like I told him the day the cell phone gives me my morning coffee/ blowjob then i'll ise but until then l I'll just stick to the use it was designed for, tell them that and they will soon pull thier heads in.. But you in England well your screwed everytime you do anything. CCtv Politicians that look like they just crawled out of kindy and policies to match . And telco's who rip you off every day

    And i lived in England for 15years Iam so glad I got out.

    1. Shane Orahilly

      If only...

      ...those 15 years had included some work on grammar, but I digress.

      I'm curious as to why you have a flash 3g "phone", when you don't actually make use of it's full features. Perhaps if you had obtained a device which is only capable of voice and SMS, you wouldn't be so angsty. I'm sure if you ask around, there's bound to be someone out there who could interface it with a Fleshlight and a cafetiere, then you can take up one of those offers and realise it's full potential ;)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The first hit's free.

    Don't worry. It won't be long before Google is your ISP - hell, they have all but the last mile in place already - and when that piece gets solved without using incumbent circuits (and it will, even if they have to buy the incumbents), you'll be begging for all the nearly "free" bandwidth Google will offer. All it will cost you is exactly what Phorm tried to do, but it will be Google doing it so it will all be OK.

    Free=good. Unstoppable.

  16. Ryan Barrett


    I'm waiting for the day that The Register start complaining about people with cancer being subsidised by the healthy...


    Love thy neighbour

    So, about 20Mb an hour which is about 40 pence per hour.

    10 hours per month = 4 pounds, or 48 pounds per year.

    This may well be fine for those who only use Skype to Skype, but for myself whose Skype phone is based mainly on Skype in and out, then it changes.

    Instead of ditching Skype and using the ISP cum telephony operators VoIP system, (as my ISP would like me to), I shall probably hi-jack my neighbours wireless connection and let them pay for my calls. There is now a real reason to hi-jack someones connections by Joe Bloggs. I expect there to be greater interest in hacking into others' networks by general public, because there could save a fair whack on money, and some dubious programmer will write a pretty GUI for cracking the neighbours wifi WEP/WPA etc. Well, maybe, maybe not.

  18. WizardRobeAndHat

    just give me VPN access

    then I can be done with all the other tariffs.

  19. Drefsab


    this is what winds me up 500mb of data from face book is the same as 500mb of data from youtube, its still 500mb of data no matter where it came from and I shouldn't be paying a different rate depending on how my ISP feels about the site im accessing.

    Sure if you boil down to it peering agreements can mean different rates for transit but that's not really website specific, make sure you have good peering and alternate routes to hand and have a nice flat rate per MB of transit and then charge enough to make a reasonable margin on that. Oh look you now have a sustainable business model that means you make money the more MB everyone uses (unless you do something stupid like say its unlimited for a flat rate.... oh wait.....).

  20. Peter74447

    What a load of ...

    Surely if networks, cellular or wired, are fussing about the amount of bandwidth their customers are using is highlighting one think to me. That is their networks cant handle the demand and rather than crapping on the customer telling them to slow down or wait until next month to email your new baby pictures when your cap has been lifted.

    Why don't they actually improve the network capacity. Reading articles like this and hearing from friends who get nastygrams from their ISP telling them to go easy on your net usage makes me feel a little better about moving from Scotland to the US. I pay for an 8Mb Internet service which at worst i have seen drop to 6.5Mb at peak times. You really don't want to know how much data is transferred through my in and out of my network.

    Also, i pay an extra $20 per month for unlimited data for the 2 mobile phones and that is UNLIMITED. i would never use a pay per app data plan. that is just complete stupidity. I think the highest data usage i ever had on my mobile came in at 1.1GB for a month. (all because of the amazon mp3 store!)

    But pay per app and data caps is utter bull

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Been tried before...

    This is just another reinvention of the walled garden. CompuServe used to offer different information services that were charged at different rates. I would recommend the mobile industry look at what's happened to CompuServe in the interim. The telecoms companies might as well get used to the idea that they are indeed dumb pipes and that trying to prices services differently is a complete non-starter.

  22. Heff

    Err, what?

    "That situation is obviously unsustainable: we're going to have to pay more for our data, the only question is how we go about doing so. ®"

    Its a cute little tag line, but the question is "why"? take a lookie here:

    ok, so thats from 2008. are you seriously trying to tell me that backbone data transfer has tripled in the last three years? I dont buy it. laying massive transcontiental and trans-plate cables is crucifyingly expensive, but the rest of the industry; data centers, local hubs, etc, seems to be making enough revenue as-is to keep up with demand quite handily and still turn a profit. or maybe domestic overheads are set to go up. only, I seem to remember reading articles about Dark fiber in the UK... so... mebbe not.

    I dont mind a move back to the days where a true 'unlimited' account cost you a hundred quid a month because it was a 'small business' line*. but I dont think its necessary. If operators were honest with clients and the rest of the industry about their overhead-per-MB-to-end-user, and how that overhead is divided (connection charges, infrastructure maintenance, residual R&D, expansion, etc) then I think we'd see much less shitting and whining about charges.

    I will cheerfully pay perMB to my ISP what it costs them to supply me with data, plus a reasonable % for profit. I simply dont buy for a second that this will be as expensive as this plan seems to suggest it is, as Im guessing this was assembled by some twat in marketing who put together a study panel to see what charges the market 'would support' rather than what charges 'is fair'.


    *has friends on SMB accounts because their 'width is guaranteed and they dont get packetsniffed/throttled/bullshit and when they pick up the phone to ask why something is broken they dont get the 'have you plugged your cable modem in?" twats on the other end of the line.

    Fail for net neutrality, collusion between primary and tertiary suppliers, and comparisons between google and phorm (there's a difference between an opt-in system and a "this is happening anyway without even the pretense of anonymisation" system.) quit being wilfully obtuse.

  23. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    *Are* mobile operators "dumb pipes" under EU law?

    I believe that is how land operators are described but is telco data "special?"

    Telcos obviously want more ways to differentiate the different services "they" provide. Much like ISP's.


    They don't provide those services. They merely facilitate *access* to them. Something which (if they *are* common carriers) protects them from liability. In the same way telcos aren't required to listen in on *every* conversation to ensure no crime is being committed or planned.

    Every time some one starts this "charge on content" s**t using DPI I think -

    Why not start by filtering spam at *source* and stopping most of the bandwidth hogging junk?

    Why not offer secure data storage? Telcos reputation for reliable *private* operation is (at present) *substantially* above that of the various free email providers. Perhaps they should capitalise on that? Their *internal* infrastructure management is meant to be pretty good.

    One of the points about digital phone services was the idea of "Quality of Service." Perhaps they could start *delivering* on that? Spell out *exactly* what you can offer as a *guaranteed* rate, from the point the data *enters* your network till the point it arrives at my terminal. If that includes while in a fast car, great. If not *spell* it out.

    Otherwise look forward to a nice little meeting with Minister Ed Vaizey where you will be "invited" to help Big Music and Big Film in their war on copyright "theft" and other "unacceptable" content (actual content TBD).

    And while you're at it could you install some extra boxes that our friend at Dettica have sent along?

  24. wraith404

    umm no.

    If they think they can pull this crap with me I have another thing coming to show them. I'll cancel my data services and stop using these sites mobile. I'll also cut my minutes use just to spite them and go back to voip callsfrom home. It's time to burn the bones of fat cat telco execs, they don't deserve our money.

  25. dotdavid

    VPN won't work

    Some people have suggested a VPN as a way around these sorts of measures, but when the contracts undoubtably say you can use Facebook and MySpace for free but pay by the byte for all other sites (including your VPN) it won't really make much difference. Except for a little privacy of course.

    I have a feeling it will never happen though. From the comments here (which admittedly aren't exactly representative of the general population), it will annoy people too much - or at least the people that give advice on what to buy to their less techie friends and relatives.

  26. mhenriday
    Big Brother

    Not strange that carriers want to control content as well -

    after all, it's a matter of the bottom line and in most countries, they have a stranglehold on mobile-phone purchases (that was the exciting thing about the Nexus One - too bad Google's attempt to break the carriers' grip failed), but it does seem odd to read a paean to the carriers in a journal like El Reg. Or perhaps not, considering its take on, e g, WikiLeaks and its oft-expressed love for extremely dear toys for the military boys. In any event, mobile-phone users - and, indeed, internet users in general (as Gordon861 says above, «[i]f this happened on mobile ISPs it would only be a matter of time until it ended up on your home internet as well» - should do all they can to prevent this carrier wet dream from being realised and the rest of us waking to a nightmare....


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