At the recent MVNO World Congress in Nice, France, Cristina Cocco and I attended a breakout session led by Christian Borrman (@chrisborrman), Director at Virtuser where the topic of business bundles came up. One bundle that was suggested was limited to 200 MB/month of mobile data and this sparked a lively debate with the attendees as well as between Cristina and me both during and after the session. Here is a recreation of some of the highlights of that conversation:

Cristina: Tom, there’s no way I can survive on 200 MB a month, my email alone would use up that much in about a week, without taking in account the basic apps running on my smartphone. One week, maybe, and that is if you are very careful and disable the usage of some apps on mobile data.

Tom: I probably can’t, but the interesting thing is that there may be ways to live on 200 MB a month with a lot of manual intervention and careful planning. And a necessary component would be a lot of use of public Wi-Fi.

Cristina: Sure, but even with Wi-Fi, I think it will be a challenge not to mention a pain. The handover from mobile to Wi-Fi works fine in many cases if you are already set up or if your carrier has agreements in place with some hotspot providers to make it seamless. But it’s not just the handover, it’s the “hand back” that doesn’t seem to go too smoothly. If the Wi-Fi goes down or gets congested – and it does – sometimes the app hangs up and you have to manually force your phone back to 3G or 4G – if you’re lucky enough to have the latter available. Frustration and wanting to access your apps right there and then with no fuss, will have many stay or immediately go back to their mobile data, and there goes your 200MB a month.

Tom: There are challenges with Wi-Fi, sure, but when it comes to living on 200 MB/month, I think carriers can do more to make it easier. For one thing, why does the bandwidth I use to download apps from my carrier’s app store go against my monthly usage? Some of the apps are huge and probably should be optimized (that’s another story), but I would have to use up my monthly mobile data allotment to download these apps. And the thing is, most people don’t download a lot of apps. In fact, based on a study done by ComScore last year, over 65% of smartphone owners download no apps each month.

When somebody downloads an app, ultimately it will encourage the subscriber to use mobile data so it’s a win-win for the customer and the operator, so shouldn’t what I download from their app store be free from bandwidth taxation?

Cristina: You must be an Android user. Apple encourages users to use Wi-Fi when downloading from the app store or in some cases only allows downloading if you are on Wi-Fi. Is it costing you a lot in bandwidth?

Tom: I get similar messages from my Android phone, but what if I don’t have access to Wi-Fi at the time?

Cristina: Well then sorry, you’re out of luck!

Tom: Let me check…. So far this month, I’ve downloaded about 100 MB from the Google store. But look at this; the background usage is 20% of that 100 MB!

Cristina: It’s even worse for some applications like email. The background traffic is probably more than the foreground traffic.

Tom: Regardless, it looks like I use up 200 MB in anywhere from four to five days. The biggest offender is primarily Internet usage, but that varies; in March it was NCAA March Madness Live due to the streaming video. So you’re right, but what about when Wi-Fi is available? It looks like the impact on my mobile data bandwidth usage is a lot less. In fact, when Wi-Fi was available at Mobile World Congress I was able to reduce my 3G mobile data usage by 80% and that was without even trying!

Cristina: You know, that brings up a few things that operators can do to help us all go green when it comes to using 3G and 4G spectrum.

  • Make downloads from the operator’s app store not count against your bandwidth usage plan – it ultimately gets the benefit of more mobile data consumed
  • Make it more transparent what impact specific apps will have on mobile data usage
  • Also, make Wi-Fi offload seamless not only for handovers, but also hand backs.

Tom: Good points; so maybe living on 200 MB is possible, right?

Cristina: Sure, but only in your imaginary world!! It might be possible if you’re not a savvy app user, you don’t stream videos, and you’re on Wi-Fi 80% of your usage time, maybe.

What do you think? Can Wi-Fi help you empower customers to better manage their bandwidth costs and give you ways to offload data from the network? Check out a white paper we put together on Wi-Fi offload interworking strategies, and let us know if you can survive on 200 MB per month. Take on the challenge and tweet us at @Dialogic - we want to hear about your experience and outcome!