With Verizon’s recent announcement of its LTE network (and rumors that it will offer an LTE version of the iPhone after the holidays), this standard has clawed its way up the ladder and into the minds of anyone remotely interested in mobile devices as the public clamors for 4G access.
Wireless data growth has been the driver behind LTE deployments. As global wireless traffic explodes, networks get bogged down while content continues to become more sophisticated. LTE principles allow operators to mitigate latency and find new ways to maximize ARPU for data use—and this is a key reason that operators are choosing LTE to support 4G network efforts.
While operators have moved from flat-rate data plans to tiered service plans in the past year, the way that consumers use devices has not moved backwards; rather, subscribers still look ahead to richer content, an internet fueled three-screen television experience, killer apps and more. Add the beginnings of machine-to-machine services, and the pressure to perform—and profit—increases exponentially.
While LTE is an investment, like any network asset, it can be maximized through software. Specifically, policy and charging controls (PCC) can trigger, and charge for, QoS treatment based on subscriber activity or service, monetizing faster 4G network speeds and ensuring a positive subscriber experience. Additionally, hybrid pre- and post-paid billing models are coming into vogue, and PCC supports complex billing models that directly correlate network use and performance for individual subscribers. This has been a topic in the mobile space for the past couple of years, but it has been applied to 3G networks; as a topic for 4G, understandably it hasn’t bubbled to the top of the collective consciousness yet. But in order for 4G to succeed, this functionality needs to be available, especially as users have been exceeding their data caps in the test phase.
For now, LTE is all opportunity—and if operators handle data deployments correctly, and transition to voice as well, it will stay that way. However, policy and charging are increasingly connected, and as far as LTE is concerned, you can’t have one without the other and expect to deliver differentiated network services and monetization.
A word to the wise: policy + charging is evolving from 3G.