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Alcatel-Lucent hopes to make data plans more flexible

Via an app on their smartphone, users will be able to share and top up data plans

Through its new Smart Plan platform, Alcatel-Lucent wants to make mobile subscription plans more flexible and allow data packages to be shared among users and handed out by companies to their customers using an application on smartphones and tablets.

As income from traditional voice and messaging services comes under increasing pressure from services such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook, operators will become increasingly reliant on increasing their data revenue. With Smart Plan, Alcatel-Lucent wants to make it easier for operators to offer new ways to sell data allowances, according to Cassidy Shield, vice president of marketing for Alcatel-Lucent's Platforms division.

"Probably the biggest long-term opportunity [for operators] is if you start offering mobile data as a currency. Then you can get advertisers, brands and merchants to pay for part of the data plan," Shield said.

There are already some examples of this. In Brazil, Coca-Cola offers dispensers that allows users to fill up on mobile data using a branded app. Another version of that would be retailers that offered their customers mobile data as a reward.

Via an application, users will also be able to share data with family members and friends, buy more data from their operator and track usage, according to Shield. The company foresees marketplaces where users can see what offers they can take advantage of, as well as location and time-based packages, he said.

At first, Alcatel-Lucent will support Android and iOS using native applications. There also are APIs that allow operators to build their own applications or integrate with existing ones.

Smart Plan and the application will be demonstrated at Mobile World Congress.

The underlying platform is powered by the new Smart Plan Builder, which is a server-side rules and orchestration engine on which mobile operators can build applications. It will become generally available in March. So far, the company has pitched the product to five operators, but will now expand to a wider group.

Rolling out something like this won't happen overnight.

"It is a big change for operators," Shield.

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