Vodafone is trialling tiered data services to Spain, priority data for business customers and more intelligent application of fair use capping.
The system has been deployed across Vodafone's Spanish network. It is designed to ensure that customers on the operator's business tariff, paying €49 a month, get connected regardless of cell congestion. But the same system will also allow poorer customers to exceed their fair-use restrictions when traffic is light.
With the system, which was introduced last week, a cell carrying too much data will kick off the proles to make way for premium customers. Currently, the system will usually kick off those at the edge of the cell, or operate on a first-come-first-served basis.
But Vodafone is much more interested in talking about the converse side of the system, which will allow those same proles to use data beyond their fair-use allocation when there is capacity to spare. Existing systems throttle data to customers who use too much data, but now Vodafone can decide to throttle the data only if there are other customers waiting to use it, in Spain at least.
The priority access is part of the premium bundle, rather than a separate item, though the operator is still trialling the system and another billion options will presumably emerge before the idea spreads elsewhere - and spread it will.
Network operators need to get away from the flat-rate pricing that makes comparisons easy and profits slim, bringing in variables such as fair-use limits and priority access. These could perhaps be combined with time-dependent tariffs and femtocell discounts, which should make data pricing as complex and difficult to compare as voice tariffs. ®