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Policy, Policy, Policy

In my taxi from the airport to the centre of Nice, I was quizzed by the driver about the policies of the new British government and the exact political shade it represented. It seemed apposite, then, that one of the main themes of the conference was the emergence of a more sophisticated approach to policy. While not quite a coalition movement (yet), there was a strong sense that the industry is waking up to the fact that policy is becoming a major issue, given the explosion in terms of bandwidth usage. We are currently at the stage of relatively simple policy enablement, such as is required for a particular broadband package, for example, or to monitor fair usage. But, many vendors felt that this is all about to change. It seems likely that differentiated pricing policies are going to become more common - and increasingly sophisticated. What with all the brouhaha surrounding pay-walls, there can be no doubt that paying for differentiated service levels will gradually move to the mainstream, if only because current models are unsustainable.

Written by
Guy Redmill
Published on
1 Jul 2010

Whatever the philosophical arguments in favour of net neutrality, there seems to be no logical reason why carriers can't charge for differentiated access to services. At the heart of such schemes will be policy engines to sort traffic streams and identify and allocate appropriate classes. My Internet browsing is not important and is therefore best effort, but your cloud-based video conferencing application is more important and so you pay for a better service, which the carrier must be able to guarantee.

Something has to happen to support the investment required in the networks we need to deliver the applications which hungry consumers and enterprises demand. Why shouldn't people pay more for better service? One consequence of net neutrality taken to its extreme is that the access networks become a natural monopoly, funded out of general taxation or via special levies, like a road network. Of course, that's not going to happen, so there is a clear need for the network provider to make money from their investment. And that means leveraging a consistent policy architecture, with the PCRF at its heart. Watch out for more on this topic in future bulletins.

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