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Broadband? Certainly. Silver, Gold, Platinum? How far away do you live?

Chatting with Huawei this week we came across an interesting set of ideas from Richard Brennan, Vice Director of Industry Standards at Huawei, who was

By PETER WHITE

Published: 11 November, 2010

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Chatting with Huawei this week we came across an interesting set of ideas from Richard Brennan, Vice Director of Industry Standards at Huawei, who was talking about the future for broadband and its charging mechanisms.

While he was at pains to point out that this was only his opinion and not a strategy that Huawei pushed on its operators, he put forward the simple idea that if net neutrality and Over The Top services were to both happen, then instead of stopping them, operators would need to come up with a plan for making money out of them.

While there is a long way to go on this, and this is not a global proposition, because in one country net neutrality may be frowned on, while in another it may be embraced, Brennan’s ideas have come from talking to countless operators and distilled from their “worst case” strategies.

In essence instead of broadband operators trying to get extra money from companies like Google for better consumer access to their web properties, the proposition needs to be broken into different delivery bands at the customer end.

“It will be dressed up in marketing, and could come out as Silver, Gold and Platinum services, but in the end there are so many services that will be going into a home that the operator cannot provide them all and has to work with other providers. What they can do is provide a different QoS policy from household to household, service to service, and consumers can choose whether or not to pay for that.”

Currently most ISP thinking is focused on getting Sony to pay for its game bits, Google to pay for its search bits and Netflix to simply not get blocked out of existence because it takes so many bits. But another way of looking at this problem is to offer a customer defined QoS or Quality of Experience (QoE) promise either to the entire household, or better still to the particular services. At its most granular it could be to some services, some of the time.

That way an ISP could work in co-operation with Google or Sony or Xbox or Netflix. “Certainly madam you can have the new Netflix service – you’ll get the best reception if you upgrade to the Gold AT&T service, would you like me to arrange that for you?” or some such, with a kick back for the service upgrade.

Remember one of these players could easily be the backhaul for femtocells owned by Cellcos, and they are a new element in this QoS policy management equation that may be as contentious as pirate video, not because it eats so much of the bandwidth (although it may) but because it could be a direct rival to the ISP. Telefonica would be unhappy if in Spain on its fixed broadband lines it was backhauling Vodafone cellular traffic.

“It could be even more granular than simple gold or platinum services,” suggests Brennan. “If you decide to get your Disney Over The Top, direct from Disney, that should not imply lousy reception, so you should be able to receive an experience which offers equally good viewing as on broadcast TV. And you may want different reception for different programs. For instance the category of Live Sport might have a different QoE to any other TV programming, and operators need to solve the purely marketing problems of how to offer this in sensible packages for the consumer.”

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