I've been thinking a bit about LTE and international roaming lately and just realized that mobile network operators need to come up with a new billing scheme compared to current systems. Here's why:
2G and 3G devices only request the establishment of a data bearer (a PDP context in 3GPP talk, or getting an IP address in Internet talk) when an application requests it for the first time. Thus, from a billing point of view, nothing is charged until that point. With LTE, however, the device gets an IP address right when the device registers with the network after startup. In effect, the 2G / 3G packet call becomes history with LTE. While in the home network this can probably be managed quite well from a billing point of view, I wonder how network operators will proceed for roaming. After all, most users will probably not be too happy to be charged just for switching on their device.
For LTE USB dongles, this might not be a problem as the user can decide whether to plug it in or not. For notebooks with a built-in LTE modem, however, or an LTE capable smartphone, things are different. A user of an LTE capable smartphone probably wants to use it abroad as well, even if it is only for voice calls and the offline organizer functionalities without being charged if he doesn't actively use the Internet. I wonder how this will be solved in practice!?
I could imagine several solutions:
- The device detects the roaming scenario and asks the user whether to attach to LTE and get an IP address and warns the user that this might be a chargeable event.
- The device detects the roaming scenario and doesn't attach to the LTE network. Instead, a 2G or 3G network is selected where getting an IP address right away is not required. The question then is how the user could trigger this later-on. In case of a smartphone it could wait till an application tries to access the Internet and then reselect to LTE once the connection is established. That won't work for LTE capable notbooks, though, as there are always applications crying for IP connectivity…
- The home network detects that the user is roaming and blocks initial access to the Internet. Then, via a web based landing page, the network informs the user that different rates will apply if he proceeds. The problem with this approach is that the user has to open the web browser first before his other applications can get access to the Internet.
- A certain amount of data traffic while roaming is already included in the subscription. When going beyond this amount, access is blocked until the user is informed (e.g. via SMS or a landing page) that further Internet access will be billed separately and the user has given his consent.
Hm, it all doesn't sound convincing yet. Better ideas, anyone?