By the end of 2012 Verizon Wireless - the largest network provider in the US - plans to offer users a 'speed boost' button in apps:
Verizon anticipates that a customer running an app on a smartphone will have the option to dynamically snatch more bandwidth for that app, if network congestion slows it down... Users could have the option to pay for the extra bandwidth via a separate microtransaction.
[A demonstration of] the network optimization technology [...] took a high-quality video stream and simulated it running over a congested network. When a Verizon engineer pushed a "turbo button," the video's choppy frame rate and apparent quality improved.
Speed-differentiated tariffs are a great idea - they let people purchase service a meaningful way... Speed is far more easily understood than the current norm of selling data by volume.
How much data will the game app I'm about to play use? No, I've no idea either.
Verizon's approach is entirely wrong. Letting your customers buy their way out of a queue means the experience for everyone is second-rate. Budget airline travellers may recognise this - on a busy flights there are often so many 'priority boarding' tickets sold that no-one actually gets priority and 'normal' ticket holders are guaranteed a bad experience regardless when they arrive.
Preventing occasional network congestion is impossible and - assuming proper infrastructure investment - operators' options are limited. However, if Verizon are to start offering prioritised connections they should:
- Allow 'real time' upgrading, but only when the required capacity is actually available.
- Offer a 'service level' for all customers, not just premium ones.
- Describe service levels clearly so customers can choose the right one easily.
Sell quality, not priority.