The wireless industry is looking at new ways to deliver mobile video services and charging consumers as it tries to boost usage without overloading networks, a top Verizon Wireless technology executive said.
The shift, which will happen as early as this year, involves a new concept the excutive, Shadman Zafar, described as drip-casting, where video is sent gradually to devices such as tablets.
This will come hand in hand with so-called smart charging, where operators would not charge for certain data downloads, Zafar said in an interview with Reuters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
"This is where the industry is generally looking," said the executive, who recently joined Verizon Wireless from parent company Verizon Communications Inc, where he oversaw product development for the FiOS television and Internet business.
Under the model he described, consumers would order a video on their wireless device before they expect to watch it. The service provider would then gradually send the video to the consumer in a way that does not put too much strain on the network. This would involve sending the data in off-peak times or choosing network routes with little traffic, Zafar said.
In return for the delay, the customer would not be charged for the download, he said.
Such options could make consumers more inclined to watch video on phones or tablets since the biggest U.S. operators, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc, charge for data usage on a metered basis.
"The idea would be that you don't get charged for certain data because the carrier would handle it differently," Zafar said.
The ability of the carrier to charge different prices for differing types of traffic could have other applications, too, according to the executive.
Zafar suggested the possibility of services where a content provider attracts new customers by paying for their wireless access to a website or service, similar to 1-800 calls on the telephone.
"You could end up creating new models," Zafar said, noting that Amazon.com Inc already does something similar by including the cost of wireless e-book downloads into the price of the book.
While Zafar declined to comment on specific plans for Verizon Wireless, he expects to see such services very soon in the industry.
"All these technologies are real and ready to go," he said. "This year, you'll see a lot of innovation."
Zafar, who joined Verizon Wireless at the start of January, will be responsible for coordinating with a joint venture Verizon Wireless is seeking to set up with cable operators, including Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc.
The companies are seeking regulatory approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for the venture, which was announced in December as part of a bigger agreement under which Verizon Wireless is buying spectrum from the cable companies. It has promised to let the cable operators resell its wireless services.
Zafar declined to disclose the venture's products except to say the goal is to collaborate on offerings none of the companies could have developed on their own.