Zero rating implentation strategies

Last year, one large mobile operator in Canada started to zero-rate its
own mobile TV offering. It appears that routers kept counting all the
data, but that the company then subtracted usage generated by its video
servers to come up with billable Gigabytes for each user.

(This was quashed by the regulator in Canada)

In the last week, another mobile operator announced it was zero rating
approved music streaming services (Spotify, Google Play and a few others).

If you are dealing with "foreign" content that comes from servers you
don't control, what are the "best practices" to zero-rate content from
multiple outside sources ?

To make matters more interesting, the FAQ for that service indicates
that if you listen to a music stream that exceeds 128kbps, you MAY be
charged for the data, and that you will be charged to listen to videos
that could be offered by that service, and for non streaming data such
as album covers, list of songs etc.

Would this point to specific IPs (streaming servers for low quality
128kbps sound) ? How scalable is this when you start to have a whole
bunch of source IPs whose traffic is to be zero rated ?

Or would another way of doing this to setup private routes into the
ISP's network for each approved service, so the data would enter through
a different interface and be counted separately ?

Or, and this is my most important question: Is it possible with current
networking software to zero rate any data flow that is less than a
certain value (eg: 128kbs) ?

Or would current software require network operator to get 5 minute usage
for each user and only bill if average data rate during last 5 minutes
exceeded 128kbps ? (which means that your music is billed if you also
listen to netflix at same time since total data flows are greater than

Of note: not all customers get this treatment, only those with higher
end packages. Those with lower end packages are charged for usage by
those very same services.

And for the record, this isn't to setup a similar system, it is to
better understand the issue for a regulatory challenge.

Zero rating is not a new concept. It has existed in the mobile world since the days of the dumb phone. Got a reference to why this was killed by the regulator in Canada?

Mobile networks typically use their packet core (and prior iterations of the same termination, rating, billing, management gear) to rate and bill specific to each subscriber. It is done with voice minutes, text, data. Whether or not you consider the solutions scalable is up to one's individual judgement. But this zero rating billing model has and is very widely deployed and at massive scale. In fact, there are specific interfaces defined for just these purposes in the applicable standards. There are many many conceivable ways in which billing mediation and associated infrastructure for zero rating can and is implemented. This is not new and is very well understood in the mobile industry. Not sure what you're after here.

Best regards,

Zero rating is not a new concept. It has existed in the mobile world since the days of the dumb phone.

Yes, but is now in a different scale and when you start to zero rate
content that comes from CDN (aka: many IPs which may also serve non zero
rated content).

Got a reference to why this was killed by the regulator in Canada?

Bell Mobility zero rating its own MobileTV offering was decided in
January 2015 by CRTC:


There are other sections in the Canadian Telecommunicatiosn Act about
controlling content. And there was a reference to the supreme court on
whether ISPs were liable for content that their deliver to customers,
which found that an ISP that blindly delivers packets doesn't control
content and therefore is not responsible for it.

So depending on how the zero rating is implemented, this may (or may
not) have implications.

What I am trying to do is to build a list of realistic techniques (aka:
what industry actually uses) which should force Vidéotron to fees up to
which one it uses.

The regulatory killing of that was probably unrelated to implementation.

The regulators probably objected to the mobile provider creating an advantage (no data charges) for their own service against competing video services that would incur data charges.

Perhaps that will help you understand what you need for a regulatory challenge.


Demonstrating that the Mobile TV packets traveled in exactly the same
way as any other packets over the Bell Mobility network was a large part
of the decision. When packets travel undifferentiated on the same pipe,
then it is not justified that one packet be treated differently than the
other one.

This is quite different from Bell Canada's wireline TV service where
multicast is used and on a separate VLAN with dedicated capacity which
means that TV packets don't cause congestion on data packets and vice versa.

This is why understanding of how some marketing tactic is implemented at
the network level is important.