Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR TRACKING COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK RESOURCES AND UTILIZING NON-REUSABLE, OBLIGATED NETWORK RESOURCES TO SUPPORT THE COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK RESOURCES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and computer-implemented method for reducing obligated communications network resources for a subscriber may include tracking usage of network resources during a month. A determination if the amount of network resources for which the subscriber has non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type exceeds a monthly subscription allotment, and, if so, drawing additional network resources from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use. Otherwise, the non-reusable, obligated network resources may not be drawn for the subscriber to use.



Inventors:
Milhizer, Eric (Dallas, TX, US)
Application Number:
14/693659
Publication Date:
05/26/2016
Filing Date:
04/22/2015
Assignee:
TSC ACQUISITION CORPORATION (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
H04W8/20; H04W24/08; H04W72/04
View Patent Images:
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20100035669SLIDE TYPE MOBILE TERMINAL WITH TILTABLE SLIDE MODULEFebruary, 2010Jang et al.
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Primary Examiner:
SIDDIQUI, KASHIF
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DENTONS US LLP (P.O. BOX 061080, CHICAGO, IL, 60606-1080, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A computer-implemented method, comprising: tracking, by a processing unit, usage of communications network resources during a time period; managing, in a data repository, non-reusable, obligated network resources of a subscriber in a data repository; and determining, by the processing unit, if an amount of communications network resources utilized by the subscriber during the time period exceeds an allotment limit as provided by a subscription agreement of the subscriber of that type of network resources during the time period, and, if so, querying, by the processing unit, the data repository to determine if the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit; determining, by the processing unit, whether the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the subscription allotment limit; if a determination that the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit, (i) drawing, by the processing unit, additional network resources from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use and (ii) deducting the non-reusable, obligated network resources from the data repository of the subscriber, otherwise, not drawing from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use.

2. The computer-implemented method according to claim 1, further comprising: receiving, by the processing unit, a request for non-reusable, obligated network resources for a subscriber; allocating, by the processing unit, non-reusable, obligated network resources obligated by a communications network service provider to be available for the subscriber; setting, by the processing unit, non-reusable, obligated network resources in an account of the subscriber stored in the data repository; and allocating, by the processing unit, communications network resources during the time period pursuant to the subscription agreement for the communications network resources.

3. The computer-implemented method according to claim 2, further comprising: determining whether the time period has ended; and if the time period has ended, allocating new communications network resources for the subscriber pursuant to the subscription agreement of the subscriber, otherwise, not allocating new communications network resources for the subscriber.

4. The computer-implemented method according to claim 2, further comprising, in response to the processing unit determining that the subscriber has not used network resources over a predetermined time period, causing the non-reusable, obligated network resources to be released, thereby reducing obligated network resources of the communications network service provider.

5. The computer-implemented method according to claim 4, wherein the predetermined time period is two months.

6. The computer-implemented method according to claim 1, wherein receiving the request, by the processing unit, includes receiving the request as part of a promotional offer for the subscriber as part of the subscription agreement.

7. The computer-implemented method according to claim 1, further comprising causing, by the processing unit, release of the drawn amount of non-reusable, obligated network resources obligated to be available for the subscriber in response to drawing the additional network resources.

8. The computer-implemented method according to claim 1, wherein tracking usage of network resources includes tracking usage of data communications resources.

9. The computer-implemented method according to claim 1, wherein tracking usage of network resources includes tracking usage of voice communications resources.

10. The computer-implemented method according to claim 1, wherein drawing the additional communications network resources includes adding network resources in an amount less than or equal to a total available amount of the non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type of the subscriber.

11. A system, comprising: a storage unit configured to store a data repository inclusive of information associated with subscribers for a communications network service provider to provide communications network services for the subscribers; a processing system in communication with the storage unit, and configured to: track usage of communications network resources during a time period; manage non-reusable, obligated network resources of a subscriber in a data repository; and determine if an amount of communications network resources utilized by the subscriber during the time period exceeds an allotment limit as provided by a subscription agreement of the subscriber of that type of network resources during the time period, and, if so, query the data repository to determine if the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit; determine whether the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the subscription allotment limit; if a determination that the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit, (i) draw additional network resources from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use and (ii) deduct the non-reusable, obligated network resources from the data repository of the subscriber, otherwise, not draw from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use.

12. The system according to claim 11, wherein said processing unit is further configured to: receive, by the processing unit, a request for non-reusable, obligated network resources for a subscriber; allocate non-reusable, obligated network resources obligated by a communications network service provider to be available for the subscriber; set non-reusable, obligated network resources in an account of the subscriber stored in the data repository; and allocate communications network resources during the time period pursuant to the subscription agreement for the communications network resources.

13. The system according to claim 12, wherein said processing unit is further configured to: determine whether the time period has ended; and if the time period has ended, allocate new communications network resources for the subscriber pursuant to the subscription agreement of the subscriber, otherwise, not allocate new communications network resources for the subscriber.

14. The system according to claim 12, wherein said processing unit is further configured to cause the non-reusable, obligated network resources to be released in response to determining that the subscriber has not used network resources over a predetermined time period, thereby reducing obligated network resources of the communications network service provider.

15. The system according to claim 14, wherein the predetermined time period is two months.

16. The system according to claim 11, wherein said processing unit, in receiving the request, is configured to receive the request as part of a promotional offer for the subscriber as part of the subscription agreement.

17. The system according to claim 11, wherein said processing unit is further configured to cause release of the drawn amount of non-reusable, obligated network resources obligated to be available for the subscriber in response to drawing the additional network resources.

18. The system according to claim 11, wherein said processing unit, in tracking usage of network resources is configured to track usage of data communications resources.

19. The system according to claim 11, wherein said processing unit, in tracking usage of network resources, is configured to track usage of voice communications resources.

20. The system according to claim 11, wherein said processing unit, in drawing the additional communications network resources, is further configured to add network resources in an amount less than or equal to a total available amount of the non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type of the subscriber.

21. The system according to claim 11, wherein the communications network is a telecommunications network, and wherein determining if an amount of communications network resources utilized by the subscriber includes determining whether the network usage data is indicative of voice call usage.

22. The system according to claim 21, wherein said processing system, in not drawing from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use includes not drawing from anytime voice call minutes that do not have an expiration date.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to co-pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/084,996, filed Nov. 26, 2014 and entitled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR RECLAIMING OBLIGATED NETWORK RESOURCES,” the entire contents of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND

Telecommunications service providers are more competitive than ever before as the cost of telecommunications services and network resources have dramatically decreased over the years due to improved technology and more competition. As a result, telecommunications service providers compete in a variety of different ways to attract new subscribers, maintain existing subscribers, and increase spend by subscribers for network services.

One problem that exists with consumer-facing companies is the use of contractually obligated promotional offers to compete for new subscribers. Such promotional offers bind the company in being obligated to support legacy services and, in the case of telecommunications service providers, network provisioning and resources must be maintained for long periods of time, sometimes unlimited amounts of time depending on the promotional offer and service plans that are used to attract and maintain subscribers. Such offers result in the company losing money simply due to having to meet the contractual obligations. As an example, offers of network resources, such as a certain amount (e.g., 500 MB) of data communications that last a lifetime that are offered to new subscribers, cause the telecommunications service provider to have to maintain the obligated network resources until the customer fully consumes the network resources. As understood in the art, network resources may include a wide variety of sources used to support subscriber usage, such as memory in a data repository, bandwidth on communications lines, phone numbers, network addresses, local network voice capacity, international network voice capacity, data streaming capacity, messaging capacity, and so on.

Over time, the contractually obligated resources becomes a major liability for a telecommunications service provider, especially a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), for a number of reasons, such as having to pay for a telephone number whether or not being utilized by a customer, maintain allocated network resources provided by third parties, manage accounts, etc. Certain service plans that are relatively low margin, such as Lifeline service plans that are paid by the government for low income people, are particularly competitive such that network resource incentives are given to drive subscribers to the telecommunications service providers offering the incentives. The subscribers, however, often do not fully utilize the contractually obligated network resources, but those network resources still have to be maintained. Moreover, if a customer moves, dies, or is otherwise incapacitated and the telecommunications service provider is not notified of the customer's status, the allocated network resources may remain and cost the service provider. Alternatively, the service provider may spend a lot of money to track down the status of the customer in an attempt to alleviate the maintenance costs of the allocated network resources.

In the event that the contractual obligations of the allocated network resources are not met by the communications service provider, consumer fraud charges and large fines may result from both consumer complaints, class action litigation, and governmental litigation. As a result, there is a need to reduce or eliminate obligated network resources that result from promotional offers and service plans.

SUMMARY

In order to reduce liability of obligated network resources for communications service providers, network usage of a user may be monitored, and, in the event of determining that the user has used the network services over a certain time period, then the obligated network resources may be maintained, otherwise, if the user has failed to utilize network services over the certain time period, then the obligated network resources may be released so as to reduce obligated network resources. By eliminating obligated network resources, improved efficiency on a telecommunications network may result.

More particularly, a method for reducing obligated network resources may include establishing, by a computing device, network resources obligated to serve a user for use of a networked electronic device on a communications network. Network usage data of the networked electronic device of the user operating on the communications network over a time period may be collected in a data repository. A determination may be made by the computing device as to whether the network usage data exceeds a minimum usage threshold level over the time period. In response to the computing device determining that the network usage data exceeds the usage threshold level over the time period, the network resources obligated to serve the user may be maintained. Otherwise, in response to the computing device determining that the network usage data does not exceed the usage threshold level over the time period, the network resources obligated to serve the user may be caused to be released, thereby reducing obligated network resources.

One embodiment of a computer-implemented method for reducing obligated communications network resources for a subscriber may include tracking usage of network resources during a month. A determination if the amount of network resources for which the subscriber has non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type exceeds a monthly subscription allotment, and, if so, drawing additional network resources from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use. Otherwise, the non-reusable, obligated network resources may not be drawn for the subscriber to use. In one embodiment, a request for non-reusable, obligated network resources for a subscriber may be received, and non-reusable, obligated network resources may be allocated to the subscriber. The non-reusable, obligated network resources may be set to an account of the subscriber. The monthly network resources (e.g., 100 MB of data may be allocated pursuant to a subscription agreement for network resources. Usage of network resources during a month may be tracked. A determination if the amount of network resources for which the subscriber has non-reusable, obligated network resources exceeds a monthly subscription allotment may be made, and, if so, additional network resources may be drawn from the non-reusable, obligated network resources. Otherwise, if the determination is made that the subscriber has not exceeded a monthly subscription allotment, then the non-reusable, obligated network resources are not drawn.

Another embodiment of a computer-implemented method may include tracking usage of communications network resources during a time period, managing non-reusable, obligated network resources of a subscriber, and determining if an amount of communications network resources utilized by the subscriber during the time period exceeds an allotment limit as provided by a subscription agreement of the subscriber of that type of network resources during the time period. If so, then the data repository may be queried to determine if the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit. A determination may be made as to whether the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the subscription allotment limit. If a determination that the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit, then (i) additional network resources may be drawn from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use and (ii) the non-reusable, obligated network resources may be deducted from the data repository of the subscriber. Otherwise, the non-reusable, obligated network resources may not be drawn for the subscriber to use.

One embodiment of a system may include a storage unit configured to store a data repository inclusive of information associated with subscribers for a communications network service provider to provide communications network services for the subscribers. A processing system may be in communication with the storage unit, and be configured to track usage of communications network resources during a time period, manage non-reusable, obligated network resources of a subscriber in a data repository, and determine if an amount of communications network resources utilized by the subscriber during the time period exceeds an allotment limit as provided by a subscription agreement of the subscriber of that type of network resources during the time period. If the determination is positive, then the processing unit may query the data repository to determine if the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit. If so, then the processing unit may determine whether the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the subscription allotment limit. If a determination that the subscriber has available non-reusable, obligated network resources of the same type as the communications network resources of which the subscriber has exceeded the allotment limit, the processing unit may (i) draw additional network resources from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use and (ii) deduct the non-reusable, obligated network resources from the data repository of the subscriber. Otherwise, the processing unit may be configured not to draw from the non-reusable, obligated network resources for the subscriber to use.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Illustrative embodiments of the present invention are described in detail below with reference to the attached drawing figures, which are incorporated by reference herein and wherein:

FIG. 1 is an illustration of an illustrative network services environment in which communications service provider(s) and/or mobile network virtual operator (MVNO) provide network resources to subscribers;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an illustrative network environment in which communications service provider(s) and/or mobile network virtual operator (MVNO) provide network resources to subscribers;

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of illustrative modules utilized to reduce network resources allocated to users;

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of an illustrative process for reducing allocated network resources; and

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram of an illustrative process for non-reusable, obligated network resources to be used as monthly network resource overage.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With regard to FIG. 1, an illustration of an illustrative network services environment 100 in which communications service provider(s) 102 and/or mobile network virtual operators (MVNO) 104 provide network resources to subscribers 106a-106n (collectively 106) and 108a-108n (collectively 108) is shown. The subscribers 106 may be mobile device subscribers, while the subscribers 108 may use home-based communications devices, such as telephones and computers. As understood in the art, MVNOs 104 may have agreements 109 with the communications service providers 102 to provide communications services to the subscribers 106 and/or 108 using network resources provided by the communication service providers 102. In providing those communications services, MVNOs 104 may have agreements 110 with the subscribers 106 and/or 108 that established relationships and services to be provided by the MVNOs 104 to the subscribers 106 and/or 108.

In one embodiment, the communications services providers(s) 102 and MVNOs 104 may offer promotional services, such as certain amounts of data communications (e.g., 500 MB of data communications) that are non-reusable. That is, the network resources offered in promotional marketing by the MVNO(s) 104 and communications service provider(s) 102 are often unlimited in time, which often causes problems in the event that a customer does not use all of the network resources from the promotional offerings because those obligated network resources are to be maintained indefinitely for the customer.

More particularly, network(s) 112 may be utilized to communicate signals 114, typically in the form of digital data packets. The network(s) 112, if configured to support mobile communications, may include mobile towers 116 or other antenna configuration to enable the subscribers 106 to communicate via mobile electronic devices 118a-118n (collectively 118). As understood in the art, a variety of network devices, such as routers, switches, storage devices, etc. that provide for network services to the subscribers 106 and/or 108 are provided, and these network devices are limited in resources (e.g., bandwidth, capacity, memory, etc.).

Network resources that are typically offered for promotional services to attract the subscribers 106 and/or 106 include, but are not limited to, voice services, data communications, such as text, download volume, data storage, roaming, international calling, and so forth. The network resources may be offered as “forever” or non-reusable, obligated network resources obligations, such as pay $10 for 10,000 text messages. In the event that those 10,000 text messages are not fully consumed by the customer, those network resources remain an obligation by the communications services provider or MVNO.

With regard to FIG. 2, a block diagram of an illustrative network environment 200 in which a communications service provider(s) server 202 and/or mobile network virtual operator server 204 may be utilized to provide and manage network resources to subscribers 106 is shown. The communications service provider server 202 may include a processing unit 205 that executes software 206 to manage network resources for the subscribers 106. The processing unit 205 may include one or more processors, as understood in the art. The processing unit 205 may be in communication with a memory unit 208, input/output (I/O) unit 210, and storage unit 212. The storage unit 212 may store data repositories 214a-214n (collectively 214). The data repositories 214 may store information associated with the subscribers 106 and/or 108, which may include obligated network resources to be served to the subscribers 106.

The communications service provider server 204 may include a processing unit 216 that executes software 218 to manage network resources for the subscribers 106. The processing unit 216 may include one or more processors, as understood in the art. The processing unit 216 may be in communication with a memory unit 220, input/output (I/O) unit 222, and storage unit 224. The storage unit 224 may store data repositories 226a-226n (collectively 226). The data repositories 226 may store information associated with the subscribers 106 and/or 108, which may include obligated network resources to be served to the subscribers 106 and/or 108.

The software 206 and/or 218 may be configured to establish and manage obligated network resources for the subscribers 106 and/or 108. In managing the obligated network resources, the communications service provider and MVNO may maintain information indicative of network resource for which the communications service provider and MVNO are obligated to provide the subscribers 106 and/or 108 on a contractual basis. These network resources are to maintained for the duration of the contractual obligation, which may be indefinite depending on promotional and/or contractual offers.

Communications network equipment 228a-228n (collectively 228) may include servers, routers, switches, hubs, bridges, mobile communications equipment (e.g., base stations), public switched telephone network equipment (e.g., SS7 network equipment), voice over IP (VOIP) network equipment, and so on. One or more of the communications network equipment 228 may be utilized to determine usage and/or certain types of usage (e.g., voice, data, local, regional, international, roaming, etc.) and report that usage to the CSP server 202 for processing thereat or communicating the usage or a derivative thereof (e.g., monthly statements of subscribers of the MVNO). The measured usage may be utilized to reclaim obligated network resources, as further described herein.

With regard to FIG. 3, a block diagram of illustrative modules utilized to reduce network resources allocated to users is shown. The modules 300 may include an establish network resources module 302 that may be configured to establish network resources for subscribers based on promotional offers and/or contractual obligations offered and agreed to by the communications service provider or MVNO with the subscribers. In establishing the network resources, the module 302 may record network resource parameters in a data repository network resources obligated to provide individual subscribers based on respective subscription agreements. For example, if the subscriber has been offered a certain amount of data download (e.g., 500 MB) for his or her lifetime, then the module 302 may establish 500 MB as a total amount of data download that the subscriber has available for the lifetime of the subscriber. Other network resources are possible promotional offerings, as well, as further described herein.

A manage network resources module 304 may be configured to manage network resources for subscribers of a communications services provider and/or MVNO. The module 304 may be configured to manage obligated network resources, such as those that are offered in promotional offers. For example, in the case where the subscriber is to receive 500 MB of data download, and the module 304 may be configured to reduce the amount of network resources to be provided to the subscriber based on actual usage by the subscriber. The module 304 may be configured to manage resources available to individual subscribers as well as manage aggregated network resources obligated to serve some or all of the subscribers of the communications service provider and/or MVNO so that network infrastructure capacity, budgeting, or any other technical and/or financial consideration may be made.

A monitor network usage module 306 may monitor network usage by subscribers. In monitoring network usage, the module 306 may monitor whether a subscriber places telephone calls, utilizes data, or otherwise accesses a communications network. The monitoring may be performed in conjunction with switches, routers, and other network communications systems utilized to perform network communications services for subscribers, where communications performed by subscribers may be determined through inclusion of mobile identification numbers (MINs), Internet Protocol (IP) address, media access control (MAC) address, and/or any other identifiers associated with an electronic device that communicates over a communications network, as understood in the art. As communications from an electronic device over a communications network are performed, usage information may be monitored and collected by the network equipment and communicated to the CSP server 202 (FIG. 2) or other computing system configured to receive and process the measured usage data, so that the module 306 may receive, directly (if operating in the CSP server 202) or indirectly (if operating in the MVNO server 204 of FIG. 2) from the network equipment or CSP server 202, and process that usage information for use in determining whether or not to reclaim the obligated network resources, as further described herein. In one embodiment, obligated network resources may be driven by usage of the network by the subscriber so as to maintain the obligated network resources for the subscribers. The module 306 may monitor network usage over a period of time, such as two months. If the module 306 is being executed by a server of a communications service provider, the module 306 may receive data from one or more modules being executed in network equipment. If the module 306 is being executed by a server of an MVNO, then the module may receive data from a server of a communications service provider as the MVNO does not operate or manage network equipment, as understood in the art. The data provided to an MVNO may be in the form of usage data, as understood in the art, and the module 306 may offset data associated with individual subscribers being managed by the MVNO. The modules 304 and 306 may be utilized in combination to determine whether subscribers use network resources over a certain time period, and, responsive to determining that a subscriber has not used network resources over a given time period, cause obligated network resources to be removed or otherwise altered, as further described herein. Other minimum thresholds may be utilized, as well, to determine whether the subscriber is to maintain obligated network resources depending on contractual obligations with a subscriber.

A remove network resources module 308 may be configured to remove network resources obligated to serve subscribers. In removing the network resources, the module 308 may be configured to alter data records stored in a data repository that indicates obligated network resources to provide to subscribers. For example, if a subscriber is contractually provided 500 MB of download data over his or her lifetime, then a data record may be altered or eliminated, thereby reducing liability for the communications service provider or MVNO. As a result, network capacity may be increased, and expenditure to support the obligations may be reduced.

An archive network resources module 310 may be configured to archive information associated with a subscriber's network resources in response to the module 308 removing the network resources for the subscriber. By removing the information, and hence the actual network resources for the subscriber, efficiency of a data repository that services operations may be improved, and communications network services may also be made more efficient. In archiving the network resources by module 310, information representative of an amount of network resources that had previously been allocated to the subscriber at the time that the obligated network resources were removed may be stored in a non-operational data repository (i.e., an archive data repository), thereby reducing the size of the operational data repository and improving efficiency thereof. Having an archive data repository maintains a record of the allocated and obligated network resources for the subscriber for management and other purposes.

A report network resources module 312 may be configured to generate and produce reports for operators of communications service providers and/or MVNO's to view. These reports may list obligated network resources so that the operators may determine obligations for subscribers based on contractual obligations in providing network resources for the subscribers.

With regard to FIG. 4, a flow diagram of an illustrative process 400 that is used to manage network resources is shown. The process 400 is to be executed on a computing system, such as MVNO server 204 of FIG. 2, and may start at step 402, where network resources obligated to serve a subscriber may be established. In establishing obligated network resources, a data record associated with the subscriber may be established in a data repository to manage the obligated network resources for the subscriber. At step 404, network usage data of the subscriber may be collected over a time period. For example, the time period may be 60 days, 90 days, or any other time period over which the maintenance of the obligated network resources are to be maintained in the event that the subscriber accesses the network during that time period.

At step 406, a determination may be made as to whether usage data exceeds a minimum usage threshold level. In one embodiment, usage threshold level may be zero minutes. Alternatively, the usage threshold level may be any other amount of time consistent with a policy to maintain obligated network resources for the subscriber. At step 408, if the usage data does not exceed the minimum usage threshold level (e.g., 0 minutes), then the process may cause the network resources to be released. In releasing the network resources, the obligated network resources may be changed from a remaining balance to a zero balance, for example. The process may thereafter return to step 402. If it is determined at step 406 that the usage data does not exceed a minimum usage threshold level, then the process may also return to step 402.

In an embodiment, a determination as to whether the network usage data does not exceed a maximum threshold level may be determined. The maximum threshold level may be a dynamic level that matches or is associated with an available balance of non-reusable, obligated network resources associated with the user. For example, if the user has an amount of non-reusable, obligated network resources available, then those non-reusable, obligated network resources may be drawn to provide continued network resources and the non-reusable, obligated network resources may be released, as previously described.

With regard to FIG. 5, a flow diagram of an illustrative process 500 for non-reusable, obligated (“NRO”) network resources to be used as monthly network resource overage is shown. The process 500 may start at step 502, where a request for non-reusable, obligated network resources for a subscriber may be received. The resources request is typically received as a result of a promotional offer of non-reusable, obligated network resources being used to motivate a customer in signing up for a monthly subscription program. However, the resources request may be received as a result of a subscriber desiring to purchase non-reusable, obligated network resources independent of a promotion. That is, a standard sales offer may include a certain amount of non-reusable, obligated network resources (e.g., 1,000 minutes of talk time) in addition to monthly network resources (e.g., 2,000 minutes of talk time). As an example, non-reusable, obligated network resources may be a 1 GB of non-reusable, obligated data communications to incentivize a customer to purchase a monthly subscription for 100 MB per month of data communications in a “use it or lose it” arrangement. At step 504, non-reusable, obligated network resources are allocated to the subscriber, and applied to a subscriber's account at step 506. The non-reusable, obligated network resources, thereafter, are to be reserved by the communication service provider so that that level of resources, if utilized, can be serviced by the communication service provider. As understood in the art, the cost of maintaining the non-reusable, obligated network resources can be quite significant for a variety of reasons, as previously described herein.

At step 508, monthly network resources may be allocated as part of a subscription agreement for network resources (i.e., communications services) for the subscriber. As provided in the previous example, the monthly resources may be a certain number, such as 100 MB, for data communications. It should be understood that the monthly network resources as well as the non-reusable, obligated network resources may be that of any communications services, such as talk, text messaging, long distance, international talk, international data, roaming, data communications, streaming, and/or other communications services, as understood in the art. At step 510, usage of communications services may be tracked during the month. In tracking usage of communications services, a communications network may utilize conventional metering techniques of communications services. For example, switches, routers, and/or any other network communications device may be utilized in tracking types of communication services being utilized by the subscriber. In one embodiment, an MVNO may receive a report indicating the amount network resources used by the subscriber of the MVNO on a communications service provider's network as tracked thereby.

At step 512, a determination as to whether the subscriber is over his or her monthly subscription resource allocation may be made. If it is determined that the subscriber has exceeded his or her monthly subscription resource for a particular communications resource, such as data communications, then the process continues at step 514, where the subscriber is notified of using more than his or her monthly subscription resources. If the subscriber has additional network resources in the form of non-reusable, obligated network resources, then at step 516, additional network resources are drawn from the non-reusable, obligated network resources. These non-reusable, obligated network resources there by operate as a “backstop” or “overdraft protection” for communications services.

At step 518, a determination as to whether non-reusable, obligated network resources are still available may be made. If non-reusable, obligated network resources are not available, then the process continues at step 520, where the subscriber is notified that he or she no longer has any non-reusable, obligated network resources for that type of communications resources. As an example, if the user runs out of voice call time during a month, if the user has non-reusable, obligated network resources in the form of voice call time, then the non-reusable, obligated network resources may be drawn from to provide the user with additional voice call time during the month. In one embodiment, the non-reusable, obligated network resources may be “universal” or type independent, such as point, that may be exchanged for any type of communications services (e.g., text messaging, long distance roaming, international voice services, etc.), and the process may determine that the type is satisfied as a result of the non-reusable, obligated network resources being type independent. The process thereafter continues at step 522, where a determination as to whether the month is complete may be made. If the month is determined to be complete at step 522, then the process returns to step 508, where monthly network resources may be allocated based on the monthly subscription. Alternatively, if it is determined at step 522 that the month is not complete, then the process 500 returns to step 510. If, at step 512, is determined that the subscriber has not exceeded his or her monthly subscription resources, then the process continues at step 522. If it is determined at step 518 that the subscriber still has non-reusable, obligated network resources, then the process continues at step 510, where tracking of usage of the network resources during the month continues. As previously described, in the event that the subscriber has not used network resources over a time period, the non-reusable, obligated network resources may be caused to be released, thereby reducing obligated network resources of the communications network.

In one embodiment, establishing network resources may include allocating a predetermined amount of data communications services for the user to consume with data communications. Allocating the predetermined amount of data communication services for the user to consume may include allocating a data rate at which the data communications services is to communicate data for the user. Allocating a predetermined amount of data communications services may also or additionally include allocating a predetermined number of data messages available for the user to communicate.

In one aspect, establishing network resources may include allocating a predetermined amount of data storage available for the user of the networked electronic device to access to store data. Allocating a predetermined amount of data storage may include allocating the predetermined amount of storage without the ability to reuse the predetermined amount of storage after storing data therein. Establishing network resources may include establishing the network resources without establishing an expiration date for the user to consume the network resources. Collecting network usage data over a predetermined time period may include collecting the network usage data over a multi-month time period.

In one embodiment, causing the network resources to be released may include deleting data in a data storage unit. The network resources may be caused to be released by (i) deallocating a network address associated with the networked electronic device of the user, and (ii) turning the network address back into a routing guide inclusive of network addresses of multiple service providers for reallocation to another user. In one embodiment, deallocating a network address includes deallocating a telephone number.

Still yet, establishing the network resources obligated to serve a user for a networked electronic device may include establishing the network resources obligated to serve the user to use a mobile device. Establishing network resources may include establishing roaming time on at least one second communications network for use by the user of the networked electronic device. Establishing network resources may also include establishing international communications time for use by the user of the networked electronic device. In one embodiment, the network resources are secondary network resources to a primary network resource of which the user uses the networked electronic device on the communications network, where the primary network resources are talk time.

In one embodiment, a determination as to whether the network usage data exceeds a second threshold level may be made, and, in response to determining that the network usage data exceeds the second threshold level, the network resources obligated to serve the user may be caused to be released, thereby reducing the obligated network resources, otherwise, in response to determining that the network usage data does not exceed the second threshold level, the network resources obligated to serve the user may be maintained.

In another embodiment, the network resources obligated to serve the user that are caused to be released may further include archiving data representative of network resources to be served to the user, and the archived data may be deleted from the data repository. Additionally, a determination that network usage data exceeds the threshold level after archiving the data representative of network resources to be served to the user may be made, and the network resources available to the user may be restored.

The systems and methods use a specially-programmed computer system that has the capability to perform the complex computations and automated functionality that cannot be reasonably performed by a person. The computations and functionality are envisioned to be performed by a non-human system, including hardware, software, and/or firmware. The computations and functionality require cannot be performed by a generic computer, but rather a specially-programmed computer that is configured to perform the complex computations and functionality described herein. The techniques and processes described herein may also improve the efficiency of the specially-programmed computer by performing discrete tasks that can more optimally process data.

The previous detailed description is of a small number of embodiments for implementing the invention and is not intended to be limiting in scope. One of skill in this art will immediately envisage the methods and variations used to implement this invention in other areas than those described in detail. The following claims set forth a number of the embodiments of the invention disclosed with greater particularity.