Pricing a shared access link for fair and efficient operation with variable user data rates
The literature on pricing implicitly assumes an "infinite data" model, in which sources can sustain any data rate indefinitely. We assume a more realistic "finite data" model, in which sources occasionally run out of data; this leads to variable user data rates. Further, we assume that users have contracts with the service provider, specifying the rates at which they can inject traffic into the network. Our objective is to study how prices can be set such that a single link can be shared efficiently and fairly among users in a dynamically changing scenario where a subset of users occasionally has little data to send. User preferences are modelled by concave increasing utility functions. Further, we introduce two additional elements: a convex increasing disutility function and a convex increasing multiplicative congestion-penalty function. The disutility function takes the shortfall (contracted rate minus present rate) as its argument, and essentially encourages users to send traffic at their contracted rates, while the congestion-penalty function discourages heavy users from sending excess data when the link is congested. We obtain simple necessary and sufficient conditions on prices for fair and efficient link sharing; moreover, we show that a single price for all users achieves this. We illustrate the ideas using a simple experiment.