A hierarchical game with strategy evolution for mobile sponsored content and service markets

Wenbo Wang, Zehui Xiong, Dusit Niyato, Ping Wang, Zhu Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In sponsored content and service markets, the content and service providers are able to subsidize their target mobile users through directly paying the mobile network operator to lower the price of the data/service access charged by the network operator to the mobile users. The sponsoring mechanism leads to a surge in mobile data and service demand, which in return compensates for the sponsoring cost and benefits the content/service providers. In this paper, we study the interactions among the three parties in the market, namely, the mobile users, the content/service providers, and the network operator, as a two-level game with multiple Stackelberg (i.e., leader) players. Our study is featured by the consideration of global network effects owning to consumers' grouping. Since the mobile users may have bounded rationality, we model the service-selection process among them as an evolutionary-population follower sub-game. Meanwhile, we model the pricing-then-sponsoring process between the content/service providers and the network operator as a non-cooperative equilibrium searching problem. By investigating the structure of the proposed game, we reveal a few important properties regarding the equilibrium existence and propose a distributed, projection-based algorithm for iterative equilibrium searching. Simulation results validate the convergence of the proposed algorithm and demonstrate how sponsoring helps improve both the providers' profits and the users' experience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8463549
Pages (from-to)472-488
Number of pages17
JournalIEEE Transactions on Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 1972-2012 IEEE.


Manuscript received August 31, 2017; revised February 5, 2018, June 28, 2018, and August 15, 2018; accepted September 5, 2018. Date of publication September 13, 2018; date of current version January 15, 2019. This work was supported in part by WASP/NTU M4082187 (4080), in part by Singapore MOE Tier 1 under Grant 2017-T1-002-007 RG122/17, in part by MOE Tier 2 under Grant MOE2014-T2-2-015 ARC4/15, in part by NRF2015-NRF-ISF001-2277, in part by EMA Energy Resilience under Grant NRF2017EWT-EP003-041, in part by US MURI, US NSF CNS-1717454, in part by US NSF CNS-1731424, in part by US NSF CNS-1702850, in part by US NSF CNS-1646607, and in part by US NSF ECCS-1547201. This paper was presented in part at the IEEE GLOBECOM 2017 [1]. The associate editor coordinating the review of this paper and approving it for publication was L. Chen. (Corresponding author: Wenbo Wang.) W. Wang, Z. Xiong, and D. Niyato are with the School of Computer Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 639798 (e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]).

FundersFunder number
EMA Energy ResilienceNRF2017EWT-EP003-041
WASP/NTUMOE2014-T2-2-015 ARC4/15, M4082187 (4080, 2017-T1-002-007 RG122/17, NRF2015-NRF-ISF001-2277
National Science FoundationCNS-1702850, CNS-1717454, CNS-1646607, CNS-1731424, ECCS-1547201


    • Evolutionary game
    • Global network effects
    • Multi-leader-follower game
    • Sponsored content/service market
    • Variational inequalities


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