When It Comes To Apps... Don't Forget The Data


The joke used to be “there’s an App for that.” Ten years on since the first one was created, who would have imagined how much we rely on them. And given that we do how can we make sure all the data used is billed correctly?

Our mobiles play such a major part in our life – you could argue they even control it. A report by The Physiological Society suggests a day without your smartphone is not just unthinkable but unfathomable.

And the Apps on our phones are playing an even bigger part to the point they are becoming a daily habit.

App’s are getting more complicated for the telco as they offer one rule for browsing and another for streaming. One may be free, another charges, or the use is taken from a bundle. It is important the business rules are transparent.

In October the UK regulator, Ofcom, will be requiring operators to report on accuracy of data billing. As consumers of data, App’s will surely be included in this.

It is therefore vital to ensure the data consumed is billed accurately. Today, when it comes to streaming, blink and you miss it. Streaming happens before we have the chance to click off. Simple browsing can lead to videos being played automatically causing misleading or unrecognised billing for subscribers. It is easy to burn through your data this way.

Managing this from a customer service perspective is challenging and we see more and more operators asking for App testing relating to how the business rules are applied and how or if charges are measured correctly. Our technicians at Roscom have worked in this field for sometime and developed the ability to reverse engineer the mechanics behind data charging to provide accuracy to +/- 1 byte.

This isn’t about whether the App works i.e. how it navigates, it’s structure or ease of use but whether it rates events correctly. At Roscom precise and calibrated test and measurement is what we do to ensure compliance, maximise profit for companies and minimise fraud. Apps need to be working for and not against the operators or the customers.

This includes the typical Apps we have on our home screen like Google Chrome, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. If you are a regular traveller then most likely a trainline App like Virgin Trains and the AA too.

Operators are now starting to receive queries regarding data consumption and it is becoming clear that not all activity is visible to the paying subscriber. Depending on phone settings and preferred application rules, the handset could be consuming data without the subscriber knowing.

It’s not only accurate billing that is important but service assurance too. For me this would include utilities and mobile money i.e. digital transactions. In Africa mobile money is the norm. Poor service can mean the difference between buying food or going hungry. It is that serious. GSMA Mobile Money Report for Africa Beyond shows the difference mobile money has made.

In Europe we can do our banking with a phone App. Then there’s Apple Pay, as well as contactless for payments. Utility companies now provide Apps for energy bills. These are becoming “must have” and not just “nice to have.”

But of course none of these can be supplied without successful telcos. Revenue is important for all. But how many are missing opportunities in the App space? Are you losing money by inaccurate billing? Conversely how many would fall foul of regulation based on data usage and charging?

As Apps become popular the alternatives like high street stores and banks and customer services call centres are diminishing. Consumers who would rather avoid Apps are finding they have no choice. It’s therefore even more important to ensure transparency.

So bring on the Apps. But they cannot operate alone. Protection is needed for the consumer, provider and in telecoms the network operators. A regulated, accurate and fair system of compliance test and measurement will ensure everyone is protected.

Mandy Blackburn, Operations Director at Roscom.