Do your numbers add up?

By Mandy Blackburn, Operations Director at Roscom.

How many of us bother to read the small print? Whether it’s accepting cookies on your computer or the finer points of an insurance document, do we really want to know about the detail? Probably not. But when it comes to telecoms it is not a case of buyer beware. The onus is firmly on the network operator to ensure customers are billed correctly. The question is do you have the tools to do so?

The telecoms landscape is no longer simple. Where once it was calls, texts and data i.e. emails and internet searches, consumers now have WhatsApp, Spotify and Netflix to name but a few. The once fixed scenery is constantly evolving as similar apps and channels look to get into the market.

It’s estimated the number of smart phones in the world is around two and a half billion which means one in three of us have one – or more likely some of us have more than one. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the number of smartphones is going to increase as the population grows and the technology to support them becomes more available worldwide.

So you have a growing population with a growing number of smartphones and a growing number of services on offer. Making sure you, as a network operator, is correctly billing customers in this busy marketplace is not an easy task because it isn’t just about the billable items any more. Your revenue assurance manager has to also take into account those services operators include free to users in their usage bundle.

The UK regulator Ofcom has made it quite clear “Consumers cannot reasonably be expected to verify the accuracy of all charges made by any Communications Provider (CP) for services provided, especially where those charges are based on the extent of consumers’ usage of such services.“ — Ofcom Metering and Billing Direction 2017.

So while of course the consumer should read the small print and understand what their data/calls bundle includes, getting the billing right lays fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the network provider.

But, as I have mentioned before, you need to make sure you are adding up the right numbers – particularly in today’s complex landscape. So, for example, when do you decide a call starts and when it ends. Is it when it has been connected or when the call is placed? Are you rounding up or rounding down?

However you can only do this if your software is taking all of today’s offerings into account. Roscom’s new Osprey Control Suite is the only big data and test call generation combined technology solution which can tell you, on an individual basis, who is being undercharged, who is being overcharged and by how much.

Once you discover that, the next move is up to you. So what do your business rules say? If it is a postpaid customer you may well have terms and conditions which allow you to add the undercharge to their next bill. If you have overcharged you will obviously have to pay them back.

Forewarned is forearmed. Our new tool has the technology to let you know beforehand so the same error doesn’t occur in their next bill. After all customers may well be happy to take a refund but they won’t be happy to pay a bigger bill. It’s your reputation and not just your profit and loss which may be affected.

The new Direction came into force in October last year and we’re already helping some network providers understand how they can stay within the rules and what information about their products and services is in the public domain – is it clear and transparent or hidden away in the small print?

For data services we are not just talking mobile phone events but also broadband. This market offers some “all you can eat” services but bandwidth may be limited. There are product and pricing rules which require validation to ensure a provisioned service is actually the correct product and also the process for which metering and billing is applied.

The two need to be assured in their own right to adhere to the requirements of a TMBS. It is called total metering and billing for a reason. Metering of data events is a subject understood by few in the general public. Talk to most consumers about bytes and bandwidth and most choose to simply disable data services rather than manage them for charges incurred.

As holders of product attestation from one of Ofcom’s Approval Bodies, TÜV SÜD BABT, our 30 years’ experience in this space, and our engineering background gives network operators the confidence we validate metering to the individual byte and reverse engineer to ensure products are configured correctly for billing in the first instance. When it comes to timing, metering and billing, our sums add up the right numbers to give the right result.

Mandy Blackburn, Operations Director at Roscom.