Mobile capping rules are designed to make sure end users are safe from the massive charges that make it into the news now and then-usually along the lines of ‘Bob forgot to turn off his roaming while in the USA and didn’t realise his Netflix stream would cost a thousand pounds.’
So what’s all this new buzz about bill capping, and what does it mean for resellers and the IoT market?
Starting October 1st 2018, Ofcom’s new capping rules are enforceable. They include the requirement for mobile network operators to offer customers the ability to cap their bill and to notify them when they’re about to reach their data limit.
There isn’t much detail on specifically how this should be done, so it’s left up to the billing provider to determine. In the channel however, it gets slightly more complicated; who are we determining as the bill provider—is it the reseller next to the end user, is it the wholesaler, or is it the mobile network operator themselves? And then there are the problems with actually managing data usage—especially when roaming—and who’s going to pay for any over usage.
Managing the data
One of the main problems with data management is that the usage data coming in from the networks is, in a lot of cases, in the form of CDR’s every 24 hours. A big reason for this seemingly inflexible and archaic setup is historical—early 2G networks consumed a tiny stream of data and also required extra processing power to action data usage in near real-time. While steps are slowly being taken to move this usage data reporting to hours or even nearer real-time—a good 4G connection, even when roaming, can run up hundreds of MB quite quickly. Mobile network operators need to update their systems to report data usage faster and in real-time.
Some resellers and billing platforms are now able to provide more frequent usage data through services such as API integration with the operator or provision of RADIUS data. However, this only covers the UK telecoms operators; Ofcom doesn’t have any jurisdiction over other countries ortheir mobile networks. So a current challenge (which is being worked on, I’m sure) is to ensure roaming data usage reaches the reseller at the same frequency as local UK usage data.
Who’s paying for overages?
The Ofcom rules state that if the end user’s cap is set at 10GB, for example, it doesn’t matter if there is a 24 hour delay, a 1 hour delay, or a 1 minute delay. Any data over that limit will not incur charges for the end user. Only with the end user’s consent can further data usage occur and further charging commence. So, if there was a few GB of overuse on the phone, and the end user doesn’t have to pay, who does?
Thankfully, resellers can breathe a sigh of relief. It seems that the mobile network will absorbing the charges—and rightly so, as the actual network rates are much lower than the “default roaming” rates (think of those “£6 per MB” text messages that you receive when you land in another country sometimes) that were once levied onto end users.
How does this affect the IoT and M2M markets?
There are a number of factors. The legislation in place is geared towards the end user—a human being using a mobile phone. Often, cellular solutions for IoT have a whole different set of requirements when it comes to SIM cards and data. Just to name a few for example:
- Real-time data usage monitoring and management
- Ability for custom APN’s, allowing bespoke IP addressing
- Closed user group or VPN connectivity
- IMEI lockdown and rule based automation and management
- Different data requirements, could be a few kilobytes or a terabyte
Not all of these requirements are easily satisfied by a consumer or business type SIM, so it pays to be aware when a requirement for a customer is closer to an IoT or M2M model rather than a consumer or business model.
IoT solutions also have much more predictability when it comes to the amount of data consumed and where it will be consumed. For example, a water sensor might use 10KB a day, meaning 300KB a month is a certainty. And the sensor would also be deployed in a predictable location—if it moved to a new location, it would be a managed move to a new pricing zone, so there would be no surprises when it came to the bill.
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