There is no doubt that OTT bypass is the hottest topic in telecoms risk management. For those unfamiliar with OTT bypass, it is the practice of diverting a voice call dialed by the A-party so it terminates on the OTT app of the B-party’s handset. Redirecting an international call from the voice network to the data network will reduce costs, because there is no termination fee for the OTT leg. However, there are also downsides for users, such as:
- the receiving party does not get a CLI;
- the quality of the call may be degraded;
- the originating party is paying for a traditional voice call and may feel cheated that they could have used an OTT app to get the same service for less; and
- the receiving party pays for data usage.
OTT bypass is also an issue for carriers who are struggling with the costs of upgrading data networks, and it hurts governments who use the bottleneck of international gateways to collect a share of termination fees. And the scale of OTT bypass should not be underestimated. British firm Revector estimate that more than 25 percent of international calls now terminate as OTT. As a consequence, Revector have launched a new product which is designed to detect OTT bypass – and I expect other businesses are working on rival offerings. Put simply, the buzz is that many telcos are looking for proactive solutions to OTT bypass, because they fear a runaway migration of traffic from voice networks to data networks. Revector are leading the way by developing a tool for those telcos, but the demand is so great that I expect plenty of competitors to be snapping at Revector’s heels.
This is how Revector describe the scale of the problem in their press release:
In recent months Revector has identified thousands of instances of calls originated as mobile to mobile voice calls being connected within Voice Over IP (VoIP) apps on mobile devices. In some cases as many as 50% of all international calls are being terminated through VoIP rather than as a direct telephone to telephone call.
Revector’s press release does not provide any details about how their product works. However, it is likely they are combining test calls, as typically used to detect international bypass, with deep analysis of the protocols used to manage data traffic.
It is rare to see a dramatic change in the universe of frauds, scams and leaks. However, major new risks do emerge every so often. OTT bypass is the biggest new issue, because it lies in a legal grey zone but could potentially devastate the revenues made from international voice calls. I know of some telcos that are very interested in exploring new methods to detect and manage OTT bypass. Revector are responding to that demand, and I expect other suppliers will follow. Those telcos which have not yet considered the threat of OTT bypass need to do a proper risk assessment now, and explore the possibility of employing specialist advisors and tools. If they do not, they may suffer disproportionate harm from explosive growth in the volumes of traffic diverted to OTT bypass.