Recent revelations that Microsoft Windows 7 handsets were sending large amounts of superfluous data when synching with Yahoo Mail (see BBC News) has served to underline a basic truth that few have honestly admitted: when you pay for mobile data, you have no idea if you are getting value for money. The issue is not whether the charges are accurate in the conventional sense. You be sending a meg and paying for a meg. The issue is whether you really needed to send a meg in order to communicate what you were trying to communicate. To illustrate, whether emailing a simple plain text message or one with a document attached, a Blackberry will need fewer bytes than an iPhone. Indeed, an iPhone will is generally the most data-hungry of all smartphones.
In an age where consumers are increasingly aware of the fuel efficiency of their cars, and the energy efficiency of their washing machines, why no interest in the data efficiency of their phones? Probably the answer is that, so far, the differences have not been made sufficiently public by consumer groups and the media. The issue is complex because it involves both what comes with the handset and other software on top. The Windows 7 glitch reportedly affects a ‘low single-digit percentage’ of users, and for a while was blamed on a nameless third party, illustrating the potential obscurity of the root causes of inefficient data traffic. But whatever the root causes, bills are simple enough to the customer. There is a number at the bottom, and the customer has to pay it. With net neutrality and traffic management being such contentious topics, communication providers need to understand efficiency from all sides. An explosion of growth in traffic can be bad for them, if it leads to unmanageable capex costs. Unnecessary traffic is also no good for their customers, if they are made to pay for excess traffic that could have been streamlined. In terms of assurance, analytics and decision-making, determining a genuinely fair market price for data is one of the most underestimated challenges in the industry today.
In some quarters, revenue assurance is steadily evolving into a hybrid with service assurance. This nexus of skills would be ideal for resolving the complexities of data pricing, so providers get the best return on investment whilst succeeding in a competitive marketplace. But the alignment of network and revenue insights is progressing too slowly. Not only networks need more bandwidth; management intelligence needs more bandwidth too.