Ready for the IoT? Did Billing get the memo?

Written by on August 24, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

male and women rudely interrupted by a flirting pickup artist at a bar

The battle for dominance in the IoT is hotting up. Last week, Google launched its innocent sounding Wi-Fi home hub. As many pointed out, faster than lab download speeds, it is clearly a play to seamlessly control the entire home environment. The operators, we thought, were being pushed aside in the lucrative home environment.

Several weeks ago, we – and others – reported on a company called Sigfox. Sigfox has designed a network specifically to support the IoT, with low power monitors, long battery life and at significantly cheaper prices. Investors include NTT and Telefonica, and we thought – once again – that operators had been by-passed on the highway to IoT success.

Then the GSMA announced that 26 leading operators, OEM and chip manufacturers have backed a collaborative project for a low power, wide area solution (LPWA), designed to support the ‘normal’ IoT applications that need monitors to last a long time, ‘sleep’ for much of that time and are cheap to deploy and maintain. It would be fair to say, given the caveat that operators who do things by committee are rarely successful, that operators are at least keeping up with the competition. Commercial roll out of LPWA solutions will begin in 2016.

At the centre of the piece, the core network, operators are also preparing. An interview with BT Managing Director of Research and Innovation, Tim Whitley, demonstrates that they, too, are ready for the onslaught. Although keeping an eye on the advent of video and graphics traffic, and having demonstrated an eye watering 3Tbs over an optical network, he sees most IoT traffic as low bandwidth, traffic. He believes that the demands on the network, which are minimal now, will only become a challenge for operators when video and graphics become involved.

It seems that operators are in a good position to address the IoT – network-wise.

But someone should tell the guys in Billing. It is an industry joke (but not a very funny one) that the guys in Billing are the last ones to know. Anything. There were the tales of Billing discovering that their company had launched a new product because they saw an advert for it on the bus on the way to work. Sometimes they were able to bill for it, sometimes not. The legendary MCI bundle ‘Friends and Family,’ had to be launched with reduced numbers of customers that could be chosen, because the billing system simply could not cope. Having announced it, and been told by Billing that the vision was not possible, the lights were on 24 hours a day in the Billing department.

So, once again, Billing seems to be waiting for instruction, or at least a meeting. In recent Billing and Revenue Management meetings, no billing executives had been asked whether they could bill for M2M or the IoT. It is on the agenda of the next ETIS BRM meeting because we know that soon a conversation along the following lines will take place. “So, ah, this IoT business. We’re OK to bill for that, right?” Hopefully, if we get the discussion properly focused now (to date it has been a little too conceptual) the end of the conversation will be “of course, we’re ready to go. By the way, we have been discussing some innovations that we’d like to run by you.”

With the IoT, like many innovations before it, Billing is in danger of being the last to know. Yet Billing is there to support new business models, not thwart them.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.