Why do machines not pay roaming charges?

Written by on January 14, 2016 in Billing & Payments, Opinion with 0 Comments

Horse - Sun&FunA new study by Machina Research and Starhome Mach illustrates just how big the explosion in M2M roaming is. In itself, this should be a good thing, but there are a couple of issues that make it complicated. First, the profile of traffic is very different from human traffic and this makes it hard, if not impossible for a visited network to see what is happening on its patch. Second, the profile of the traffic is very different, with some machines being heavy users of data and others sending a lot of very small signals. Third, the sheer volume of roaming traffic is taking off to the point where – the study shows – roaming machines will overtake roaming humans around 2020.

While all this might make you think ‘boo hoo,’ man up and figure it out, we are rather amused by the irony of the roaming issue.

The machine roaming traffic is not, as you might think, about motor traffic. The number of BMWs on road trips will barely affect things. The point is that when a large company orders a few hundred thousand devices to deploy across Europe, they do not want to be bothered with individual country SIMs. They want one international one. And this is also a headache for the visited network, since they cannot play the tricks with the choice of default network.

That is not the irony, though. The irony is that machines – apparently – are not encumbered with the same roaming charges as mere humans. Why, you have to ask, should a machine be exempt from the artificial profits still being raked in by mobile operators?

If you were the Regulator, and therefore already embarrassed by how much you have let companies like Vodafone bully you into delaying the abolition of premium roaming charges, you would (should) hide your head in shame.

We sympathise – to an extent – with the challenges of M2M roaming. But surely this blatant inequality, which will become increasingly laughable, should provide some backbone for Regulators’ as they try to abolish these barriers to innovation (and increased usage). At the moment, a date has been set for doing away with roaming charges (and not a moment too soon) but we are now in a ‘consultation’ period. This means that lawyers will be despatched to Brussels in their droves, to trip up the Regulator as he tries to make good his (most recent) promise.

If consumer wishes will not win this one, maybe embarrassment and irony might.

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Alex Leslie

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. .

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