What is communications anyway?

Facebook is fast becoming YouTube’s main competitor. The number of video posts showing up in users’ timelines is up 360 percent since this time last year.

This is interesting but is already causing unforeseen problems. Operators, already hurting from OTT players driving more and more data over their networks, are being squeezed even further. Some operators are having to take the hit as customers exceed data limits because in their minds, they are just checking Facebook, not watching videos, and the bill shock consequences are not worth airing in public. The situation is made worse by the new functionality on Facebook that automatically starts a video when customers scroll past it. Although the brunt of this problem is being felt in the US, it will have real consequences elsewhere.

Imagine the arenas where agreements are in place for operators to offer zero rated Facebook. On paper it is a win-win situation. Operators have a compelling product to offer and thus get to customers and Facebook is available to customers who did not have access to it. With an increasing burden on the network, and customers having even less idea about how much data they are using, agreements might well have to be re-negotiated.

Facebook is not the only offering that is making the term ‘communications’ increasingly vague. Everyone is in the communications game. At the recent CES show is Las Vegas the main points of interest revolved around the idea that if it can be connected, it should be connected. Cars are part of the communications world, with keynotes at CES and Mobile World Congress nowadays coming from the automotive world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is, literally, everywhere (and in part increasingly insane). Facebook is now a video platform, Google is our default infrastructure, our phones are phones last, computers, music and video players first. Amazon provides everything we need.

For this reason – or these reasons – the concept of data must be eradicated from our language. Bill shock is bad enough (for all involved) when customers understand that they are using too much data by watching videos that they requested. It is much worse if customers are faced with extra charges for doing something that, to them, does not even involve video. We should not even go there.

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Alex Leslie
About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
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.

1 Comment

  1. The auto-start feature on Facebook videos is very irritating, and I can see many people running out of data allowances / bundles or inadvertently running up big bills (probably when roaming) as a result. It is possible to switch this off in the Facebook settings, or at least set it to happen only when on WiFi, however I suspect rather like the convoluted privacy settings most users will never quite grasp this…

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