Feature Article

September 17, 2012

How Much is your Wireless Carrier Charging You?

The statistics for the number of smartphones in the world seems to change every day and this growth is overwhelming some service providers. This is because the phones are data intensive and the capacity telecom companies have is barely meeting demand. Currently, the world total for smartphones is more than 1.1 billion and more than 101 million of those phones are in the U.S. With all the data being used how accurate are service providers when they start counting usage.

A study conducted by UCLA researchers of two large U.S. cell phone networks revealed the system in place to track the amount of data the consumer uses is not always accurate. In fact, the researchers concluded an additional five to seven percent of data could be added to each user. This potentially means you could be paying for data you did not use. The study did not reveal the companies in question but stated they make up for 50 percent of the subscribers in the U.S. 

Image via Shutterstock

According to ComScore’s January 2012 mobile content usage, “74.6 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers used text messaging on their mobile device, up 2.8 percentage points. Downloaded applications were used by 48.6 percent of subscribers (up 4.8 percentage points), while browsers were used by 48.5 percent (up 4.5 percentage points). Accessing of social networking sites or blogs increased 3.4 percentage points to 35.7 percent of mobile subscribers. Game-playing was done by 31.8 percent of the mobile audience (up 2.6 percentage points), while 24.5 percent listened to music on their phones (up 3.3 percentage points).” With all of this data usage it is essential to place an accurate system of billing.

Recently, lawsuits have been filed on behalf of consumer alleging improprieties with wireless service providers overcharging their customers. This study only validates the allegations brought up against the company or companies in question. Although the technology exist for the service providers to implement a better technology to measure the exact data a customer uses they choose not to apply it.

The networks count the data as soon as it leaves the company and whether it reaches its intended target or not the meter starts running. It especially affects steaming audio and video content because if the reception gets cut off the content is still being streamed without ever reaching the user, but the data is being counted and charged. A simple protocol that acknowledges the customer is receiving the data will solve this problem.

Smartphones will eventually be the communication device everyone uses and before that time comes regulations have to be in place to protect the customer from being overcharged for services they did not use. In the meantime, the UCLA researchers are developing an app to help users know exactly how much data they use so they can determine if they are being overcharged.

Want to learn more about today’s powerful mobile Internet ecosystem? Don't miss the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5 2012, in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at Mobility Tech Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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