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By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2005-04-07 Print this article Print

What I hadnt suspected, until visiting Billing Systems, was that the margin isnt measurable. "We calculate that out of 500 music SKUs we get from our providers in the media business, we can be pretty sure of 300," said one network insider. "But another 100 may have been downloaded and then failed before completing. We simply dont know which. And another 100 may well just not have reached the edge of the network ..."
And the accounting system just doesnt show it. "We can see exactly where the point of failures are for each service event," commented founder Oren Glanz, president and CEO of Israeli company Olista, "You have a pile of all these usage attempts, and we look into it to find problems. Patterns."
The amazing thing isnt that Olista can find these problems; its that the networks today cant. But even more amazing is that they dont know how many problems they have. I asked the question: "If things are this approximate, how do you know how big a check to send to Hollywood?" And this is where the answer came, which gave me the new buzzword: "We bill them according to expectations." Which means: We judge how many downloads actually completed from a number of factors including the number of complaints we get, and then we send a check to the copyright holder. And if they dont complain, we know weve overpaid." If this business grew to the point where it was even a small fraction of the business involved in voice call billing, the whole façade would collapse. The moral: If you use a mobile network and you get bills, complain. The people on the other end wont be in a position to challenge you and will almost certainly offer a discount. And my bet is that this will still be true in another six months—because the job of introducing these new systems will simply terrify the people in the accounting department, and they wont do it until it becomes a much bigger problem than a few ring tones not paid for. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.


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