On the spot with Subex

IMG_1050At the recent Subex User Group conference I did a presentation that covered everything I thought was interesting or disruptive in the communications world over the next few years. Getting slightly distracted and carried away by a thesis on mobile payments, which I believe will be an extraordinarily interesting ‘arena’ to watch, I ran over time. Therefore there was no time for questions. Thinking I had got away ‘scot free’ I flew back to Scotland. Only to be asked whether I would answer some of the questions in the form of an article.

So, here goes:

Question: With every vendor trying to offer their own wallets, should I be concerned about my credit card data being used each time?

Answer: Yes, you should, but actually no more than you should be now if you have a contactless payment card, for instance. You might remember when you went out to supper in a restaurant. You finished, the waiter came and took away your credit card somewhere, then brought you back a slip to sign. How many times was he copying your card, manually? The sad truth is that fraudsters will always be one step ahead. Our job, as the communications industry, is to make sure that the step is very small and we can easily keep up or catch up.

Question: How you see law and policy as a bottleneck for internet business?

Answer: I think there are two ways of answering this.

One is to discuss the ‘surveillance’ that is commonplace and exposed by Edward Snowden. That will, inevitably have an effect on customers’ trust and will damage business online. As one delegate at Ron Brydon’s recent workshop said, “this is rotting the internet from the inside out.” Oddly, I believe that operators are less in the firing line here than Digital Service Providers (DSPs) such as Google.

The second is that it is another sad truth that Regulators will always, by definition, be reactive. Although their goal is to encourage competition, they also try to create a ‘level playing field.’ Most of the time this happens slowly, but is good in the end. For instance, the phasing out of premium charges for roaming. This is not happening fast enough in my opinion, but at least it is happening. Sometimes, though, we end up with that awful ‘law of unintended consequences’ as with the new VAT law that is coming in in January. This could easily thwart convergent billing efforts as operators might have to produce two bills for customers who work in one country and live in another.

Question: Where are the credit card companies in terms of mobile payments developments?

Answer: In the same exciting, tense cauldron as banks, operators, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, you name it. Everyone now realizes that that ‘payments experience’ is replacing any thought we had of creating a positive billing experience. That said, supermarkets have got this right to some extent. Think ‘loyalty’ here. Credit card companies will survive, of course, but they are busy hedging their bets at the moment.

Question: Has the bill been killed?

Answer: Not entirely, although the consumer clearly does not ‘need’ a bill any longer, beyond a statutory one. There are other opportunities, though, if we look at the supermarkets.

Question: Is the word ‘innovation’ used too much?

Answer: Probably. Someone told me that there are companies out there that actually have ‘innovation committees’ which is crazy. Innovation does not happen by committee. Disruption is a word we like.

Question: What is the future for the telecoms trade press?

Answer: That, as they say, is ‘a good question.’ Very bright, we think. But then we would, wouldn’t we?

Thank you. Did you read my poem?

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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.

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