back to article Mobile fee dodgers will get away with enough cash to bail out Greece

Mobile customers are dodging fees running to hundreds of billions of dollars by a combination of accident and design – both facilitated by badly designed billing systems which aren't up to the task. However, US paranoia plays its part too. The numbers come from Juniper Research and estimate that by 2016 operators will have …


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  1. Jerome 0

    Whilst I know little more about the global telecommunications business than I've just read in that article, I can't help but wonder if the vast sums of money quoted are really valid. Are these "estimates" perhaps as baseless as the hilarious figures which are bandied around by the press regarding piracy, and the amount it supposedly costs the economy every year?

  2. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Don't you just love how US law extends beyond the US borders to sovereign countries on the other side of the world.

    But putting that aside surely these countries have access to encryption such as AES since there are open source software implementation of it available to outside the US so those who want to encrypt there data so it can't be eavesdropped could still do so.

    1. Steven Roper

      Yes, I noticed the ITAR bit too

      And I must say, it can't be all that effective, since trying to contain information in today's world is a bit like pissing in a colander, and in any event sanctioned countries (Iran comes to mind) would simply hoist a big fat middle finger to any attempts by the US to prevent them from developing their own strong encryption, even if they could contain what's already been developed.

      I personally think ITAR restrictions would be the least part of the problem discussed in the article. The US is delusional if it thinks it controls the flow of information to such a degree. But then they are home to organisations like Apple and the RIAA, to name just two aspects of such controlling mentality, so I could be overestimating them.

    2. Gordon 10


      If this is a big enough problem some one can use a encryption scheme that the US cannot control? There must be strong open source versions right?

      Does ITAR cover all manufacturers world wide operations? ie if I have a sales office in the US and my base station manufacturing in Timbukstan can they still clobber me?

  3. PyLETS

    Bit like stealing electricity

    People still do that in places with advanced infrastructure, but to a more limited extent. Happens more in recently electrified places. When it matters enough to them, local operators will clamp down on the thieves. During the early phases of development, so much money is potentially being made by the operators that engineering effort will go mainly into expanding the customer base, but once the latter isn't growing so fast other efficiencies will start to matter more than they did.

  4. Old Handle


    I was under the impression the crypto export ban was done away with some time ago. Am I wrong? Though if systems were initially set up with weak encryption because of this, it wouldn't surprise me if they're still stuck that way for compatibility reasons.

  5. JeffyPooh


    If only the device in question (the mobe handset) had some sort of data network connection back to the operators' headquarters... if only...

    Then they could use a 'One-Time Pad' type of cypher to provide perfectly unbreakable encryption that's not owned by anyone.

    Assuming that encryption is actually the root problem (it isn't).

  6. Lost in Cyberspace


    Mobile fraud probably represents just 1% of all fraud going on in some African countries...

  7. armyknife

    Titles are for toffs

    Home taping is killing music.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not US's fault

    "But Juniper's report doesn't blame the American"...

    As well they shouldn't. ZTE makes and sells loads of phone switches, they are built in China, and as far as I know none have been bought up by US Cellcos (I haven't seen a ZTE phone here either) so there's no credible influence by saying "Well, we won't let ZTE sell in the US" -- they already don't. Erricson, Alcatel-Lucent, and Nokia all make switches too, none are US-based companies.

    In fact, per this article , you can thank Germany for having a stronger GSM crypto option (A5/2) to begin with (with a long border with the Warsaw pact countries, they were concerned about signals being spied on over the border). Most other NATO countries (*not just the US*) wanted uselessly weak crypto specifically so NATO could spy on it. A5/1 is a French creation. However, since the "security through obscurity" lifted in the late 1990s, both A5/1 and A5/2 have been found to have fatal flaws and both are quite equally worthless now. A5/3 (which was spec'ed out for UMTS) is stronger than both.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The unasked question

    Is it better to have food, a phone and fraud, or just food?

    Like piracy to the MPAA, the money from fraud prevention exists mainly in the telco's dreams.

  10. Dave 126


    ... any terrorists or warlords operating in these countries just ignore ITAR and use encryption when they chose to, regardless? If I were a murdering terrorlord, I wouldn't lose sleep about violating some distant ruling.

  11. DNDSM

    Do we really care?

    To be honest its the mobile phone firms that are suffering and they went into this with eyes wide open, knowing the risks (from the good old analogue mobile days) of not running GSM encryption, SIM cloning et al. If they can't sort out their billing then more fools them. They are the ones that gambled and lost. As long as they don't bump up my bill to compensate for this then why should I care if they have been too greedy and are now paying the price?

  12. Mr Young

    Thank God we have Americans.

    I just can't think of anybody else on the whole planet who can do cryptography as well as that to be honest?

  13. HeyMickey

    @ everyone saying use a different crypro algorythm

    A5 is the GSM crypto standard. If you introduce a new crypto standard, you would have to convince the handset manufacturers to support it. By supporting another kind of crypto, the handsets would no longer be standards compliant, so they wouldn't get certified elsewhere meaning you would have created your own proprietary 1 country/operator system that doesn't work/may be illegal anywhere else.

  14. Mectron


    Cell Phone operator accross the world have benb STEALING MONEY from consumers since the first cell phone. they need to loose trillions of dollars/year over several decades for the ratio service/price paid to be restored back.

    Legal crook in this word:

    1. Insurance compaies (by a land slide)

    2. Banks

    3. Credit Cards Companies

    4. Cell phone operators.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Cellcos don't care much

    Ok sure, they can't charge for all the calls originating within their network.

    Given the economies of scale most of the time generating the bill and handling payments eats almost all that revenue anyway.

    They CAN and DO charge for calls originating elsewhere - and it's a lot easier to bulkbill XYZ-telco than thousands of individuals.

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