NBTC launches app to track mobile usage
Agency allays fears over privacy breaches
The telecom regulator has rolled out an online survey app called "Prute-ti-maat" to track the behaviour of mobile users as a way for consumers to make informed decisions about which mobile package to subscribe to.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) wants to use the information to create more practical regulatory conditions consistent with the actual usage amount in various areas.
"The app only collects quantitative data reflecting the behaviour of mobile users and not personal data or pictures or chat messages," said Korkij Danchaivichit, the NBTC's deputy secretary-general.
He said the app, whose name means "tracking users", is initially being tested as a survey through a select 4,500 people who downloaded the app onto their Android smartphones.
The 4,500 surveyed users are customers of five mobile operators: Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC), True Move H Universal Communication (TUC), TOT Plc and CAT Telecom.
The NBTC plans to scale up the number of surveyed people to 20,000 by September this year through a cooperative agreement with the National Statistical Office.
"We [NBTC] plan to open for the general public to download the app through Android smartphones by the end of this year, while the NBTC is in discussions with Apple for cooperation," Mr Korkij said.
The app will show users' data based on usage and volume of phone calls and messages; the volume of data uploaded and downloaded; and the usage volume of mobile applications.
Additionally, the app will show the top five most-used apps, as well as details of mobile networks used daily.
Mr Korkij said consumers who download the app will benefit from knowing their behaviour in mobile usage and use it to make lifestyle adjustments.
The app would know the duration of both outgoing calls and incoming calls, and whether they match with the promotional packages they subscribe to. It also shows what networks (WiFi or cellular sites) users upload and download for data service, and whether these match with the packages they subscribe to.
Furthermore, the app shows how many applications are used and how much time is spent accessing or surfing the internet on a daily basis.
"People should not be concerned about the risks posed by this app because it is designed and operated on the same concept of the net-care model, so it will not breach personal privacy," Mr Korkij said.
He said the information gathered by the app will benefit consumers through selective networks or methods of data usage that they should adjust.
"People should realise they are having their behaviour monitored through the use of popular social platforms such as Facebook or Google," Mr Korkij said.
The NBTC hired the Fiscal Policy Research Institute to design and develop the app, including the initial 4,500 surveyed people.
After signing a cooperative agreement with the NSO in July, the number of people surveyed will increase to 20,000 which will reflect a more accurate range of mobile users through real-time behaviour.
"The app's development is being done through an academic information method, so it is trustable and primary information that the NBTC or any state agency can utilise in real time for public awareness in the future," Mr Korkij said.
Compared to the existing way of data collection by the NBTC, he said the agency always asks each operator for details of customers' mobile data usage, but it's only secondary data.
Mr Korkij said the NBTC hopes the app will be an initiative for real-time online surveys that any state agency can adopt in order to make proper policy decisions based on such data.
"Innovative technology always influences consumer behaviour, while consumer behaviour also pushes innovation to serve it," he said.
However, Mr Korkij said regulatory conditions are slow and several steps behind innovation and consumer behaviour.
The app will close the gap between the agency's expectations and the future, he said.