Telecom Billing Solutions By Sohag Sarkar

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This research paper highlights the various components of a Telecom Billing Solution. Also,

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Telecom Billing Solutions By Sohag Sarkar

  1. 1. Telecom Billing Solutions 1 A Research Project on “Billing Solutions for Telecom Sector” By Sohag Sarkar © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  2. 2. Telecom Billing Solutions 21. Introduction 1.1 Evolution of Billing System © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  3. 3. Telecom Billing Solutions 31. IntroductionBilling and customer care systems convert the bits and bytes of digital informationwithin a network into the money that will be received by the service provider. Toaccomplish this, these systems provide account activation and tracking, service featureselection, selection of billing rates for specific calls, invoice creation, payment entry andmanagement of communication with the customer.Billing and customer care systems are the link between end users and thetelecommunications service provider. Telecommunications service providers manage andsetup the networks to allow customers to communicate (provisioning), and bill end usersfor their use of the system. Customers who need telecommunication services selectcarriers by evaluating service and equipment costs, reviewing the reliability of thenetwork, and comparing how specific services (features) match their communicationneeds. Because most network operations have access to systems with the sametechnology, because most Telecommunications Service Providers offer essentially thesame types of services and network facilities, Billing & Customer Care are becoming keydifferentiating factors and play a critical role in the customer’s carrier selection decision.Telecom Billing has undergone a seismic shift from being a sleepy back office system toan explosive growth industry attracting attention from throughout thetelecommunications industry. Just as networks are the backbone of communication, theoperations support system, including billing and customer care functions, are thebackbone of the communication service provider. Traditionally viewed as little more thana necessary expense, the advent of a competitive telecommunications market hastransformed Telecom Billing into an important strategic tool. For service providers,bills are the culmination of their revenue objectives. For customers they form one of theprime bases for the evaluation of service expectation.The bill is the most regular form of communication between the telecom companies andtheir customers. It provides the customer, with window on the Telecom Company, andthe telecom company, with a ready means of communication with its customer. Fromboth a financial and customer service perspective, getting the billing process right isessential for the future profitability of a telecom company.A bill is one means by which a service provider communicates with its customers. Thebill performs three functions: © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  4. 4. Telecom Billing Solutions 4–It is a request for payment–It is a mechanism for customer care–It is a marketing tool.Today for telecom companies, traditional competitive benchmarks can no longer ensureloyalty. Essentially the best competitive point left is billing, customer care and service.In the present and in future a leading determinant in market differentiation will becustomer-care and billing system - and in some cases, it may be the pivotal investmentthat will mean the difference between success and failure. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  5. 5. Telecom Billing Solutions 51.1 The Evolution of Telecom BillingAbout 15 years ago most of the billing systems were developed in -house. The focus ofthe billing systems were limited to circuit switched telephone calls. The few parametersthat can be charged for were basically duration and distance. The substantial growth ofthe telecom market in the late 1990s triggered a need for more complex billingsolutions. The old in-house systems cost a lot to maintain and did not support all thenew functionality that was required.In today’s communication service provider market, operators’ main priorities are basicrevenue and profit. Hence the ability to produce accurate bills lies at the heart ofoperator’s activities, in both generating revenue and serving customers effectively.Moreover, billing is not simply influenced by the trends currently imposing themselveson the communications industry, its strengths and weaknesses within a serviceprovider’s operations can actively help determine the effect of those trends on theoperators business. Below is a graphical representation of the evolution of TelecomBilling Solutions over two decades. Figure 1.1: Evolution of Telecom Billing Solutions © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  6. 6. Telecom Billing Solutions 62. The General Process of Billing 2.1 Basic functionality of billing systems and architecture 2.2 Components of a Billing System 2.3 Billing System Requirements 2.4 Major Billing Functions 2.5 Billing System Costs 2.6 Billing Standards © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  7. 7. Telecom Billing Solutions 72. The General Process of Billing2.1 Basic functionality of billing systemsBilling systems collect, rate, and calculate charges for the use of telecommunicationservices. The figure given below presents a simplistic view of a billing flow. Call is made SwitchCall data is collected data stored call rated for other charges in customer database billing & credits added Invoices are produced Billing is run Invoices are mailed Figure 2.1 basic architecture © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  8. 8. Telecom Billing Solutions 8The typical billing process involves collecting usage information from network equipment(such as switches), formatting the usage information into records that a billing systemcan understand, transferring these records to a Rating Engine, that assigns charges toeach record, receiving and recording payments from the customers, and creatinginvoices.Figure 2.2 shows a standard Billing and Customer Care process. In this diagram, thecustomer interacts with Customer Care or works with an activation agent to establish anew wireless account. The agent (CSR) enters the customer’s service preferences intothe system, checks for credit worthiness, and provides the customer with a phonenumber so that the customer may make and receive calls through the mobile telephonenetwork.As the customer makes calls, the connections made by the network (such as switches)create Usage Detail Records (UDR) of the activities. These UDRs include theidentification of the customer and other information relevant to the billing system.The billing system also receives records from other carriers (such as a long distanceservice provider, or roaming partners). The billing system then reformats the UDRs intoan internal layout that is proprietary to the carrier, guides and updates the UDRs withcorrect customer and rating information.After each UDR has been rated according to the customer’s rate plan, it is stored in a“Bill Pool”. The Bill Pool is a data store containing all UDRs that have been rated and arewaiting for the month-end cycle billing process to aggregate them and display them on acustomer’s bill. The customer then sends his payment to the telecom service provider.Payments are recorded (posted) in the financial system. Customer’s bills are archived in“Billing History” files. These files are used heavily by various organizations within theenterprise: Customer Care (inquiries, adjustments, service order, etc.), Marketing(product analysis), Finance (revenue management, revenue projections, profitability,etc.), Audit, and Revenue Assurance. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  9. 9. Telecom Billing Solutions 9 Figure 2.2 Standard Billing Process2.2 Components of a Billing SystemA billing system is composed of a series of independent applications that, when runtogether, are referred to as the billing system. Its major components are as follows:Ø CDR— Call Detail Records (CDRs)Billing information regarding specific calls is contained in Call Detail Records. (CDRs) andincludes: origination and destination address of a call (who), time of day the call wasconnected and duration of the call (when), the call type and its details (what), theconnection location(s) of the call (where), and the cause of event recording (why). Asnot all events are voice or data “calls”, the record generated by the network element isoften referred to as “Usage Detail Record (UDR)” and often contains non-telephonybilling information such as: a downloaded movie, or IP content.Figure 2.3 shows the basic structure of a call detail record. This diagram shows that aUDR contains a unique identification number, the originator of the call, the callednumber, the start and end time of the call. This diagram also shows an additional chargefor operator assistance and that a UDR dynamically grows as more relevant informationbecomes available. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  10. 10. Telecom Billing Solutions 10 Figure 2.3 User Data Record Event 2 Event 1 Operator Switch Services Record operator stop start Called Calling CDRID service time time Number number 1209 1207 2125551212 2125551212 Called Number Call Unique Originator Record IdentifierØ Guiding—This matches calls to customer calling plans. The application uses the startand end number and the duration and time of call to decide what the charge should be,based on the calling plans on the customers record.Ø Rating application—This program applies the rate for the individual guided calls.Rating gives the call a value to be charged at the time of billing (not including anypromotions, discounts, or taxes).Ø Billing–This is usually performed once a month. This job collects all of the rated callsthat have been stored over the past 30 days. The program adds any promotions anddiscounts that are associated with the customer account. For example, if customers havecalled over a certain number of minutes, they might get a volume discount. In addition,taxes and credits are applied.Ø Invoicing—When the billing job is complete, a file is created that includes all of thecustomers information. This file is sent to a print house to be converted to paperinvoices. These invoices are then stuffed into envelopes, along with specific insertstargeted to the customer. Many companies will also create electronic statements and © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  11. 11. Telecom Billing Solutions 11send customers their invoices via diskette, tape, or even e -mail; alternative billingpractice is especially common for business customers.2.3 Billing System RequirementsThe following are standard telephony requirements used when issuing a request forproposal (RFP) for a new billing system or an enhancement to an existing one:Ø Customer-interface management—The billing system must be able to handlecustomer-initiated contact, oversee outbound customer contact, and manage the contactlife cycle.Ø Sales and marketing—A satisfactory billing system should answer customer query,handle commissions, provide sales support, track prospects, manage campaigns,analyze product performance, and acquire multiple dwelling units (MDUs).Ø Order handling—It is crucial that the billing system maintain customer-accountinformation, manage the order-entry life cycle, and oversee the order-completion lifecycle.Ø Problem handling—Billing systems should also be able to manage trouble-ticketentry, coordinate trouble-ticket closure, and track the resolution progress of a troubleticket.Ø Performance reporting—A satisfactory system will provide performance reporting,ensure quality-of-service (QoS) reporting, create management reports, and generateregulatory reports.Ø Invoicing and collections—It is important that the system perform billing inquiry,generate bills, handle collections, process deposits, perform account administration,maintain tax and fee information, process financial information, and manage customer-premises equipment (CPE) inventory information.Ø Rating and discounting—Billing systems must manage products and services,coordinate rate plans, and rate customer-usage records.Ø Installation and maintenance—The system should also provide workforcescheduling and manage activities performed at the customer premises.Ø Usage and performance data collection—An adequate system will collect data andhandle interface from other providers.Ø Information-systems management—Billing systems might also be called on toperform configuration management, ensure security management, oversee faultmanagement, monitor performance, and manage accounts. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  12. 12. Telecom Billing Solutions 12Ø Systems architecture and environment—A billing system should perform dataaudits and integrity checks and ensure year-2000 compliance.2.4 Major Billing FunctionsTypically there are two major components to Billing systems: the Rating Engine(sometimes known as “front-end”) and the Invoicing Engine (sometimes known as “backend”, “Cycle Billing”, or “Month-End Process”). The Rating Engine accepts UDRs from aservice providers’ own switches or from other providers or billing companies’ systems(sometimes called incollects, or in-roamers), checks the validity of billing records,matches billing records to customers in a database, and provides billing details to othersystems (sometimes called outcollects, or out-roamers). The Rating Engine also guidesbilling records to specific customer accounts. Guiding uses the event’s identificationinformation such as the calling telephone number to match the billing record to a specificcustomer account.The Invoicing Engine aggregates billing records for a specific period (billing cycle),calculates recurring charges (e.g. monthly charges) and total usage charges (minutes orquantity of usage), and produces invoices.The Rating Engine: Processing the UsageAs part of the billing system, the Rating Engine receives call details from various sources(event records), reformats and edits these into UDRs, assigns a customer account to theUDR (guiding), calculates call charges for each UDR, and gets the UDR ready forInvoicing.In a traditional voice telephony environment, The Rating Engine processes UDRs in abatch mode (or at best in near real-time). There may be several UDRs for each event.For example, a call may be originating at a local switch, translated by an 800 numberservice, and routed through a long distance switch. Billing and call processing canrequire a substantial amount of computer processing time because there may be manyevents for each call.Each UDR is rated individually after having been assigned a rating band or category first.After a UDR has been rated and the actual charge for the call is calculated, it is stored ina “pool” of billing records that are ready to be invoiced (called a bill pool). A bill pool is agroup of call records that have been updated by the Rating Engine to include charging © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  13. 13. Telecom Billing Solutions 13rate information. The bill pool usually contains records that are ready for the final stageof bill processing.Figure 2.4 shows the basic functions of the Rating Engine. This diagram shows howdifferent event sources are received from various network elements or from othercompanies that have provided services to your customers. These records arereformatted to a common UDR format and duplicate UDRs are eliminated. Identificationinformation in each UDR is used to guide (match) the record to an account in thecustomer database. The customer’s information determines the rate plan to use incharge calculation.The rating process uses rate tables, the customers selected rate plan, and otherinformation (e.g. rate band, distance, time of day) to calculate the actual charge foreach call. All of the information is added to the UDR and it is either placed in the bill pool(ready for billing), or it is sent to another company to be billed if the customeridentification is not part of this network’s customer database. If there are any problemsas the UDR is being processed, it is sent to Exception Investigation for further analysis. Exception Rejects CUST BILL Roamers Investigation In Calls POOL suspense USAGE Switches Mediation Guide Rate Wrap- up Gateways Clearing Houses Customer Rate Other Information Tables Sources Figure 2.4 Rating Engine © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  14. 14. Telecom Billing Solutions 14Billing systems contain many databases of information. Some of the key databases holdcustomer information, usage records, rate information, and billing records that are readyto be invoiced. A customer database holds unique identification information about thecustomer. This includes a customer account identification number, telephone number(may be the same as the account number), authorized feature list, rate plan identifier(which rate plan the customer subscribes to), service activation dates, and otherinformation specific to a customer or account. A rating database holds the rate planidentifier codes and charges associated with each rate plan. It may be necessary todivide the UDR into several components parts. For example, a call from a mobiletelephone may be divided into airtime, landline usage, and long distance usage. UDRsare commonly processed using a single rating software module. This module uses rateplan identification information found on the UDR (determined after the guiding process)to match to rate tables that allows a per unit increment rate. Rate increments can varybased on the time of day (TOD), day of week (DOW), holidays, and other factors. Afterthe call rate has been determined, the Rating Engine places an initial value on the call.It may be necessary to re-rate the call based on information received after initial ratingwas calculated. Examples of this include: usage discounts (free minutes), toll free calls(called party pays), and calls billed using an old rate table after a customer has selecteda new rate plan.The Invoicing Engine: Month-End ProcessingThe Invoicing Engine uses data from the updated bill pool and adds non-call relatedbilling charges and financial adjustments. The billing system then adds fixed recurringcharges (such as monthly service fees and taxes), applies payments that have beenreceived, produces invoices, and maintains a history database.Figure 2.5 shows the basic activities performed by the month-end process. This diagramshows that the first step in this process is the selection of customers whose cycle is tobe billed during this “bill run”. For each customer to be billed, all usage having occurredbefore the cutoff date is then selected. The next step is for the usage to be aggregatedaccording to the way in which it will appear on the customer’s bill; this step also includesthe calculation of any volume discounts to which the customer has subscribed. Fixedcharges – both recurring and non-recurring – are then calculated according to theproduct information retrieved from the product portfolio database. Taxes and surcharges © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  15. 15. Telecom Billing Solutions 15are then calculated (Federal, State, Local, FCC, Universal Service Fund, etc.) and thefinancial chart of accounts is updated with the debits and credits. Finally marketing andother messages are inserted into the customer’s invoice, which is then sent to aproduction facility (print shop, CD-ROM duplication, Internet website, etc.) for deliveryto the customer. The invoice is then archived in the Billing History database, and variousreports are generated, such as financial reports, reconciliation reports, analysis reports,etc. Figure 2.5 Backend –invoicing engineClearinghouseA clearinghouse is a company or association that transfers billing records and/orperforms financial clearing functions between carriers that allow their customers to useeach other’s networks. The clearinghouse receives, validates and accounts for telephonebills for several telephone service providers. Clearinghouses are particularly importantfor international billing because they convert different data record formats that may beused by some service providers and convert for the currency exchange rate.Clearinghouses provide a variety of services including processing proprietary records(e.g. switch records) into formats understandable by the member carriers’ billingsystems, validate charges from carriers with intersystem agreements, and extractunauthorized or un-billable billing records. Clearinghouses transfer messages in a © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  16. 16. Telecom Billing Solutions 16standard format such as Exchange Message Record (EMR), Cellular Inter-Carrier BillingExchange Roamer (CIBER), or Transferred Account Process (TAP) format. The EMRformat is often used for billing records in traditional wired telecom networks and theCIBER and TAP formats are used for wireless networks. The records may be exchangedby magnetic tape or by other medium such as electronic transfer or CD ROM.Clearinghouses receive billing records from companies (outcollects – sometimes calledin-roamers) and submit billing records to companies (incollects - sometimes called out-roamers). Outcollects are billing records that are sent to other systems to collect forservices provided to visiting customers.Incollects are billing records that are received from other systems for services providedto their customers that have used the services of other networks. Inter-carrier billingsystems must be capable of handling billing system errors. There are many events percall and the possibility exists for duplicate records or missing details in the billingrecords. Charges or records may be received for customers that do not exist in the localsystem or the inter-services (or roaming) agreement between companies may not bevalid. Charges or records may be received from other companies (incollects) that havecrammed or slammed bills. Cramming is the erroneous or fraudulent addition of chargesfor services that were not agreed to by the end customer. Slamming is the unauthorizedtransfer of customer’s preferred service provider to a different service provider. Whenerrors or omissions are detected, individual UDRs or entire batches of billing recordsmay be flagged for return to the sender and they may be tagged for furtherinvestigation.InvoicesInvoices contain the details of how much the customer should pay to the carrier, whenthe amount is due and other information regarding the bill. Invoices usually provide acustomer with detailed information regarding the source of the charge (date andlocation), reasons for the charge (service provided), and the amount of the charge.Figure 2.6 shows a sample invoice. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  17. 17. Telecom Billing Solutions 17 Figure 2.6 A sample invoiceInvoicingInvoicing is the process of gathering items to be billed (rated UDRs) that have occurredover an invoice period, adding additional charges and credits that are not related tospecific calls, and preparing the information (formatting) so it may be presented to thecustomer in a clear way. Invoices may be delivered by mail or in other formats such asCD-ROM or email.Management ReportingManagement reports provide information to finance, sales, and operations on theperformance of the system. Reports can identify problems such as, silent churn,potential new services, and network congestion. Churn is the process of customers © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  18. 18. Telecom Billing Solutions 18disconnecting from one telecommunications service provider. Churn can be a naturalprocess of customer geographic relocation or to may be the result of customers selectinga new service provider in their local area. Silent churn is the process of customersdisconnecting from one telecommunications service provider due to a competitor’sinfluence. Silent churn is usually the result of inadequate customer service or lack ofcompetitive rate plans. Customers that are transitioning to competitor’s services willshow rapid declines in usage of service.Management reporting can also be used to discover new services. By reviewing callpatterns, churn and silent churn patterns, and customer feedback, managers candetermine which new services may be good candidates for their system. UDRs andnetwork activity can also indicate areas of network congestion and corrective measures(rerouting or adding resources) can be accomplished to overcome the challenge.Processing PaymentsProcessing payments involves collecting assets to settle the customer’s invoices. Thetypical forms of payments that are received from customers include checks, cash, wiretransfer, credits, and credit cards. However, other payments or credits may be appliedto the customers account.Recording the payment to the customer’s account is called “posting”. Posting usuallyinvolves using a payment coupon that has an account number on it and logging thereceived amount of money to the account. Ideally, the customer has provided thepayment coupon with the correct amount. In some cases however, the customer mightnot have included the payment coupon or might have paid a different amount thanindicated. In this case, posting of payments may result in errors such as posting to thewrong account or applying payment new invoices instead of old invoices.Posting to the Financial SystemThe billing system records financial details (receivables) for the carrier. Periodically,summary information is transferred into the General Ledger (G/L) of the carrier’saccounting system. This summary posting groups different types of billing charges intosummary totals to be posted to different financial accounts. These types of accountsinclude receivables or expenses, and each financial account is assigned a unique number © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  19. 19. Telecom Billing Solutions 19(in the financial chart of accounts). For example, payments received by credit card areusually categorized differently than payments received by cash and these totals will berecorded in accounts with different account numbers.2.5 Billing System CostsBilling system costs can “eat up” a substantial percentage of revenues collected. Inaddition to the initial acquisition cost of computers and software, operational costs tendto be very high. Of the service provider’s staff, typically 20%-30% are directly orindirectly engaged in providing billing and customer care support.Billing system costs include the initial hardware, software costs of the system along withthe operational costs such as invoice processing, bill printing and mailing, intermediaryclearing house settlement companies, customer care (call centers), and collectionservices.Hardware and SoftwareThe hardware usually includes high performance computers that operate proprietarysoftware. Due to the complexity of hardware and software billing systems, continuoustraining is required in order to ensure quality services to the customers and to providerevenue assurance.Billing Cycles (Batching)If a company has many customers, they are typically divided into cycles (or “billingcycles.”) The billing cycles are different for groups of customers. This allows the billingsystem to bill only a portion of the customers at a time.Bill Printing and MailingIn most cases, invoice records are sent to a bill printing facility or they may be sent byemail or printed by the customer when the payment is made online. Bills that are sent tothe printer and mailing house usually cost between $1-$3 per bill. Sending bills by emailhelps to reduce the cost of providing the customers with bills and receipts.Call CenterA call center is a place where communication occurs between a carrier and itscustomers. Call centers assist customers with requests for new service activation andhelp with product features and services. A call center usually has many stations for callcenter agents that communicate with customers.When call agents assist customers, they are typically called customer servicerepresentatives (CSRs). Call centers use telephone systems that usually include © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  20. 20. Telecom Billing Solutions 20sophisticated Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) systems and Computer TelephonyIntegration (CTI) systems. ACD systems route the incoming calls to the correct(qualified) Customer Service Representative (CSR). CTI systems link the telephone callsto the accounting databases to allow the CSR to see the account history (usuallyproducing a “screen-pop” of information). Call center telephone systems can cost over$3,000 per CSR station. The average telecommunications service provider has 1-2 CSRsfor every 10,000 customers. This results in an average customer care call costing $7-$10 per call. Figure 2.7 Call center operationsCollectionsCollections are activities that a service provider performs to receive money from theircustomers. Ideally, all customers will receive their bills and pay promptly. Unfortunately,not all customers pay their bills and service providers must have a progressive collectionprocess in the event customers do not pay their bill.When customers are first added to a system, they are “scored” on the probability thatthey will pay their bills. Using information on their application and reviewing the credit © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  21. 21. Telecom Billing Solutions 21history as provided by an independent credit reporting agency accomplishes this. Thecollection process for delinquent customers usually starts by sending a remindermessages to the customer be mail or recorded audio message. If initial attempts tocollect are unsuccessful, more aggressive collection measures are taken, such as:restricted calling, service disconnection and sending or selling the uncollected invoice toa collection service.Some carriers automatically re-route all calls made by a delinquent customer to acollections operator. This is called “Hot-Lining”. Hot-Lining is typically used when atelephone is first sold or activated to allow activation after the customer has providedthe information to register for service or when the customer has not paid their bill. If allattempts to collect from a customer have failed, a service provider may write off theuncollected revenue as bad debt, retain a collection agency or sell the uncollectedinvoice(s) to a collection service. If the account is written off as bad debt, the customer’sinformation is usually placed in a negative file to avoid reactivation and their poorpayment history is reported to a credit reporting agency. Various collection companies(collection agencies) offer collection services that work on a percentage of collectedrevenue.Some collection companies will pay for uncollected invoices. When uncollected invoicesare sold to collection services, the service provider is usually prohibited from workingwith the customer in the future regarding payment on the account.2.6 Billing StandardsThere are many billing standards that have been developed for telecommunicationsnetworks. Because the services offered by different types of network operators (e.g.cable television compared to local telephone companies) are beginning to overlap, billingstandards are also converging.Billing standards define the measurements, record format and the methods of transferfor billing related information within a network. New services are being offered bynetwork operation because of deregulation of the telecommunications industries aroundthe world. As a result, billing standards are continually being revised and they areconverging. Because companies can use different billing standards or different revisions © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  22. 22. Telecom Billing Solutions 22of billing standards, clearinghouses often provide translation services between differentbilling standard formats.Exchange Message Record (EMR)Exchange Message Record (EMR) is a standard format for the exchange of messagesbetween telecommunications systems. The EMR format is often used for billing records.The records may be exchanged by magnetic tape or by other medium such as electronictransfer or CD ROM.Automatic Message Accounting (AMA)Automatic Message Accounting (AMA) is a standard record gathering and billing formatthat is used primarily by local telephone companies to process billing records andexchange records between systems. The AMA format was created by BellCore and isnow managed by Telcordia.Carrier Inter-exchange Billing Exchange Record (CIBER)Carrier Inter-Exchange Billing Exchange Record (CIBER) is a billing standard designed topromote inter-carrier roaming between cellular and other wireless telephone systems.The CIBER format is developed and maintained by CiberNet. The CellularTelecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) owns CiberNet.Transferred Accounting Procedure (TAP)Transferred Accounting Procedure (TAP) is a standard billing format that is primarilyused for Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) cellular and PersonalCommunications Systems (PCS). There are currently multiple versions of TAP: TAP II,TAP II+, NAIG TAP II, and TAP 3. Each successive version of TAP provides for enhancedfeatures. Due to the global nature of 3G wireless and GSM, the TAP billing standardprovides solutions for multi-lingual and multiple exchange rate issues. TAP3 wasreleased in 2000 as a significant revision of TAP2. TAP3 has changed from the fixedrecord size used in TAP2 to variable record size and TAP3 offers billing information formany new types of services such as billing for short messaging and other informationservices. The GSM association (www.GSMmobile.com) manages the TAP standard.Network Data Management – Usage (NDM-U)The network data management – usage (NDM-U) is a standard messaging format thatallows the recording of usage in a communication network, primarily in Internetnetworks. The NMD-U defines an Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR) as the standardmeasurement record. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  23. 23. Telecom Billing Solutions 23The IPDR structure is very flexible and new billing attributes (fields) are being addedbecause Internet services are now offered in almost all communications systems. TheNMD-U standard is managed by the IPDR organization (www.IPDR.org.)Interim Standard 124 (IS-124)The Interim Standard 124 (IS-124) standard allows for the real time transmission ofbilling records between different systems, primarily between wireless systems in theAmericas. IS-124 messaging is independent of underlying technology and can be sentover X.25 or SS7 signaling links. The development of standards is primarily led byCiberNet, a division of the cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  24. 24. Telecom Billing Solutions 243. Mediation System 3.1 What is mediation? Basic features 3.2 The Need for Mediation 3.3 High-level Requirements of billing mediation 3.4 Mediation features 3.5 Mediation Devices © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  25. 25. Telecom Billing Solutions 253. Mediation System3.1 What is Mediation? Basic Features:Mediation is a process that is inserted between the network elements and thedownstream applications. These applications could be of many different kinds and themediation process itself can manage several kinds of data. Mediation is a chain of threeprocesses: data collection, normalization and business transformation, and datadelivery. Data collection involves collecting usage information in the form of call detail records (CDR). The CDR is collected from a varied set of network elements ranging from PSTN switches to MSCs, using various transport protocols such as FTP, FTAM, and TCP streaming. The data formats in which the CDRs are exported could also vary depending on the equipment and could be in one of the formats namely: ASN.1, BAF, or fixed width binary/ASCII etc. Normalization is a process of transforming the CDR from a raw input format into an internal format suitable for applying business transformations. The transformation is performed using a set of business rules that specify the pertinent data for the transaction and the circumstances in which the data is used. For instance, sending all records to a statistics-based business application but sending only calls that span more than a minute to the billing system. In the data communication scenario, the transformation process involves absorbing information from different data sources and consolidating the collected data into a concise record. Data delivery is the last step in the mediation process. Here, the CDR is delivered to the downstream application, such as: billing systems, fraud management systems, and business intelligent system. It involves the following processes: Encoding the collected and transformed CDR into a format suitable to the corresponding downstream application. Streaming the transformed CDR for immediate use by the downstream application in the push-mode operation. Placing the data into a file so that the downstream application can pick it up at a suitable time. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  26. 26. Telecom Billing Solutions 26 Figure 3.1: Mediation PROCESS I FTP/FTAM Collection Data Source Collection disk (PSTN, MSC) Raw CDR PROCESS II Aggregate Normalization and Filter Business Transformation Correlate Enrichment FTP, TCP PROCESS III Streaming Distribution Distribution disk Downstream Applications (Billing, FMS)3.2 The Need for MediationThe mediation process enables service providers to take full advantage of their valuablenetwork usage data, using it not just to streamline any billing system, but for strategicapplications such as fraud management, customer behavior analysis and networkplanning. The flexibility of the mediation process enables the operator to cope withfuture applications as they are added and helps it to better manage its growth in arapidly changing, complex environment. A mediation system is intended to give networkoperators a way to rapidly deploy new applications and services, whilst protectingexisting applications from change.Today to remain competitive, the operators have to provide more and more services,based on new technologies. The mediation system enables not only the immediatebilling of newly launched service but also the billing convergence that is to say providing © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  27. 27. Telecom Billing Solutions 27only one bill to its customer gathering all the billing information related to all theservices used by the subscriber. Flexibility is the most important capability in stayingcompetitive and enabling these new features, to deal with ever-increasing complicationsof technology and government rulings, and the capability to prototype new services andmeasure their acceptance and interest before committing large expenditures, areessential.Service providers must ask themselves how some of the following issues will affect theirbilling system:Ø Number portabilityØ Unbundled networksØ Access charges to other carriersØ Features offered through Intelligent NetworksØ Convergence of many types of services into a single billTo adapt and migrate to theses changes, flexibility in their mediation system will be thekey. In summary, the mediation system is the key to overcome the following challenges: Time-to-market for new services Billing for multiples types of network services Real-time needs for call detail and billing information IP Telephony Billing Wholesale and Retail billing/settlement needs Interconnection agreement settlement needs Continuing Fraud ChallengesConsequently, the mediation system Encourages the focus on an organizational “end to end” service view Support for new value added services Bridges the gap between IT and network operations Reduces dependence upon billing and element suppliers Can speed up introduction of convergent services Saves money on support for multiples mediation platforms and diversity Provides OSS flexibility to assist with mergers and acquisitions Network Integration capability - FMI, SS7 © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  28. 28. Telecom Billing Solutions 283.3. High-level Requirements of billing mediationØ Collect data from a range of vendor equipment interfaceØ Support introduction of new technologiesØ Support changes to those technologiesØ Normalize, consolidate and filter data across equipment types and vendor sourcesØ Deliver data to a range of vendor system interfacesØ Support introduction of new systemsØ Support changes to those systems to meet new business requirements3.4. Mediation Features SERVICE USAGE INFORMATION Archive DISTRIBUTION Alarms BUSINESS DATABASE Audit PRESENTATION Scheduler Monitor CONSOLIDATION ERROR STORAGE Reporter GUI FILTERING Rules SHORT TERM COLLECTION REPOSITORY NETWORK USAGE DATA Figure 3.2: Generalized Mediation Architecture © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  29. 29. Telecom Billing Solutions 29CollectionThe mediation system must collect call data records (CDRs) from different networkelements, multi-vendor switches, Internet router, Internet servers (e - mail,authentication, etc). The data are collected via various means protocols, tapes, discs.The most commonly used protocols are:Ø FTP over TCP/IPØ FTAM over the OSI stackØ X.25 or Ethernet at the link levelFilteringThe mediation system filters the CDRs based on user-configurable rules. The purpose ofthis feature is to separate billable CDRs from the non-billable ones or to route the CDRsaccording to the services corresponding to the call or route and store partial CDRsgenerated during long duration calls. It can also filter erroneous CDRs to route them to acorrection engine.ConsolidationThis feature is very important and specially in the Internet billing. It allows to produceonly one CDR based on user-defined rules and gathering all the billable informationextracted from multiples others related CDRs that may come from different sources.PresentationAs stated before the format of the raw CDRs cannot be used by the billing application.The Presentation feature converts the CDR format into the format requested by thebilling system. Moreover, it can also modify and/or add information if needed. The addedinformation can be deduced from other existing information or retrieved from externalresources (e.g. database). As an output of this process, we have billing records that canbe gathered in files or kept individually for immediate distribution.DistributionThe feature distributes the billing records to the billing application. Thecommonly used means are:Ø FTP over TCP/IPØ NFS mounted discØ TCP/IPØ Ethernet at the link level © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  30. 30. Telecom Billing Solutions 30General ServicesBesides these typical mediation features, the mediation system need generalpurpose services: Scheduling: to start the overall process or a part of it Audit logs Monitoring User Interface: preferably a graphical one that gives user access to all level for configuration, monitoring, audit functions. Reporting: to generate report for the revenue assurance. Alarms notification in case a error that would need immediate actions. Archiving: to store the raw CDRs for later re-processing.3.5 Mediation DevicesA mediation device receives, processes, and reformats event information in atelecommunications network to a suitable format for one or more billing and customercare systems. This processed information is either continuously or periodically sent tothe billing system. Mediation devices are commonly used for billing and customer caresystems as these devices can take non-standard proprietary information from switchesand other network equipment and reformat them into messages billing systems canunderstand.Switches usually record usage information (e.g., switch connection time) in BinaryCoded Decimal (BCD) format and these record formats are often proprietary to themanufacturer of the switch. Each record may be variable length and several events (e.g.switch points) may be recorded in the same system for a single call. There are at least60 switch manufacturers and each has several models of switches that may result indifferent billing record formats.There are other network parts or devices that may be involved with connecting a call orproviding Value Added Services (VAS). These devices also can produce cal detail recordsand these records are in a different format. Figure 3.3 shows a mediation system thattakes call detail records from several different switches and reformats them intostandard call detail records that are sent to the billing system. This diagram shows that © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  31. 31. Telecom Billing Solutions 31the mediation device is capable of receiving and decoding proprietary data formats fromthree different switch manufacturers. Figure 3.3 Mediation systemMarket Expectations The prevailing economic conditions in the communications market are ensuring that all service providers are focusing on RROI and realisation of business benefits. Every action taken by each organisation is measured against these criteria. The products have been built on the tenets of: • Rapid return on investment: o Pre-configured integration – minimises system integration cost & time; o Single product line – all customers on the same version of the software, minimising TCO; o Rapid deployment – minimises time from contract to payback; • Flexibility: o Phased implementation facilitates migration from legacy systems; o Configurable – GUI driven parameter set-up & business process editor; o Rapid implementation of services; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  32. 32. Telecom Billing Solutions 32 o Internationalisation – language (double & single byte), currency, tax jurisdictions, date and address; • Customer focus: o Self-service – service order initiation and tracking; o Self-care – information management, EBPP and problem management; o Customer structures – ability to reflect the unique structure of each customer’s organisation (unlimited levels) – supports customers and partners - corporate, consumer, dealer, roaming and settlement; o Invoicing tailored for each customer – language, currency, format, tax jurisdiction and delivery media – paper or electronic; o Segmentation – ability to group customers by any combination of attributes and tailor interaction for each group; o Sales promotions – matching customers and services – minimises cost, maximises ROI and customer satisfaction; • Ease of use: o Automation; o Workflow management; o Mass updates & operations; o Business process management – configured for each service provider; o Intuitive GUI – minimises training cost and time; • Consistency: o Customers, dealers and employees utilise the same web interface; o Data is entered once; o History of data updates is available – who did what and when; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  33. 33. Telecom Billing Solutions 33 • Convergence: o Multi-service support – voice, data, web and content; o Post-paid, pre-paid and near real-time rating/billing; o Single rating/billing engine for retail, wholesale, interconnect/content settlement, roaming and billing-on-behalf-of (BOBO) environments; o Multiple service environments – PSTN, PLMN, data and Cable; • Efficient management: o Sales channels; o Inventory management – optimised stock levels across distributed warehouses; o Debt & cash-flow – sophisticated and proactive credit management; o Security; o Fraud; • Analysis and business reporting: o Analysis; o Business reporting;Customer Care & Billing – The Solution A Customer Care & Billing (CCB) solution encompasses services and software from both parent vendor and 3rd party partners. The major components of the solution are: • Professional services: o Business analysis; o Implementation – configuration, customisation, project management, testing and training; o Post-implementation – help-desk, change and enhancement consultancy; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  34. 34. Telecom Billing Solutions 34 • 3rd party software – pre-integrated using industry standard APIs: o Fraud management ; o Analysis & reporting – Business Objects; The functionality provided by the CCB system encompasses: • Product/services catalogue and tariff management; • Customer relationship management: • Order management; • Provisioning inventory and mediation: • Rating and Billing: • Revenue management:What to expect from the Customer Care & Billing The business benefits that the customers realise include: • Rapid time to market – The open architecture of the CCB empowers service providers to add new services and to administer tariffs easily enabling them to respond quickly to competitive threats and attract customers by innovative services, which boosts revenue and reduces costs. • Minimised integration costs and deployment time – the CCB offers a rich set of functionality that is pre-integrated into a complete cost- effective solution. This ensures timely and cost-effective implementation and deployment of new services. The complete application suite can be implemented in as little as 3 to 6 weeks, enabling service providers to realise early revenue streams and a rapid return on investment. • Improved customer service – the CCB provides a single customer view for self-care, dealers and Customer Service Representatives to handle all customer queries and complaints quickly and efficiently. Self- care includes registration, edit service packages, check balance and pay bills online, without time-consuming calls to service representatives. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  35. 35. Telecom Billing Solutions 35 • Customer focus - All customer information is stored centrally and can be accessed and analysed across multiple dimensions to guide service providers marketing decisions. Customer segmentation enables service providers to identify their most profitable customers and focus on keeping them via targeted marketing activities and VIP customer service. • Increased revenue - The convergent nature of the CCB enables service providers to leverage cross-selling opportunities and increase ARPU. Flexible discount and tariff management enables the introduction of innovative and competitive pricing and special promotions that attract and retain customers, thus improving revenue streams. • Reduced operating costs - The Business Process Editor enables workflow configuration via a GUI that empowers service providers to automate their operational processes. Delivering significantly improved efficiency, reduced staff levels and training needs, thus driving down operating costs. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  36. 36. Telecom Billing Solutions 364. Customer Care Billing – a productperspective 4.1 Business Proposition 4.2 Functional Overview 4.3 Third Party Interfacing Elements 4.4 System Integration © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  37. 37. Telecom Billing Solutions 374. Customer Care Billing (CCB) – aproduct perspectiveTo have an in-depth understanding about a Billing System we have taken a productperspective of the Protek’s Customer Care & Billing Version 2.9.8.4.1 Business PropositionIn the fast changing world of telecommunications where customer focus, leveragingtechnologies and utilising resources effectively are the primary drivers for all serviceproviders’ software vendors must deliver more than a system. Everyone involved in theindustry must deliver ROI based on the business benefits required to maintain a viablebusiness.The objectives in this section are to cover the complete range of deliverables andservices that CCB should provide that would enable service providers to: • Realise a rapid ROI (RROI); • Achieve and maintain competitive advantage in their markets; • Maximise revenue and ARPU; • Reduce customer service costs – sales, marketing, billing and support; • Minimise total cost of ownership.The areas covered in this section encompass: • The capabilities of the CCB solution – mapping them against the benefits that can be realised by the service provider; • An overview of the CCB system covering the business functions that are supported; • Various Supporting services – including implementation, documentation, and post-implementation services; • The architecture of the system encompassing integration, security, and availability. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  38. 38. Telecom Billing Solutions 38Capabilities The focus of the capabilities section is on what the CCB can deliver and how this enables the service provider to achieve their business objectives.Rapid Return on Investment (RROI) Pre-configured integration Implementation on a green field site from starting the project to completing the first bill cycle can be as short as twelve weeks. Where integration and customisation is required this is minimised through the use of industry standard (and published) APIs and the availability of a library of interface modules (e.g. to network elements). Single product line The CCB should successfully encourage their existing customers to upgrade their implementation to take advantage of the new features developement. This will keep costs under control and reflects the importance of listening to the customers and incorporating functionality that enables customers to grow and maintain their competitive advantage. Rapid deployment The system should be configured to meet many of each service providers needs. Hence deployment of the system is rapid, even where customisation is required there is always an option to implement the standard system and upgrade to the customised version later.Flexibility Phased implementation There are a number of options when deciding how to phase the implementation of the CCB. These include the following: • By customer type – retail (corporate and/or consumer), wholesale, settlement partner; • Geographical area – country or region; • Functional area – customer care, mediation, rating & billing etc. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  39. 39. Telecom Billing Solutions 39 Whether the implementation is into a greenfield site or has to be integrated within an existing IT infrastructure, a phased implementation model can be defined that minimises risk and realises the ROI required by each service provider. Configurable The aspects of the system that are configurable include: • Global system parameters – e.g. base currency and invoicing type (open item or balance forward); • Object types – e.g. contract, customer status indices, taxes, invoices, payments and adjustments; • Additional customer attributes, including the validation rules to be applied during input; • Business functions – processes that determine workflow for customer definition, order management, provisioning etc.; • Default values – the automatic population of device attributes and parameters when completing details for subscribers that can be overridden where necessary; • Tickler configuration – used within the system for problem and action management, including sales campaigns and debt collection procedures; • Sales hierarchies – sales points (locations) and assigned sales people; • Schedules – batch job processing, e.g. event collection, reports, bill processing etc.; • Analysis and reporting universes; • Third party system interfaces. Many of these parameters can be amended and extended after the initial implementation. Rapid implementation of services Many new services and service packages can be created by the system administrator through the configuration, product catalogue, business process © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  40. 40. Telecom Billing Solutions 40 editor and tariff management functions of the system with minimal and in some cases zero assistance from BCC experts.Customer Focus The specific characteristics of customer focus that should be provided by the system include: Self-service • Initial customer registration; • Service selection and order entry. Self-care • Maintaining customer information, e.g. name, address, services, payments etc.; • EBPP; • Problem management. Customer structures The CCB supports customers and partners - corporate, consumer, dealer, roaming and settlement within a single environment. The features supported by the system include: • Ability to reflect the unique structure of each customer’s organisation; • Change the structure to meet the changing needs of each customer; • Set invoicing at multiple points in the organisation structure; • Pre-paid and post-paid subscriptions can be created within a single customer hierarchy; • Subscribers can be switched between pre and post-paid services while retaining billing history. Invoicing tailored for each customer All of these characteristics of the invoice can be tailored for each customer - language, currency, format, tax jurisdiction and delivery media – paper or electronic. For complex corporate customers it is also possible to vary any or all these parameters for each invoice produced. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  41. 41. Telecom Billing Solutions 41 Segmentation Customer segmentation can be achieved in a number of ways within the CCB. The following approaches are supported: • Customer type – e.g. retail (corporate and personal), wholesale, dealer and settlement partner; • Ability to group customers by any combination of attributes and tailor interaction for each group – e.g. credit rating (index), ARPU, credit history, services purchased etc. Sales promotions Using the segmentation described above to match each segment against a list of unpurchased/new services and create a sales promotion tailored to each group. The sales promotion activities can be defined in a tickler, linked to the customers in a group and assigned to a sales team to execute. This alignment of customers and services minimises cost, maximises ROI and customer satisfaction by matching services with customers who are likely to buy them.Consistency One of the design tenets of the CCB is consistency – encompassing the user interface, data storage and tracking changes. Web Interface Customers, dealers and employees utilise the same web interface for registering customers. This ensures consistency of response to the users and enables the CSRs to help customers very easily if they have a problem with the input. Data Entry and Integrity Data is entered once, stored in RDBMS (that manages distribution and replication of data, if required) and available for all authorised users to view and update. Data input via batch interfaces is maintained in the same database. Changes History History of data updates is available – who did what and when; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  42. 42. Telecom Billing Solutions 42 Some histories provide a number of additional facilities: printing data, viewing statistical information, and filtering data by subscribers and invoices. The histories available include: • Calls History • Address Change History • Deposit Change History • Client Index Changes History • Client/Subscriber Status Change History • History of Changes to Contract Statuses • Tariff Plan Changes History • History of Changes to Subscriber’s Phone Numbers and SDA • Service History • Charges History • Equipment History • Contract Rewriting History • Payment and Payment Application to Invoice History • Roamer Calls History • Discount History • Phone Number Owner Changes History • History of Service Status Changes • Pre-paid subscriber events history • Credit Control Actions History • Mass Operations HistoryConvergence The CCB supports many aspects of convergence within a single installation of the system. The primary areas supported are: • Multi-service support – voice, data, eCommerce and content; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  43. 43. Telecom Billing Solutions 43 • Single tariff management environment for pre-paid and post-paid services; • Post-paid, pre-paid and near real-time rating/billing; • Subscribers can be switched between pre and post-paid services while retaining billing history. • Single rating/billing engine for retail, wholesale, interconnect/content settlement, roaming and billing-on-behalf-of (BOBO) environments; • Multiple service environments – PSTN, PLMN, data and Cable; • Common environment for managing customers, dealers/agents and settlement partners.Efficient Management The effective utilisation of, channels, staff and assets is essential. Using IT systems as tools to enable the business to manage these resources and to ensure there is a focus on improving customer relationships is a major factor in achieving the businesses objectives. Examples of the ways in which the CCB provides the tools to help manage resources efficiently are: Sales channels The main components of the hierarchical structure that can be created for channel sales teams are: • Sales team – i.e. a dealer, reseller, agent or direct sales team; • Points of sale – i.e. the layers in the structure that define how each sales team is organised; • Personell – the individuals in the sales teams who will access the system, work within a point-of-sale and be assigned to prospects/customers. Commission statements can be generated using these structures based on a number of criteria – including sales (e.g. orders taken) and actual revenue created. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  44. 44. Telecom Billing Solutions 44 Inventory management The warehouse management functions provided with the CCB enable the service provider to manage inventories of equipment and number ranges encompassing: • Optimised stock levels across distributed warehouses; • Number ranges including voice, data and IP addresses; • Stock valuations and updates into the financial accounting systems; • Stock replenishment orders triggered at user defined minimum stock levels. Debt & cash-flow The system provides a number of functions that support pro-active credit management. The primary capabilities are: • Credit checks can be incorporated into the order taking process, including interfaces with 3rd party agencies; • Credit limits can be set for each customer and each invoice level for a single customer; • Credit rating indices can be created and automatically updated to reflect the billing and collections history of each customer; • Debt chasing (dunning) processes can be tailored for groups of customers where the groups are created based on the customers’ status, billing, collections and credit history; • Pro-active collections strategies, e.g. calling, email or SMS to customers reminding them to pay outstanding bills can be managed automatically; • Disputes can be recorded in the system and change the debt collections process while the dispute is in progress; • Multiple payment options are available – e.g. pre-paid, advance payment, direct debit and credit card in addition to cheque and cash. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  45. 45. Telecom Billing Solutions 45 Security Data and access security options are provided within the CCB to control create, update and view access rights as well as data integrity when distributed databases are implemented. The primary functions of the system are: • Access rights defined using roles and assignment of one or more roles to individuals registered in the system; • Segmentation of the database so that access to customer/service specific information can be restricted; • Data integrity is maintained within the system by reducing data duplication to a minimum and where it is necessary, utilising standard Oracle capabilities to manage the distribution and replication. Fraud Management To enable service providers to identify fraud the following Fraud Management capabilities: a) Subscription fraud - An attempt to register new subscription with wrong personal/credit information with the deliberate intention to not pay for services b) Usage fraud - Normally associated with stolen terminals / handsets. The usage pattern changes and goes outside pre-determined values c) Access fraud - Technical fraud via manipulation of terminals / handsets (fake identification, cloned phones etc) d) Internal fraud - Unauthorised access to the CCB Database or amendment of call/subscription data. If more sophisticated Fraud Management capabilities are required then the 3rd party FMS like Cerebrus or Ranger (Subex) application can be integrated with the CCB.Analysis and Business Reporting Efficient management requires timely access to succinct, accurate information. Flexibility is also essential to ensure that management can respond to the © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  46. 46. Telecom Billing Solutions 46 rapidly changing conditions in the market place. The ABR (analysis and business reporting) tools available with the CCB provide an environment that will satisfy current and future needs of the organisation. Business Business Metadata Functional Areas Objects™ Layers Terms customer • Production report • Ad-hoc reporting marketing • OLAP invoices • Slice & dice • Access to corporate tariff plans documents & reports other financial ... ... Intranet Proteks CCB database Web Remote point Crystal Reports of sale - Basic Reports Figure 4.1 Analysis and Business reporting The main features of the ABR are: • User friendly data dictionaries (Business Objects universes) that uses business terminology to describe the data and hide the complexity of the database structures from the users; • The universes are pre-defined so that extraction and presentation of the data is optimised and the impact on the operational use of the system is minimised; • Pre-defined reports that are parameter driven and can be customised where necessary to meet each service provider’s specific needs; • Scheduling jobs so that generating reports is performed automatically, delivering the required information when it is needed. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  47. 47. Telecom Billing Solutions 474.2 Functional OverviewThe solution is characterised by the configuration and rapid customisation that enablesservice providers to implement the system in weeks and realise an ROI in as little asthree months. The following sections describe the modules of the CCB.Product/Service Catalogue and Tariffs Product/Service Catalogue Supporting Catalogue of Services and Equipment The CCB has the Catalogue of Services and Equipment. The catalogue contains all services and equipment available for sale to clients and/or subscribers. There are settings for each catalogue item that allows for the full description of the methods and parameters for selling each item. Among others, the following settings are stored for each catalogue item: • Price; • Charging method. In addition to one-time charges (as for a usual sale) the system supports various methods of recurring charges for services and for equipment rental and leasing; • Who is allowed to buy this service or equipment (client and/or subscriber, the companys own subscribers and/or roamers); • The range of dates within which the item is available for sale. Several catalogue items may be created for the same service or an equipment model. This allows different prices for services with different tariff plans. Setting Links between Elements of the Service and Equipment Catalogues The system allows relationships between elements of the service and equipment catalogues to be set-up. Service and Equipment Packages Catalogue items can be grouped into defined service packages and equipment packages. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  48. 48. Telecom Billing Solutions 48 Restrictions may be set-up so that certain packages may only be sold if defined conditions are met. Tariff Management Configuration The definition of a GUI template for each type of network usage. Thus enabling service providers to tailor the tariff maintenance environment for their own business. Inclusion of friends and family style discounts within business processes to ease the configuration and assignment of this type of discount for customers. Flexible Tariff Plan Mechanism The CCB rates events according to a tariff plan. These tariff plans are adapted from a Master Tariff Plan when the system is set-up and new plans may be introduced or modified whenever new campaigns are launched. Call/Event Rating Profiles Based on Time Rules for calculating event costs that depend on the day of the week, time of day, and the call duration (or data volume) are set in Profiles. The list of profiles is compiled and modified independently of other parts of a Tariff Plan. Using profiles, parameters may be set so that the rating will depend on call duration or data volume, on time of day or the day of the week. Flexible Tariff Planning In addition to rating rules for different call types (whether inherited from the MTP or set anew), user tariff plans may be given individual features unique to them. These include linking a tariff plan to a service package as well as tariff plan special features. These features may be combined in any way for a specific user tariff plan. This allows the creation of complex tariff plans. Discount structures The discount structures are very flexible and any of the parameters may be set. Friends and family style discount structures can be defined with restrictions on the types of number that can be included e.g. local calls only, one mobile number only etc. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  49. 49. Telecom Billing Solutions 49 Fees Access fees, recurring fees etc may bet set-up according to the operator’s desired environment.Customer Relationship Management Managing customer relationships and the data attributes associated with all customers is a strongly convergent capability of the CCB. All aspects of the relationship with all parties involving services and/or billing are managed through a single set of functions within the system. That is: • Sales, dealer and service provider management, set-up and maintenance of: o Sales team structures; o Dealer points of sale and warehouses; o Service provider agreements for interconnect; • Pre-sales – sales lead and prospect management, set-up and maintenance of: o Prospect registration and assignment of sales personnel; o Ticklers used to track interaction with each prospect; o Order processing for prospects automatically changes their status to customer; • Customers: o Retail customers – corporate and consumer; o Roaming – partners and subscribers; o Settlement partners – eCommerce, content and telephony; o Dealers/resellers – as agents, resellers or branded VNOs; • Promotions and campaigns; • Users of the system: o Customers – self-care – retail, roaming or partners; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  50. 50. Telecom Billing Solutions 50 o Dealers/resellers – self-care as customers and registration of new customers; o Employees – customer service representatives etc,; • Business processes are configured and associated with services, customers and users of the system to match the service providers working procedures. • Ticklers: o Problem management – recording, assigning and tracking to resolution problems and queries reported by customers; o Escalation – notification of system users when tickler actions are overdue; o Action – e.g. sales campaigns aimed at a group of customers based on a profile produced by an analysis of recorded customer attributes or a collections hit-list based on an analysis of outstanding debts; • Common information model – all attributes of every customer (including organizational structure) are stored in a single (logical) database. This eliminates duplication and provides a rich source of data for sales and marketing; • Indices management – customer segmentation and status. Data updates history – tracking who changed what – this provides an audit trail and adds depth to sales and marketing analyses.Order Management An order is a set of operations for one and the same subscriber or client, for which an invoice can be issued. The main components of an order are: • Order header – containing customer information common to all items in the order. • Order components – including any parameters that can be set for each item © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  51. 51. Telecom Billing Solutions 51 Where multiple actions are required to process and/or activate the service/equipment item for an order component the system records and tracks progress on the actions. The steps involved in creating and processing an order are: • Create order i.e. all the operations included in the order have been specified • A pro forma invoice is generated – where a payment is required before the order can be processed. • A credit check is an optional action that can be included in the business process that controls the processing of the order. • Start the order - this may occur, for example, after the pro forma invoice has been paid. It is possible to start part of an order and, furthermore, different operations within a single order can be performed at different times, and different invoices can be issued for them. If it is necessary to perform any operation immediately, an order start can be included in the corresponding business process. Where an order includes items that require activation (network or service) and/or equipment to be delivered the system automatically creates and starts a work order or a warehouse order. These orders are processed by the respective subsystems. Attempts to order an identical service twice for the same customer will be detected and flagged by the system as an error.Provisioning, Inventory and Mediation Network and Service Inventory The inventory integrates service, network and customer information into one system. It stores all information related to network elements, including port usage and capacity capability and can manage all the bandwidth capacity demands, from an individual circuit point, sub-network and complete network view. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  52. 52. Telecom Billing Solutions 52 It supports the recovery of network resources enabling reallocation of bandwidth usage. It can represent network elements in many different views i.e. card and port level or as a black box. Benefits • Data cleansing and auditing from legacy systems; • Accurate inventory management; • Protected investment, ability to model all known network topologies and technologies; • Integration of total network inventory management, circuit design and bandwidth management in one package. Warehouse Management The warehouse tracks the inventory of equipment that can be supplied to a customer. In the Warehouse subsystem, there are both itemized inventories (mobile phone handsets, SIM cards, phone cards, packages, etc.) and non- itemized inventories, such as accessories. The tools provided to manage this environment include: • Hierarchical warehouse structure • Automatic stock tracking and re-ordering • Minimum stock quantity specification • Equipment reservation with expiry date assignment • SIM management • Service enabling equipment (routers, modems, PBXs etc.) management • Stock valuation • Serial number entry from files and via bar code readers The System supports the hierarchical classification of inventories. Each item of inventory belongs to a catalogue item, each catalogue item to a model and each model to a type. Inventory type is the root element of the warehouse inventories hierarchy. The set of inventory types is fixed. The following types are possible: © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  53. 53. Telecom Billing Solutions 53 • Handset GSM; • Handset DAMPS; • SIM card; • Scratch card; • Accessory; • Package (Set). A Nokia 3310 handset is an example of a model that is associated with the GSM handset type and could also be an item within a package. E.g. a pre-paid package could include a 3310 handset, SIM card with a pre-assigned telephone number. The unique warehouse code that is used to identify stocks of 3310 handsets must be included on the list of equipment defined within the resources sub- system of the CCB. Service Provisioning Service Provisioning establishes connections with devices using connection protocols supported by the given network element service parameters can be edited. Network elements include switches, voice mail devices (VMS), and smart devices (IN platforms). Configuration of the parameter file will be sufficient to tailor the system for some installations others may require customisation. The parameters used for setting the Device Provisioning to manage a network element of any given type are fully described in the Administrators Guide. Event Collection The Mediation Device is a billing system interface to a variety of network elements (switches, voice mail devices, IN-platforms, SMS servers, WAP- gateways, and GPRS Charging Gateways), all of these network elements must be integrated with the Mediation Device. Some changes may be achieved through modification of the switch driver screens others may require customisation. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  54. 54. Telecom Billing Solutions 54 Logging Operations and Identifying Errors Messages about how event records are collected and diagnostic error messages are recorded to a log file and may be displayed on the console. Details of logging messages may be customised. Optimising Data Processing Optimisation of data processing by setting such parameters as the size of data batches, frequency of querying output streams, or message waiting time can be set. Benefits The mediation and provisioning modules bring the following, immediate benefits: Fast and reliable call record collection enhances the revenue assurance of a service provider and is a key factor when implementing different “hot billing” or “warm billing” applications. Single and uniform point of access to the network lowers the overall cost of network management. This eliminates the need for multiple and often rather expensive Operations Support Systems from several vendors. The differences in the network are effectively hidden from the customer care and billing applications. Reduced manual effort is an obvious benefit from the high automation level of the mediation module. The engineers can concentrate on tasks that are more challenging and the customer service representatives do not have to learn exotic tasks or command languages. This also has a tremendous impact on the reliability and security of the operations. Good architecture for growth, providing a path for larger transaction volumes (call records) just by adding new servers to the mediation infrastructure. Adding support for new network elements or new releases of an existing element is also easy through the flexible Network Model Database. Instant Service-Provisioning results in higher customer satisfaction through quicker service at the point of sale. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.

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