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Telecom Billing Solutions By Sohag Sarkar


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

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

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  • 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. Telecom Billing Solutions 21. Introduction 1.1 Evolution of Billing System © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 ( 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. 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 ( 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
  • 55. Telecom Billing Solutions 55 Flexible Service-Packaging enables the combining of different services together in a single service request. Even multiple networks can be supported simultaneously - a must in a convergent telephony operation.Rating and Billing Rating and billing within the CCB provide convergent capabilities encompassing: • Post-paid, pre-paid and near real-time rating; • Billing for multiple types of customer – retail, wholesale, settlement, dealers/resellers and roaming; • Multiple services on a single and/or multiple bills; • Multiple bill formats, languages, currencies and presentation methods (e.g. paper and electronic). Rating Post-paid Events are rated within the CCB as the event records are processed (CDRs etc). Transactional discount schemes (e.g. friends and family) are applied during the initial rating process. Where tariff changes need to be applied retrospectively a rollback function enables the service provider to update the rated records selectively – i.e.: • Select the events affected by the change; • Rollback the rating; • Apply the tariff change; • Re-run the rating process. Account balances and credit limit information will be updated automatically. The characteristics of the post-paid billing functions supported include: • Real-time balance update – facilitating continuous credit limit management; • Multiple rating parameters including type of event, type and volume of data, location and access point name, bandwidth used, content and quality of service (QoS); © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 56. Telecom Billing Solutions 56 • Multi-party rating (pricing of 3rd party events used in settlements); • Events rollback and re-rating; • Audit, error reporting and recycling of unprocessed events; • Statistical information about all chargeable events. Pre-paid Records about calls made, balance replenishments, and other events in the network are generated on the pre-paid platform and/or the switch. The following types of event record are possible: • CDR (Call Detail Records) – itemized records about subscriber calls. • MTR (Monetary Transaction Records) – records about a subscribers financial transactions. These include balance replenishment, balance adjustment, and setting the balance to zero. • SR (Supplementary Records) – records about incorrect actions on the PP platform, records about subscriber deletion, etc. The system makes it possible to service pre-paid subscribers, perform mass operations, and process and store records about events. Servicing pre-paid subscribers includes: registering, blocking, unblocking, and deactivating them, replenishing balances and changing the last date when the balance must be replenished, requesting the subscribers balances and statuses on the pre-paid platform, and viewing the event history. Pre-paid subscribers are serviced in the Customer Service subsystem using the Register Subscriber, Change Service Status, Deactivate Subscriber, Make Prepaid Balance Adjustment, and Request State on Prepaid Platform business processes. Near real-time The CCB is only limited by the ability of the switch to generate CDRs and enable the mediation system to collect them. Rating is performed on all billable CDRs as soon as they are available from the mediation module. Charging The CCB contains powerful functions for calculating service and equipment charges. The types of charges supported are: © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 57. Telecom Billing Solutions 57 • One-time charges, e.g. for equipment sales, installation charges etc; • Recurring charges, monthly subscription charges, line rental, access charges etc; • Rental charges, for equipment, hosting services etc; • Credit sales charges, e.g. interest charges. Discounting A discount is a one-time or recurring change in invoice amounts. The following discount strategies are supported by the CCB: • Reduced prices applied to all services delivered to a single or a group of customers – this is implemented by creating a specific UTP for the customer(s); • Volume discounts the rate and value of which will vary depending on the value of the services consumed by each customer – usually during a billing period, however, annual volume discounts can be supported; • Volume usage bucket – the ability to define a level of usage (at a preferential price) that is shared between a group of subscribers on a first come first served basis for each billing period. Usage above the level set is charged at “normal” tariff plan rates defined for the customer; • Promotional discounts – applied to specific services or equipment. All the above can be defined with specific start and end dates. The discount mechanism also enables the transfer of charges within a customer hierarchy from a lower level to a higher one. However, the discount mechanism does not allow an invoice to be issued for an amount less than the specified minimum amount. The system provides the following functions for managing discounts: • Set and modify the discounts in the discount catalogue; • To assign and unassign discounts to objects in the hierarchy; • To define and modify a discount period; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 58. Telecom Billing Solutions 58 • To calculate discounts. The calculation rules and the conditions for applying a discount depend on the discount type. Billing The billing module enables the service provider to generate bills for the following types of customer: • Retail, corporate and consumer simple structures for consumer customers and any complexity of hierarchical structure and allocation of charges between organisations within a corporate structure; • Settlement, for interconnect and content services/partners; • Dealers and resellers – including BOBO; • Roaming – two-way interaction with roaming partners using any of the TAP standards. Billing compiles generates and summarises all charges on a consolidated bill. • Single bill for multi-service package • Multiple billing cycles • Open item or balance forward billing • Generation and printing of regular and ad hoc invoices • Flexible allocation of charges between different levels of the customer hierarchy • Bills in multiple languages and multiple currency • Flexible tax configuration • Roll back and recharging of regular bills Document Production • Delivery handling and control • Customisable bill layout through the integration with third-party document composition software © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 59. Telecom Billing Solutions 59 Roaming Roaming partners are defined as a special kind of customer within the CCB. This includes: • Standard definition information – name address, contract types etc.; • Contact details; • Billing address; • A tariff plan is assigned. This tariff plan is used for this company’s roamers, i.e. for the company’s subscribers who use roaming services; • A number of parameters which control the way that roaming information is exchanged are set individually for each partner service provider. The individual setting s fr each roaming partner can be unique allowing the service provider to make its roaming policy very flexible. TAP Format Support The system supports three versions of TAP format: TAP 2, TAP 2+ and TAP 3. Exchange file formats are configured for each roaming partner. Manual and Automatic Modes Its is possible to export and import exchange files in both manual and automatic modes. In the manual mode, each export/import action is performed by the user’s order. In the automatic mode, files are exported/imported at a certain time. Each roaming partner may use both manual and automatic modes.Revenue Management Revenue management is critical in today’s fiercely competitive environment. Customer Care and Billing provides a rich set of financial tools, empowering communication providers to optimise control of their revenue streams. Account and Credit Management • Multiple payment methods (cash, credit and debit card, direct debit, remittance, etc); • Payment application to invoices; • Balance adjustment; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 60. Telecom Billing Solutions 60 • Late payment penalties; • Receipt handling; • Credit note generation; • Intelligent credit control; • Automatic stepped activation and deactivation of services; • Multi-level credit management; • Intelligent, profile-based credit control analysis criteria; • Operator-definable queries; • Interface to messaging system for balance retrieval and notification. Collections • Automatic and manual entry in a one-off or batch mode as well as import from file capability: • Import of payment data in multiple formats from third parties via flexible and easily configurable interfaces. Financial Management • Tax jurisdiction and rate management; • Currency rate management; • Payment method management – e.g. direct debit and credit card management; • Accounting Gateway: o Export of data by creating files or Oracle views; o Support of both manual and automatic transfer modes.3rd Party Integration Interfaces with third party systems (e.g. mediation, accounting gateway, fraud and business objects) are managed via batch processes or message queues that generate audit/log files. The results are therefore comparable and auditable so that the data/system integrity can be verified. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 61. Telecom Billing Solutions 61 The value added partner solutions that are currently pre-integrated with the BCC suite include: • Fraud management ; • Inventory management; • Order management; • Dealer management; • Customer Relationship management (CRM); • Financial management; • Churn management; • Activation management; • Account management; • Analysis & reporting – Business Objects. The APIs for integration between with all third party systems are published in the API guide that is made available to service providers during implementation. E.g. ticklers may be processed using a set of functions performed by 3rd party applications. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 62. Telecom Billing Solutions 624. 3 Third Party Interfacing Elements Order Capture Customer Bill Payment / Back Office Dealers Call IVRS Front Center Payment Front Offic Center Office Point of Sale Data warehouse CRM ERP Billing Intercon. Billing Number Management E System AI Fraud Mgmt. T IB C Revenue Order Management O Assurance Directory Services Bank Reconcil. Service Activation Mediation IN Dealer Commission Network Mgmt. Network Element Figure 4.2 BSS Functional ArchitectureInventory ManagementAs networks become more complex, network inventory management systems play acrucial role. It is imperative that operators are able to store inventory information bothat the physical and logical level. Inventory Management offers solutions that provide astreamlined, integrated network planning process, from service requirements to networkbuild.Network ManagementNetwork Management is an offshoot of the various NMS platforms developed for leadingtelecom equipment vendors. The system integration and network management /administration experience combined with NMS product skills - map the businessrequirements to solution features and help deploy the solution in minimum possible time © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 63. Telecom Billing Solutions 63frame. Network Management Solutions manages SLAs effectively and provide for serviceassurance.Revenue AssuranceService delivery to customers should be complemented by solutions that offer theconvenience of seamless service integration and accurate & timely billing.Order ManagementService providers require solutions that support flow through order entry, provisioningand activation of multiple products and customer through multiple service providers.Order Management systems and Order Management gateways brings the organizationknowledge of the various steps and the needs involved in the order fulfillment in aservice provider setup.Customer Relationship Management (CRM)Customer Relationship Management (CRM), of which Customer Care may be a sub-system, is the process of communicating with the customer regarding their establishingaccounts, service feature activation, handling customer inquiries adjusting accounts fordisputes (account management), technical support, selling additional products andservices to the customer (post sales support), and collection services.Account ActivationAccount activation is the acquiring and entering information that is required for thesystem to provide services to a customer. The account activation may involve manysteps prior to the entry of information to the system. Account activation steps mayrequire the customer to complete an application for service, credit check, and copying ofdocuments that validate the identity of a new customer (to prevent fraud). Accountactivation also involves assigning the customer to specific rate plans for service charges.Account activation involves informing the network of customer account information andwhat services they are authorized to use. This is called provisioning of the network. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 64. Telecom Billing Solutions 64Account ManagementAccount management involves communication with the customer for sales related andcollections activities. Typically, all communication with the customer is recorded invarious formats such as call records and voice recording. Account management alsoinvolves creating records to track technical problems the customer may be experiencingwith the service. These records of trouble (often called “trouble tickets”) are routed totechnical support. These trouble tickets remain open so managers can review progressuntil the problem is solved. Account managers may also receive inquiries or billingcomplaints that require message investigation. Message investigation reviews billingrecords to resolve customer disputes. In some cases, account managers may be used toassist in the collection of outstanding invoices.4.4 System IntegrationModules within CCB suite (encompassing CCB, Service provisioning and networkmanagement) are pre-integrated and can be delivered in a number of combinationswithout customisation.The full Business Analysis (the first stage of the implementation project) will determinethe specific areas, which must be changed and the change parameters required by theclient, including the interfaces with third party systems.The following diagram indicates those functional areas and functions, which SystemIntegrators may change, in accordance with the requirements documented during thebusiness analysis process, during the implementation processes. The SystemAdministrators’ Guide and User Guides describe in detail how each task may beaccomplished.Third Party IntegrationInterfaces with third party systems (e.g. mediation, accounting gateway, fraud andbusiness objects) are managed via batch processes or message queues that generateaudit/log files. The results are therefore comparable and auditable so that thedata/system integrity can be verified. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 65. Telecom Billing Solutions 65The value added partner solutions that may be pre or post-integrated with the CCB suiteinclude: • Fraud management ; • Inventory management; • Order management; • Dealer management; • Customer Relationship management (CRM); • Financial management; • Churn management; • Activation management; • Account management; • Analysis & reporting – Business Objects.The APIs for integration between with all third party systems are published in the APIguide that is made available to service providers during implementation. E.g. ticklersmay be processed using a set of functions performed by 3rd party applications.ImplementationThe implementation process adopted by Billing Vendors encompasses the entire projectlifecycle from pre-contract through to handover of the live system to operations andsupport. The main stages on the lifecycle are: • Project plan as part of the bid proposal and quotation; • Business analysis - Post-contract business analysis and final plan; • System interfaces and configuration: o Design – covering the network interfaces, databases and the system integration within the service provider’s existing IT environment; • Customisation – optional stage that may not be required; • Product install and test: © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 66. Telecom Billing Solutions 66 o Configuration – set-up of the system parameters, business processes etc.; o Implementation – this could be phased – e.g. initial implementation of a configured system – no customisation, followed by a second phase to implement the system with the customisations; o Migration – optional stage to migrate from existing systems; o Training; o Testing: Environment testing; System testing; Acceptance testing; • Soft-launch – running the system for a sub-set of the production environment – limited by number of services/subscribers, users etc.; • Hard-launch; • Post launch support; • First billing cycle; • Hand over to support: o Hand-over to the service provider’s users and IT operations group; o Hand-over to the support organisation;Project Management The objectives for project management are: • Delivery, minimising risk and maximising benefits – i.e. on-time & within budget; • Realise the business benefits – i.e. maximum customer satisfaction; © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 67. Telecom Billing Solutions 67 • Partnership – building a long term relationship with the service provider, recognising that the majority of the business benefits for both parties will be achieved over time; • Consistency – from bid planning and pricing through to delivery completion the customer facing team is the same people. The following outline plan show the typical timeline for the implementation of the CCB. Customisation is significant by its absence from this timeline. The CCB can usually be configured to meet the requirements of our customers. Where customisation is required there is an option to implement the CCB in stages: • Stage 1 – the standard system, configured to meet the service provider’s needs; • Stage 2 (or more) – to implement the customised functionality. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Week No. Initial Business Analysis System & Interfaces configuration Product install and test Soft launch Hard Launch First Billing Cycle Post Launch Support Handover to Support Delivery Complete Figure 4.3 Integration Phases © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 68. Telecom Billing Solutions 684.5 Billing Solutions Product MatrixFor understanding the product offerings that are given by the various vendors in thedomain of Billing Solutions, a product matrix was formed and the important featuresanalyzed across the various companies. The products chosen for this matrix analysis aresome of the more used and prevalent systems in the domain of telecom and convergedbilling. These products were chosen for their abilities in the field of converged solutions:encompassing various fields of Wireline, wire free, mobile, VOIP, broadband etc.The findings of this analysis are mentioned as follows:- There are no products that are all compliant, there are some features that some products have and some don’t. The criterion for choosing a product over others depends on the importance of these features, in terms of the perceived value that the customer asks for the same. Most of the products that were examined for certain key features like process automation in the workflow, or multi-service compatibility had these features. Some of the emerging demands of the customers to have a flexi-discounting process, in which discounts are not slabbed, but customized, were observed in some of the product offerings. The demands of the market have been taken care of by some of the companies. Till recently, the billing suites looked at discounts as fixed offerings, there was no concept of a flexible discount. Thus the entire process was driven by the policy of the company, rather than being a dynamic one. Real time rating has come to become a prerequisite of sorts for all the service providers who are offering prepaid services. The prepaid billing system requires that the credit status of the billed amount real-time. This feature was present in most of the product suites that were examined. As most of the processes are becoming real-time rather than delayed events, especially when service activation and service provisioning processes have become real time, it is only but natural that the billing systems also have to cope up the time lag. Integration with banking options was a criterion that was looked at as a value- added service. The idea here was to examine whether the billing systems of the day have the capacity to integrate seamlessly into the financial processes and © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 69. Telecom Billing Solutions 69 suites that look into the credit draft facilities of the customers. The ability of the software suite to integrate with the mode of payments- over online banking transactions, integration with credit facilities with banks that offer revenue debits over SMS intimation. Multi-invoice layout and presentation is one tool that the billing software systems today are using to gain more and more customizability. The format of the various billing parameters and the itemized billing heads. These are some of the features that are demanded by corporate clients who want the bill format to be in the format of the company. Some peripheral details like multi-currency and multi-lingual interface options are not that vital for most of the service providers. But some of the products were offering even these features. This feature assumes importance in the case when the language of operations is different. The aspect of differential currency becomes more important as the currency is the receivable for any billing system. Product extendibility or scalability was one feature that was looked into. As the service provider expands his operations in terms of scales of operations, in terms of operating into more licenses in different geographical operations or he moves into more allied fields of operations, the scalability of the billing solution is of paramount importance. The ideal case for the service provider would be to have a same billing system for all his operations. This case assumes more importance in the light of frequent mergers and acquisitions that are dominating the world of mobile and telecommunications landscape. The service provider would like to maintain uniformity in terms of his various offerings, perhaps offering a consolidated billing solution for all the service providers.This analysis tries to understand the importance of the various features that go into atelecom-billing suite. Some of the features are service-specific, some features areregion-specific, and some other features are market-specific. The idea of this exercisewas to gauge the importance of the features that go into a telecom-billing suite. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 70. Telecom Billing Solutions 70Table 4.1: VENDORS WITH THE PRODUCTS AND THEIR FEATURES Converg Bharti Operators CSG MindCTI MaxBill ys Telesoft Sema Different MIND- ial BSCS Features Product ICMS iPhonEX MaxGen Infinys™ Billing 8.0MultiserviceBillingFlexi Discount-Product PackagingNumberManagementReal-TimeRatingIntegrated ChargingMechanismsMultilingual/MulticurrencyAutomatedActivationof processesMulti-Invoice layoutand Presentation3G ComplianceScalable/ProductExtendibility Feature Not Specified Feature Available © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 71. Telecom Billing Solutions 71Table 4.2: VENDORS WITH THE PRODUCTS AND THEIR FEATURES. LHSOperators Suntec Infozec Amdocs Ushacom Lifetree Brainroots GmbHFeaturesProduct TBMS eBiLL Enabler Unicorn @billity Ultra Bill LHSMultiservicebillingFlexi discount-productpackagingNumberManagementReal-time RatingIntegratedchargingmechanismsMultilingual/multicurrencyAutomatedactivation ofprocessesMulti-invoicelayout andpresentation3G ComplianceScalable/ProductExtendibility Feature Not Specified Feature Available © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 72. Telecom Billing Solutions 725. Trends in Billing 5.1 GPRS 5.2 MMS 5.3 3G 5.4 EBPP 5.5 MVNO 5.6 Interconnect Billing 5.7 Real Time Billing © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 73. Telecom Billing Solutions 735. Trends in BillingThe types of services that an operator offers the customer include voice and dataservices over fixed line and mobile networks, Internet Protocol (IP) service (such asemail), and content delivery. In other words the services can be broadly classified intovoice and data services.VoiceVoice is the basic service provided by a telecom service provider. There are essentiallytwo technologies, which are used for delivering voice.Ø Circuit switched technologyØ Voice over IP technologyCircuit Switched TechnologyThe conventional telephone exchange is a circuit switched network that connects thesource and the destination. In a layman’s term a dedicated path is created between thecalling party and the called party in a legacy based telephone network and this switchedcircuit or path remains engaged for the full length of the call until either party hangs up.At the end of the month the operator sends a bill to the subscriber. Such bills are basedon the start time and the end times of each call, which includes the calling number, andthe called number on the basis of which a call detail record (CDR) was generated andsubsequently rated before billing. In a legacy billing system bills customers on flat ratetariffs and the method of processing is batch oriented and hence is not aimed at billingon real time. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 74. Telecom Billing Solutions 74 Figure 5.1 Billing Process for Circuit SwitchedAbove figure show that after a call is made, a collector gathers data from the switch andbuilds a call-detail record (CDR). This CDR must contain the originating number, theterminating number, and the start and end times. The CDR is then stored until it can berated. To rate the call, the CDR is examined to see if the call is, for example, a local callthat is covered by a local-area calling plan, or a toll call. Information such as the timethe call was placed and the distance between callers is also used to calculate the rate forthe call.Once each call is rated, this information is stored until the invoice is run, usually once amonth. When the invoice is run, other non usage charges can be applied to the bill, suchas volume discounts or monthly fees. This information is then prepared so that it can beprinted in a readable form. Call data is also shared between companies to handle callsthat originate, terminate, or are transported on another companys network. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 75. Telecom Billing Solutions 755.1 Billing for GPRSFor operators introducing GPRS into their mobile network, time to market is extremelyimportant. It is essential that alterations to the administrative and billing systems do notdelay the introduction. The charging criteria used for packet-switched services includingGPRS are fundamentally different from the principles used for circuit-switched services.Fundamentally these GPRS services are volume based instead of time based. In a GPRSnetwork a PDP context can be active for a very long time, whilst the actual datatransmission may only take place occasionally. In this case time is relativelyunimportant compared to the volume of data, as a criterion for charging.Charging requirementsThe charging requirements of GPRS networks are quite different to that of the existingGSM networks due to the additional elements that are present. With the introduction ofGPRS there is an overlay service for Internet access that shares the same air interfaceas the existing GSM network. GPRS is implemented over the existing GSM network withthe addition of two new ON elements, the Signaling GPRS Service Node (SGSN) and theGateway GPRS Service Node (GGSN). The SGSN and the GGSN serving a Mobile Station(MS) produce the charging information and statistical data relating to the MobileStation’s GPRS service use.Billing tickets need to be collected and processed centrally so that subscriber bills an beproduced. The collection of billing tickets is often done by a mediation system. Thisinformation that the operator uses to generate a subscriber bill to is operator specific.The various GPRS operators collect and process their own charging information. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 76. Telecom Billing Solutions 76 Fig 5.2: Charging & Billing Models for GSM and future mobile internet servicesGPRS Charging ElementsThe GPRS charging information must now be collected from the new SGSNs and GGSNs,which use a different interface than the MSC and produce new types of Call DataRecords (CDRs). The various elements of a GPRS network collect various components ofcharging data. • The SGSN generates charging information on the usage of the radio network. • The GGSN generates charging information on the external data network usage. • Both GGSNs generate charging information on the usage of actual GPRS network resources.The charging information that is generated by the SGSN and the GGSN are thendelivered to the Charging Gateway using real time transfer protocols.Call Data RecordsWith the introduction of GPRS the amount of CDRs produced increases significantly. WithGPRS, we introduce a number of new services plus we can be ‘always connected’.Therefore if we are connected via GPRS and we are keeping track of CDRs every 10minutes, then the amount of charging data in the network is increased significantly. Asmentioned before, both the SGSN and GGSN produce charging data, known as CallDetailed Records or Call Data Records (CDRs). © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 77. Telecom Billing Solutions 77 Figure 5.3: GGSN ArchitectureGGSNThe GGSN’s responsibility is to gather the charging information for the use of externalnetworks. The GGSN does not store the CDRs, but are encapsulated into chargingpackets and sent to the Charging Gateway. The GGSN has only one type of CDR, the G-CDR. The G-CDR is related to the external data network usage, it contains: • Start collection: PDP context activation • Stop collection: PDP context deactivation • Traffic volume uplink/downlink • Quality of Service negotiated • SGSN & GGSN address • Access Point Name • Duration © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 78. Telecom Billing Solutions 78 SG Figure 5.4: Fig 5.3. G-CDRsSGSNThe SGSN has several types of CDRs, including the: • S-CDR • M-CDR • SMS-CDRThe S-CDR (SGSN CDR) is related to the radio network usage. The S-CDR contains thefollowing information:Ø Start collection: PDP context activationØ Stop collection: PDP context deactivationØ Traffic volume uplink/downlinkØ Quality of Service negotiatedØ DurationØ SGSN & GGSN addressØ Access Point Name © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 79. Telecom Billing Solutions 79The M-CDR (Mobility Management CDR) is related to mobility management activity, itcontains: • Start collection: GPRS activation / Incoming SGSN RA update • Stop collection: GPRS deactivation / Outgoing SGSN RA update • Location changesThe SGSN sends a M-CDR to the Charging Gateway each time the subscriber changesthe Cell, Location Area or Routing Area. The SMS-CDR is related to the usage of shortmessage service with GPRS, this can be sent through the traditional network or theGPRS backbone.One PDP context may generate several S-CDRs and G-CDRs. When a CDR is closed andready for sending, it will not be forwarded immediately because the SGSN does nottransfer single CDRs, unless there is an exception. At regular intervals or as soon as acertain amount of data has been transmitted, partial outputs are then generated. Fig 5.5: SSGN-CDREven if charging data is sent at regular intervals, the billing system may prefer to getdata more seldom, for example once every hour or when the PDP context is terminated. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 80. Telecom Billing Solutions 80CDRs from one PDP context can also be sent from several SGSNs, if the subscriber hasmoved and changed SGSN routing area as maybe in the case of roaming.PDP Context Activation and DeactivationIn order to send and receive GPRS data the Mobile Station performs PDP contextactivation after the GPRS attach. The PDP context activation makes the Mobile Stationknown in the concerned GGSN, and communication to the external network is thenmade possible. The PDP context activation is similar to “logging in” to an externalnetwork. These external networks could be a corporate LAN, or an ISP. The mainadvantage of this system is that the end user can have several contexts simultaneouslyactivated if their terminal supports several IP addresses. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 81. Telecom Billing Solutions 81The Charging GatewayThe ETSI standards (12.15) recommend a Charging Gateway Function to handle thegeneration of billing records. The Charging Gateway facilitates the introduction of GPRSservices in the mobile network by offering functions that simplify the handling ofcharging data in the billing system. The GPRS standard specifies the Charging GatewayFunctionality (CGF) can either be implemented as a separate central network element orbe distributed to the GSNs. The main advantage of having the Charging Gateway as aseparate network element is that security issues can then be handled with ease.The main functions of the Charging Gateway are: • CDR collection from GSNs • Intermediate storage for CDRs • CDR validation • CDR consolidation • CDR formatting • Adaptation to different system interfaces • Reduction of the CDR processing load of the CCB System.The Charging Gateway can be thought of as a mediation device. The gateway receivesCDRs from the GGSN and SGSN using an enhanced GPRS Tunneling Protocol (GTP).There is no need for long-term storage of data at the SGSN and the GGSN due to theCharging Gateway acting as an intermediate storage device. The Charging GatewayFunction opens the received messages and stores the contents in a safe manner e.g., bya redundant RAM memory or a mirrored non-volatile memory.The Charging Gateway has many sub sections which each perform different tasks. • The CG/ARC (Accounting Record Collection) performs the collecting of CDRs • The CG/ARM (Accounting Record Validation) performs the validation of CDRs before being passed to the CG/CM • CG/CM (Call Matcher) performs the combining and formatting of CDRs and then forwards the CDRs to an output file. • CG/FTM (File Transfer Manager) performs the management and overall control of the different modules © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 82. Telecom Billing Solutions 82 • There is also an alarm dispatcher which notifies the Network Management Systems of any alarms After the Charging Gateway Function receives the CDR, it then sends confirmation to the CDR generating node (GSN) of a successful packet reception. Figure 5.6: Charging Gateway ArchitectureOnly after a positive response is received will the sent CDRs be deleted from the bufferof the GSN. If a response has not been received a retransmission is attempted. Theamount of retries is configurable by the operator.Billing GatewayThe Billing Gateway fulfils the role of the enhanced charging gateway, providing all thehigher functionality specified in the standard. The Charging Gateway provides the basicfunctionality such as collection, intermediate storage and transfer, and is part of theGPRS nodes. The Billing Gateway can either transform the CDRs produced by the GPRSnodes into CDRs similar to the GSM network. Or the Billing Gateway can be used forbuilding new billing applications, specifically adapted to volume based charging.Database InterfaceThe database feature can be used to store data securely whilst it is waiting for thesession to end. This is necessary for the CDRs to be matched as they are generated © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 83. Telecom Billing Solutions 83during a long period of time, such as once a day. The database can also be used to storedata for longer periods of time, for later processing.CDR Matching and ConsolidationIn order to reduce the traffic in the IP backbone, CDR Matching can be used toconsolidate information from several CDRs generated during one session. The ChargingGateway combines CDRs from the same PDP context into one CDR packet (single outputrecord). There are various fields that identify which CDRs belong to the same PDPcontext. The Charging Gateway records these fields during consolidation.CDRs can be generated in different SGSNs in the network during roaming, from differentelement types or from external entities such as ISPs. To consolidate all this informationthe data is analyzed and put together into one complete CDR for a session.Output CDRsThe ETSI have defined an output CDR format (flat file) that is forwarded to the billingsystem. The output format may consist of S-CDR, G-CDR, M-CDR, SMS-CDR, or the N-CDR, which is a combination of the S-CDR and the GCDR. A standard Charging Gatewaywrites all the CDRs that are processed and ready for the billing system to a flat file. Thistransmission of these CDRs is via FTP or NFS file copy. The Charging Gateway providesthe functionality to format the data fields of the CDRs to match the requirements of aparticular operator before the data is transferred to the billing system. Once all thecharging data has been collected and pre -processed into a standard format that thebilling system can understand it may then be used for the creation of invoices and billsfor the actual subscriber. This is done using dedicated billing systems and taking intoaccount the mobile operator’s charging tariffs. The billing data can then be furtherprocessed by additional data-mining systems to detect subscriber’s usage patterns,fraud detection and surveying of subscriber profiles. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 84. Telecom Billing Solutions 84RatingRating can be used to put a price tag on the CDR. The Billing Gateway can thus be usedeither as a complete rating network element or to make some pre-rating, depending onthe capabilities of the billing system. For example, it is possible to translate the volume-based information generated in the GPRS network elements and the Internet AccessServer into a time based charging scheme. The Billing Gateway can translate thevolume-based data produced, for e.g. megabytes sent into time based data for thebilling system to interpret. An example could be the operator may decide that onemegabyte of data is equivalent to ten minutes of speech time, which will then betranslated to a known cost for the subscriber. The Billing Gateway can do all thesecalculations, which are configurable by the various operators.GPRS Pre -paid Network ElementsThe GPRS prepaid feature consists of three main functions • The HLR includes a flag that is forwarded to the GSN to identify whether the user is on a pre-paid contract. • Barring of the GPRS service if usage is exceeded. This is done by disconnecting the user when requested to by the HLR, and rejecting any following attempts to attach. • The ability to perform near-real time charging for pre-paid subscribers.Charging GatewayThe Charging Gateway is handling pre-paid subscribers CDR’s generated in near-realtime.Home Location RegisterThe prepaid information is sent via a MAP interface as part of the new chargingcharacteristics. These parameters cover pre-paid, hot billing and flat rate billing. Creditexhaustion will be handled by a cancel location sent to the SGSN and further attachrequests to GPRS nodes will then be refused by the HLR. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 85. Telecom Billing Solutions 85IN-System and NCCThe Intelligent Network platform provides a means of recharging and credit queries forpre-paid subscribers. The NCC and the IN platform provide a means charging requests,provisioning and credit/subscription expiry information.Hot Billing and Pre -paidHot Billing is a non-IN (Intelligent Network) based prepaid billing option. With Hot BillingCDRs are processed in 15-minute increments for subscribers in their home networks andup to 30-minute segments for subscribers roaming to other networks. The problem withthis is that it leaves operators susceptible to fraud and loss of revenue, despite thefundamental reasoning behind prepaid subscriptions. In some cases of Hot Billing thecost of text messaging is not deducted for up to 24 hours after the message has beensent, meaning subscribers are still able to send text messages, even if they have run outof credit.Many vendors that create hardware for this process provide products with real timerating and credit authorization, which closes the window left open for fraud by traditionalHot Billing solutions. Hot billing CDRs must be rapidly routed to the billing system withminimum delay this not only improves payment control but eliminates the opportunity offraud. One example of such a billing system is the ‘Shasta’ GGSN by ‘Nortel Networks’,which sends the billing records at near real time to the Charging Gateway Function.5.2 Billing for MMSMultimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a system for the delivery of rich content such asaudio, pictures and video in a messaging context through wireless networks betweenmobile terminals. While MMS is technically very different from SMS, from an end userpoint of view it can be understood and marketed as the next step in mobile messaging.To date, very few commercially available handsets are MMS-capable. Industry observersargue that handset penetration needs to reach levels of 20% to 30% before MMS will besuccessful. This resembles the situation with SMS capability when GSM networks © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 86. Telecom Billing Solutions 86launched: it was not until there were enough handsets capable of originating SMSs (asopposed to just receiving them) that SMS usage increased.Most analysts forecast a modest uptake of MMS during 2004 and 2005, increasinggradually to tens of billions of dollars in MMS worldwide revenues by the end of thedecade.Strategy and Pricing Models for End UsersCurrently, MMS pricing is very simple, ranging from bucket plans (fixed maximumvolume for a fixed monthly price) to per-message charging, regardless of size. SomeEuropean operators have introduced MMS free of charge until late 2002. The followingare a few examples of end-user pricing models for different applications:P2P Picture MailIn this case, a Volume-based tiered price per single message could be applied. PictureMail will be the first popular application of MMS, and users will likely associate it withSMS, which is typically priced at a fixed amount per message. However, given thatMMSs can vary widely in size, from under 10KB to over 100KB, operators should avoid asingle fixed price. A tiered pricing system for “small”, “medium” and “large” messageswill reduce user confusion and bring larger profits to the operator.P2P Video messages.The large bandwidth consumed by video files requires that operators charge according tomessage size. An adequate pricing model could be Volume based (fixed rate per KB).The high convenience and appeal of sending video will mean that users will be willing topay the high charges associated with this volume-based pricing.Access to operator-owned Premium Content (video and images).In this case a monthly subscription plus Volume-based charges could be applied. Usersare likely to expect a similar pricing structure to a magazine or Cable TV subscription. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 87. Telecom Billing Solutions 87However, to control the abuse of scarce bandwidth, some measure of volume-basedcharging could be introduced as well.Access to 3rd Party-owned Premium Content (video and images).It is naturally expected that the Content Providers set their own cost prices. In this casethe operator simply generates a retail price as an increment on top of the cost price (ortakes a commission) from the 3rd party prices— regardless of the pricing structure—andalso applies a volume-based charge to the end user. In this case the operator should becapable of managing the revenue sharing policies with the 3rd Party Content Providers.Music Downloads.The value for the user lies more in the popularity of the song than in its duration or filesize. Therefore, it makes more sense to charge a variety of fixed prices according to thesong title, i.e. value based billing. The previous examples just illustrate how differentapplications necessitate different prices. Obviously, operators should look carefully attheir respective markets in order to find the optimal pricing strategy. In general, overlysimplistic pricing strategies such as flat rates result in lower revenues and higher costs,since they encourage abuse by certain users while keeping others away. On the otherhand, extremely sophisticated pricing mechanisms can confuse users. The right balancelies between those two extremes.The Importance of Managing Revenues with Third PartiesThe new content capabilities brought by MMS make relationships with Content Providersof critical importance. In addition to having to develop new billing models for end users,mobile operators will also have to manage revenue sharing with third parties. Thiscapability is crucial for the success of MMS, and, for that matter, for many other mobiledata services. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 88. Telecom Billing Solutions 88Billing IssuesMMS has the potential to be a major revenue generator. A key question is how thisservice is priced correctly, in order to maximize profits, which begs the question of howto make billing for MMS work appropriately. Billing for MMS is clearly a most importantissue for operators.Input information for MMS Billing–Mediation issuesIt should be relatively straightforward for a configurable Mediation system to collect allthe relevant information from the MMS Server, either in batch mode or in real time.Accounting records will include information on message type, duration, packetsthroughput time and message size. The mediation system could aggregate several MMSrecords into single files in order to streamline the interface with the billing system.5.3 Billing for 3G ServicesBilling in a 3G environment refers to the capacity of a wireless communication serviceprovider to capture, rate and bill next-generation mobile communication events. Theseevents include voice, data, and electronic content such as mobile web browsing andemail, mobile commerce activities, and streaming video.In the future, as 3G services are adopted, GPRS will provide a massive boost to mobiledata usage and usefulness. The promise of next-generation technology is likely to berealized because of its flexible feature set, and inherent latency, efficiency, and speed.In Europe, next or third-generation (3G) cellular mobile radio is known as UniversalMobile Telecommunications System (UMTS). UMTS is expected to offer broadbandmultimedia services in addition to basic services such as voice. Both GPRS and UMTS willsupport many new types of services. These include:Ø Streaming video servicesØ Video conferencingØ Interactive online shoppingØ Location-sensitive directoriesØ Online banking, stock trading and sports reporting © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 89. Telecom Billing Solutions 89While the possibilities that result from the launch of next-generation services andcontent-based services are exciting, they present service providers with numerouschallenges, such asØ Where to assess the value of the content moving across networksØ How to deliver content developed and provided by third partiesØ How to capture revenue generated by content provided by outside sourcesRedefining Billing Requirements to Keep Pace with ChangeAs described previously, GPRS and UMTS are packet switched networks that will changethe elements of billing for a number of reasons:Ø Users will be able to access content via a visual subscriber interface— as opposed tovoice, mobile subscribers will be able to send and receive text, pictures, and video.Ø New users will always be online. The concept of “making a call” will disappear.Ø Networks will be able to locate users within a few miles or meters. This capabilityyields new forms of advertising and sponsored services, which means that third partiesmay be prepared to pay operators for access to their subscribers.Ø To support GPRS and UMTS services, a new generation of mobile “phone” is beingdeveloped. The lines between traditional phones and laptops will blur as technologiesconverge. Different types of consumers will use different types of devices, depending onwhether they want games, music, video, or voice.Ø New partnership opportunities will abound as communications service providerspartner with outside sources to produce the content that they cannot produce in-house.As a result, the volume of settlement activities required to manage the exchange ofcontent between networks is expected to grow. Depending on the length of the valuechain, the speed with which the settlements are made will become critical.Ø New, next-generation networks will generate different forms of data using differenttypes of records, in larger quantities. Forecasts range from twice as much data to 50 oreven 100 times as much. Scalability in a billing system will be imperative.New Business Models for 3G BillingTo be viable, next-generation billing systems must be capable of pricing data andcontent events in addition to voice calls. They will have to be highly flexible, event © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 90. Telecom Billing Solutions 90based, and truly convergent. In developing a billing solution equal to the task, a numberof new parameters for calculating charges can be used:Ø Number of packetsØ Uploading or downloading of dataØ Quality of serviceØ LocationØ ContentCommunication service providers will certainly seek to bill subscribers directly for someservices. However, they may also consider any of the following scenarios:Ø Billing third parties for access to subscribers. Banks, travel agents, stockbrokersand similar entities could be billed for secure access to mobile subscribers.Ø Billing subscribers directly for everything, including content. This scenariowould generate a convergent bill that resembles a credit card statement, giving theservice provider complete control of the relationship and maximizing the value of thecustomer relationship. This model would require a complex system to track the deliveryof goods, ensure the quality of service across the various forms of content that theydeliver, and settle payments with suppliers.Ø Billing content providers for access. Subscribers might pay content providersdirectly and service providers might receive a commission. This type of approach wouldsimplify logistics for the operator, but would burden the subscriber with multiple bills.Keys Issues in Selecting a 3G Billing SystemWhen it comes to selecting a billing system, a number of key issues must be considered.The right billing system must:Ø Be real-time. In order to perform balance management and authorization for 3Gservices, the billing system must return a price for an ordered good or service in a sub-second time frame.Ø Be based on open industry standards to allow for interoperability with other OSSsolutions.Ø Be modular, to minimize Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO) for the communicationsservice providers.Ø Accommodate all current and future types of services (incl. voice, data and content) © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 91. Telecom Billing Solutions 91Ø Support bundling of these services into cross-product packages to meet the needs ofindividual market segmentsØ Provide a “Customer Centric View” of the Account versus a “Service Centric View”.This means that the Customer Service Representative (CSR) has a 360 degree view ofthe customer with all his services in order to give targeted and relevant service.Ø Minimize “Time-To-Market” for new products and services. State-of-the art BillingSystems are not an obstacle anymore when it comes to launching new products - theyare an essential tool.Ø Enable the customer to perform his/her own customer care via the web or any otherdevice (WAP Phone, Handheld … etc.)5.4. Electronic Billing Presentation and Payment (EBPP)Electronic Billing Presentation and Payment (EBPP) is the use of electronic means, suchas email or a short message, for rending a bill.AdvantagesThe advantage of EBPP over traditional means is primarily the savings to the operator interms of the cost to produce, distribute, and collect bills.Use in Mobile CommunicationsEBPP may be used in lieu of a standard paper bill as a means to reduce operationalcosts. Some operators may view EBPP as an alternative to prepay as some operatorsview prepay service strictly as an alternative to traditional billing, but it usually has mostvalue as an alternative mechanism for billing post-paid customers. However, EBPP canalso be used simply as an informational tool to inform the customer of charges leviedagainst the account. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 92. Telecom Billing Solutions 92Billing and Charging to Third PartiesEBPP is an efficient mechanism to bill or inform third parties of charges. For example,the father of a son in college may want to know how much the child is spending onmobile phone service prior to the bill becoming to high.Paying the BillSome EBPP systems require software for payment while others require only standardbrowser software for accesses a web site for secure payment. Alternatively, the billingarrangement can be made in advance for funds to be automatically debited from acustomer’s account with a financial institution. However, the more attractive model formost will be to have control over when the bill is actually paid, rather than have it bepaid at a predetermined date.Future of EBPPEBPP is expected to become an increasingly attractive alternative as mobile operatorscontinue to search for ways to reduce operational costs. However, the extent to whichEBPP is proliferated will depend entirely on user acceptance and diligence to actually payfor bills in a timely and (preferably) electronic fashion.5. 5 MVNO BillingThe fast growing segment of the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) is well poisedto provide differentiation among traditional operators by focusing on the target usersusing brand-equity rather than infrastructure. MVNOs do not own the license for theradio frequency; instead the MVNO’s run a virtual network. Whereby they share thecarrier’s infrastructure while leveraging their own brand to attract customers. Forexample: the strategy has worked well for Virgin Mobile as well as Sprint - their networkpartner. The key advantage of the MVNO is their branding and marketing capabilities.Virgin does a better job in selling to the Youth market and Disney does a better jobselling to younger kids – than say Sprint. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 93. Telecom Billing Solutions 93At present there are more than 50 MVNOs in the European mobile market, with some ofthese looking for a pan-European foray as well. The MVNO enablers - the MVNEs aretrying to provide solutions to assist the MVNOs with a high-success strategy.The MVNO success is based on the market opportunity, competitive advantage anddifferentiation. The approach requires a sound mix of both business and technicalstrategies. While most MVNOs have a stronger grasp on the marketing and brandingside, there are technical challenges that must be weighed. On the technical side, theMVNOs are really trying to deploy minimal equipment and leverage the carrier’sinfrastructure. Ideally, they would not invest in infrastructure as far as possible.However the balance needs to be drawn while providing distinguishing technical featuresand lower cost alternatives. Figure 5.7: MVNO ArchitectureFixed network operators, media companies, retailers, consumer electronics and financialinstitutions have a good chance to position themselves as an MVNO © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 94. Telecom Billing Solutions 94 Figure 5.8: Possible MVNO operatorsFixed network operators, media companies, retailers, consumer electronics and financialinstitutions have a good chance to position themselves as an MVNO (continued) Table 5.1: MVNO PositioningThe Value chain coverage is dependant upon the type of MVNO partner, its willingness toinvest and Telco expertise © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 95. Telecom Billing Solutions 95 Table 5.2 MVNO Value ChainA Full MVNO requires many of the core network and middleware elements similar to aMNO Figure 5.9: Core and Middleware ElementsExamine a two-fold solution to address the technical needs of the MVNOs. The first partof the solution is a multi-service controller platform that can provide the framework toestablish the differentiating services. An integrated platform offers lowered cost of © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 96. Telecom Billing Solutions 96ownership. The second facet is the services in terms of consulting and implementation todevelop and integrate feature-rich services that are focused on the target segments.The starting model for the MVNO’s to operate is mostly prepaid – Virgin Mobile forexample.Prepaid/Billing: the first technical need is a Prepaid Platform and a Billing System. Thesmaller MVNO’s may just leverage on the carriers prepaid system, but this changes, asthey would scale. The solution should provide an IN based infrastructure that is morecost-effective than current service-node based implementations.SMSC: The ubiquity and usage of SMS especially in the teen-segment is most vital toaddress and they have a way to differentiate themselves through SMS features. SMSalso provides the necessary mechanism to enable PIN validation, balance notificationand other services. The platform should provide the capability to generate SMSmessaging at a fraction of acquiring a full SMSC.HLR: MVNO’s who would like to maintain better control of their customer base may wantto acquire a HLR. This stores the customer’s profile. While, they can use the HLR fromthe carrier, they may want to get better control of their subscribers. The platform shouldprovide the necessary messaging for a custom HLR development.SCP: The SCP functionality should provide charging and other enhanced services such astime of day routing etc.Location Services: Location based services for content delivery is more attractive forcommercial reasons. The platform should enable the access to location related servicesfrom the network.OTA Activation Center: This would allow over the air activation of cell phones. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 97. Telecom Billing Solutions 97 Figure 5.10: Multi Service Controller platform diagramBenefits• Integrated Service platform providing access to both wireless and wireline networks, future-proof• Transport technology from SS7 to SIGTRAN (IP) and global standards support ANSI and ITU• Framework for building custom services for competitive differentiation• Consulting component for implementation and integration of service logic• Lower cost of ownership with a single solution5. 6 Interconnect BillingInterconnection is the physical joining of two discrete telecommunication networks toallow the customers connected to one network to communicate with customersconnected to another network. Network operators need to agree on the technical andcommercial arrangements under which they agree to interconnect their networks, andthese arrangements form what is known as an Interconnection Agreement.The most common interconnection agreements are between one fixed network operatorand another. However, agreements need to be reached between fixed network operatorand mobile network operators, and between individual mobile network operators. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 98. Telecom Billing Solutions 98Interconnection agreements can be restricted to basic services or they can encompassadvance services (e.g. call waiting) based on intelligent network technology.Carriers pass traffic between their networks in order to complete calls and provideservices on behalf of their customers. These Carriers which terminate traffic on other’snetworks must pay the other carriers. In most cases, the originating carrier submits atabulation of calling records for the traffic sent to the terminating carrier so that thelatter can in turn bill the originating carrier. The terminating carrier will typically verifythat the calling records are accurate prior to sending a Carrier Access Bill (CABS) to theoriginating carrier. In some instances, the terminating carriers are able to generate calldata and invoice the originating carrier for the traffic they transit on their behalf. Thetraffic generated by roaming subscribers also constitutes the inter carrier traffic, hence itis important to understand the concept of roaming before getting into details ofinterconnect billing.ROAMINGThe term "roaming" describes a mobile customers ability to use his or her mobiletelephone outside the "home" service area of the operator with which the customerestablished mobile service. When roaming, a mobile customer is a guest on a differentmobile network. And, for roaming to occur, the host network operator and homeoperator establish agreements governing the provision of service to these guests. Eachmobile operator is granted a license to provide mobile telephone service in a definedgeographic area. These licenses are issued by the government regulatory agencyresponsible for telecommunications administration in each country. The size of the areain which an operator is authorized to provide mobile service varies from country tocountry.ROAMING AGREEMENTThe roaming agreement between roaming partners identifies the terms under which thetwo operators customers will be able to use the others networks when traveling. Amongthe items considered in roaming agreements are technical identifiers used by eachpartner, fraud responsibility provisions, individuals responsible for administering theagreement, notice requirements, methods of invoicing for usage, terms and conditionsof payments between the partners, etc. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 99. Telecom Billing Solutions 99Tracking a Roaming CallWhen done properly, the roaming customer may not even know that he or she has useda network thats different from the home provider. In the best roaming relationships,incoming calls are forwarded along by the home network to "catch up" with the travelingsubscriber in the visited network. Even advanced features such as short messaging orcaller ID will "follow" to the visited network.Creating a Roaming Call RecordOnce a roaming call is ended, the serving network creates a record of the call so that itcan be tracked and ultimately recorded on the roaming customer’s bill. Roaming callrecords are typically created as either CIBER (Cellular Industry Billing Exchange Record)or TAP (Transferred Account Procedure) records. CIBER records are commonly used toexchange roaming information among AMPS-based technologies, including analog AMPS,IS-136 TDMA and IS-95 CDMA. The TAP record is used by GSM operators.CIBER (Cellular Industry Billing Exchange Record)The CIBER record specifies the record formats, field sequences and contents, policies,and procedures for the acceptance and rejection of roamer information between carriers.CIBER records are exchanged to facilitate carrier-to-carriers settlement and carrier-to-end user billing for roamer related charges. For example, if a subscriber roams in amarket, the serving carrier would generate CIBER records and submit those records tothe home carrier for carrier-to-carrier settlement. The CIBER records are then processedby the home carrier billing vendor/system for end user billing. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 100. Telecom Billing Solutions 100Key Identifiers and FieldsThere are two sets of key identifiers used throughout the CIBER records. The first set isthe carrier identifiers. Carriers are identified in the CIBER records by SIDs and BIDs. Avariation of the "Home Carrier" SID/BID and "Serving Carrier" SID/BID can be found oneach CIBER record.The second set of identifiers is used to identify the end user. The end user is uniquelyidentified by the combination of the Mobile Identification Number (MIN) and theElectronic Serial Number (ESN). The MIN is also used to determine the Home CarriersSID. The MIN and ESN can be found on all the CIBER records except the header andtrailer records. Because the CIBER records are used to convey usage information for thepurpose of financial settlement, key fields in the CIBER record include charge fields.Common charge fields include airtime charges, toll charges, and taxes.Other key fields include the settlement period, used to determine whether the chargesfrom a CIBER batch are to be included in one industry bill cycle or another, and thebatch sequence number used for processing integrity.TRANSFER ACCOUNT PROCEDUREThe transfer account procedure is the mechanism by which operators exchange theirroaming billing information. This is how roaming partners are able to bill each other forthe use of networks and services through a standard process.The issue of cross border roaming and billing procedure is taken care by the TransferAccount Data Interchange Group (TADIG), which in turn is looked after by GSMAssociation. This group was given the task of implementing the interchange of billingdata between different network operators by defining and implementing the TAPprotocol.The call records produced by the MSC are transferred on a regular basis to the billingsystem of the VPLMN for pricing or rating. Those call records produced on behalf ofroaming subscribers, will be converted and grouped in files under TAP format. The TAPfiles are generated and sent, at the least 36 hours from call end time. This means theoperator can send one or many TAP files per day. TAP files contain rated call information © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 101. Telecom Billing Solutions 101according to the operator’s Inter Operator Tariff (IOT), plus any bilaterally agreedarrangements or discounting schemes.The transfer of TAP records between the visited and home mobile networks may beperformed directly, or more commonly via a clearinghouse. Invoicing between theoperators then normally happens once per month. On reception by the HPLMN, the TAPrecord is converted into an internal format and added together with any call recordsproduced by the subscriber whilst within the home network. If a service provider servesthe subscriber, then records will form the basis the wholesale billing between the HPLMNand the service provider. On receipt of the information from the HPLMN, the serviceprovider may re-rate the calls according to its own tariff plans and produce as itemizedbill, including call detail, for the subscriber.The TAP standard used today contains second-generation format for roaming billing. Thefile format and content of TAP 3 differs from its predecessors in particular in that it usesa variable file format based on industry standard file encoding rules, so it is significantlymore adaptable and contains a lot more information. The first generation of billingformats TAP1-2 and others have fixed and rigid standards and are difficult and costly toexpand. The file size limited the amount of information that could be transferred. TAP 3having no size limitations or constraints, easily expands to cater for the development ofnew of existing services. It also uses an industry standard ASN1 allowing the use ofcommercial tools.Clearinghouses and SettlementA 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 roaming record is typically forwarded to a dataclearinghouse. The data clearinghouse collects the roaming call records received fromnumerous operators, sorts and collates them, then redistributes the call records to thehome operators billing department (or vendor). More than one clearinghouse may beinvolved in the sorting and distribution of roaming call records among any operatorsmultiple roaming partners. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 102. Telecom Billing Solutions 102When the roaming call records reach the home operators billing department (orvendor), the charges for roaming calls are added to the customers local usage chargesand a bill is created.SettlementIn addition to collating and routing roaming call records, the data clearinghouse alsotabulates the charges associated with each operators roaming traffic for financialsettlement purposes. Data clearinghouses issue periodic (daily, weekly or monthly)reports to their operator customers that tally their roaming traffic relationship with eachroaming partner. Usually on a monthly basis, operators will settle their roamingaccounts with their roaming partners, using any of three common settlement methods.Current Interconnect Billing ProcessIn a typical scenario, the originating carrier generates billing records, normally in anAutomatic Machine Accounting (AMA), Bellcore AMA Format (BAF) or some internalformat for its own billing purposes. These are then translated into an Exchange MessageInterface (EMI) record that is then provided to a terminating/transiting carrier. TheseEMI records may go either to a carrier or through a clearinghouse. Currently mostwireless carriers in North America use the Cellular Inter-Carrier Billing Exchange Roamer(CIBER) series to exchange roamer records and to establish a net settlement positionwith each other. Once the terminating carrier, or the clearinghouse on behalf of theterminating carrier receives the EMI data, the data is then verified for its accuracyaccording to the settlement rates and other parameters as agreed upon within the inter-carrier agreement in effect. The verified data is then fed into a billing system from wherean invoice is generated and sent back to the originating carrier for their trafficterminated/transited. In such arrangements, the terminating or transiting carrier doesnot generate the bill on its own but instead relies on data generated by the originatingend office switch. Although facilities do exist within a terminating end office switch togenerate a billing record, many a time sufficient information is not contained to generatethe record and it may also be cost prohibitive to invoke such functionality, which takesapproximately 30% of switch capacity. As a result, the terminating carrier has to rely ontheir interconnect partner for the validity and completeness of the data which really © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 103. Telecom Billing Solutions 103means that for half of their business, they are relying on another carrier who have theirown interests at stake. In cases where the terminating carrier is able to cut the recordswithout having to wait for EMI records from the originating carrier, the originatingcarrier is then in the position of having to verify the bill received from the terminatingcarrier and is in the unenviable position in which most terminating carriers findthemselves.5.7 Real Time BillingReal time billing involves the authenticating, authorizing, accounting, informationgathering, rating, and posting either at the time of service request or within a short timeafter the event has been initiated (this actually may be several minutes in “near realtime” billing). Real time billing is primarily used for prepaid services such as calling cardsor prepaid wireless.Many real-time billing systems use Remote Access Dial In User Server (RADIUS) to limitaccess to the system to registered and authorized customers. RADIUS is networkprotocol that operates on a network server (software program and database); it receivesidentification information from a potential user of a network service, authenticates theidentity of the user, validates the authorization to use the requested service, and createsevent information for accounting purposes.Real time billing may also provide for better customer care and Provide Advice OfCharge (AOC) information. AOC provides the ability of a telecommunications system toadvise of the actual costs of telecommunications event either prior to or after theoccurrence of the event. For some systems, (such as a mobile phone system) the AOCfeature is delivered by Short Message Service (SMS).Figure 5.11 shows a real time prepaid billing system. This diagram shows that thecustomer initiates a call to a prepaid switching gateway. The gateway gathers theaccount information by either prompting the user or by querying the incoming call for anId (e.g. prepaid wireless telephone number). The gateway sends the accountinformation (dialed digits and account number) to the real time rating system. The realtime rating system identifies the correct rate table (e.g. peak time or off peak time) anddetermines the account’s remaining balance. Using the rate information, the calldestination, and balance available, the real time rating system calculates the © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 104. Telecom Billing Solutions 104maximum allowable duration for the call. . This information is sent back to the gatewayand the gateway completes (connects) the call. While the call is in progress, thegateway maintains a timer so the caller cannot exceed the maximum amount of time.After the call is complete (either caller hangs up), the gateway sends a message to thereal time rating system that containing the actual amount of time that was used. Thereal time rating system uses the time and rate information to calculate the actual chargefor the call. The system then updates the account balance (decreased by the charge forthe call). Figure: 5.11: Real Time Prepaid Billing System © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 105. Telecom Billing Solutions 1056. Charging Models 6.1 Metered charging 6.2 Fixed price charging 6.3 Packet charging 6.4 Expected capacity charging 6.5 Edge pricing 6.6 Paris-Metro charging 6.7 Market based reservation charging © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 106. Telecom Billing Solutions 1066. Charging ModelsThere are many charging models that have been proposed for the current and futureInternet as well as those traditionally employed by the mobile and fixed line telephonenetworks. Most, if not all, of the Internet charging models are equally applicable for usein the mobile networks, especially with the introduction of 2G and 3G GSM systems.Below is a discussion of some of the proposed charging models, and how they can beadapted to the mobile network markets.6.1 Metered ChargingThis pricing model is already in use with many Internet service providers (ISPs) andEuropean mobile and fixed line telephone networks. The model involves charging thesubscriber for the connection to the service provider on a monthly basis and thencharging for metered usage of the service. The usage is usually measured in units oftime and there is often a ‘free’ period of usage included with the monthly fee. Variationson this model include having scaled subscription charges that increase with the meteredusage.The use of this model in 2G and 3G GSM networks may become commerciallyproblematic since subscribers may leave GPRS sessions open endlessly without thehandset being powered on. Metered charging based on time for such usage may proveprohibitive. However, if the usage is based on other session parameters, for examplenumber of packets transmitted/received, then the commercial impact becomes less andthe model may be usable in mobile networks for data.6.2 Fixed Price ChargingThis pricing model is similar to that used by some US fixed line telephone networks forlocal call charging. The network service provider sets a fixed rental charge for thetelephone connection and all local calls are then free of charge with metered chargingused for long-distance calls. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 107. Telecom Billing Solutions 107The advantage of this charging model is that call data for local calls does not need to becollected and processed, providing a commercial saving for the network operator in thebilling systems and mediation systems infrastructure.Disadvantages of this model include no added revenue for the service providers in timesof above average usage on the network, and congestion may also become an issue if thenetwork is under provisioned for the number of possible subscribers at peak times. Thisprovides a strong argument for using charging and billing to improve congestion controlby dissuading subscribers from using the network through higher cost for the providedservices.6.3 Packet ChargingPacket Charging is specific to Packet Switching networks and involves the capturing andcounting the number of packets exchanged in a session. This is a proposed method ofmetering Internet traffic and being able to cross-charge between networks as well asISP and mobile subscribers. This model requires the implementation of packet countingsystems in the network and complex billing systems that can process the packet data ona subscriber and customer basis.The advantage of this method of charging is that the absolute usage of the network andservices can be metered, calculated and billed for very accurately, as long as the packetinformation can be captured efficiently. The major disadvantage of Packet Charging isthat the cost of measuring the packets may be greater than their actual value, both froman infrastructure investment and additional network traffic viewpoint. This may lead topacket charging being used as a policing tool to ensure that network bandwidth is usedefficiently and not over consumed by the network subscribers, rather than as a directcharging model.6.4 Expected Capacity ChargingThis charging model allows the service provider to identify the amount of networkcapacity that any subscriber receives under congested conditions, agreed on a usageprofile basis, and charge the subscriber an agreed price for that level of service. Thesubscribers are charged for their expected capacity and not the peak capacity rate of the © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 108. Telecom Billing Solutions 108network. Charging involves using a filter at the user network interface to tag excesstraffic; this traffic is then preferentially rejected in the network in the case of networkcongestion but is not charged for; charges are determined by the filter parameters. Thismodel has the advantage that the price to the subscriber is fixed and predictable whichin turn permits the network provider to budget correctly for network usage. Theexpected capacity model also gives the network provider a more stable model of thelong-term capacity planning for the network. This model fits is well with mobile networksand the administration of the agreed expected capacity would be done as part of thenormal subscriber administration tasks.One disadvantage is that the network operator has to police the actual capacity of thenetwork used by subscribers and act accordingly by limiting the subscriber’s service towhat has been purchased, or by invoicing the subscriber for the extra capacity used, ona metered tariff for example.6.5 Edge PricingThis model charges for the usage at the ‘edge’ of the network scope for the subscriber,rather than along the expected path of the source and destination of the calling session.The networks in turn then cross-charge each other for the usage at the network ‘edges’.Edge pricing refers to the capture of the local charging information. Once captured theinformation can be used for any kind of charging including metered, fixed or expectedcapacity, for example. Past research has shown that much of the observed congestionon the Internet is at the edges of the individual networks that make up the Internet. Theuse of edge pricing may be effective as a policing method to monitor and alert thenetwork operators to such congestion.This approach has the advantage that all session data can be captured locally and doesnot involve exchanging billing data with other networks and partners for subscriberbilling, as for current roaming arrangements between mobile networks. A disadvantagewith this model is the lack of visibility of the routing via external networks and the costsof that traffic to both networks. The cost of collection of the data may again also be aninfluencing factor in the selection of this method, as for Packet Charging above. The cost © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 109. Telecom Billing Solutions 109of collecting the edge usage information may be in excess of the value of the collectedinformation.6.6 Paris-Metro ChargingThis charging model introduces the concept of travel class, as used on public transportsystems, to network traffic and relies on providing differentiated levels of service basedon customer usage pricing only. The scheme assumes that subscribers will assign apreferred travel class with an associated cost for their different network traffic. The classassigned may be simplified to first and second class, as used on the Paris Metro systemthat inspired this charging model. The choice of class may be made dynamic and thesubscriber may also use the throughput of the network to determine which class to usefor their required traffic. The network may become self-regulating at periods of highusage. When the network becomes congested and all the capacity in first class is filledsubscribers may downgrade to second class to improve their own network performance.This charging model may work well in GPRS and UMTS networks and allow subscribersto prioritize network traffic, for example business emails may be considered moreimportant that personal email so the cost penalty for first class may be consideredappropriate for business email. An advantage of this charging model is the flexibilitygiven to the network subscribers and also the control they have over the cost of theirnetwork traffic. This model has the disadvantage of introducing mathematical complexityto the network’s behaviour and a tariff class decision overhead to the networksubscriber. For this scheme to work the class decision may need to be made automatic,and may involve extensions to network communication protocols and the applicationsoftware handling the network traffic. This charging model also requires the networkbandwidth to be segmented and therefore does not allow multiplexing.6.7 Market Based Reservation ChargingThis charging model is attributed to Mackie-Mason, introduces the concept of a publicauction of bandwidth or network resources. The network subscribers place monetarybids that will influence the quality of service they receive from their network-basedapplications. This model may be used in the mobile networks by having subscribers to © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 110. Telecom Billing Solutions 110the network maintaining a preferences profile that details the subscriber’s bids for thevarious services used, for example email, voice, http, ftp and SMS. The network providermay then use the subscriber’s preference profile when routing the network traffic. In thecase of GPRS networks the subscriber preference profiles may be administered via aWWW page and browser or possibly by SMS. Subscribers have the advantage that theycan influence their quality of service from the mobile network by the value they attachto the services they require.As a disadvantage this charging model introduces some uncertainty to the subscriberswith regard to the quality of service in the network. It may also allow some of thesubscribers to gain unfair advantage when they have bid for certain services at theexpense of other subscribers and network users. This charging model is widely agreed tobe un-implementable for Internet networks, and maybe also for the mobile networks. Table 6.1: Charging Model ComparisonCharging Cost of Network Subscriber Provision forModel Implementation Overhead Overhead QoS improvementMetered High/medium Low Low NochargingFixed price Medium/low Low Low NochargingPacket High High Low NochargingExpected Medium/high Low/medium Medium YescapacitychargingEdge pricing Medium/low Low/medium Low NoParis-Metro Medium High Medium/high YeschargingMarket based Medium/high High Medium/high Yesreservationcharging © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 111. Telecom Billing Solutions 111SummaryIn Table the cost of implementation covers the infrastructure capital investment in newequipment and software to enable the use of the charging model. The overhead on thenetwork of the charging models includes, but is not limited to, the additional networktraffic required to implement the model, and the addition of any new systems for datacollection and processing over and above the standard GSM building blocks.Overhead to the subscribers include added complexity of tariffs and the maintenance ofthe subscriber’s account to use the charging models efficiently and to avoid excessivecharging by the mobile network provider.Support from the communication protocols in use on the mobile networks may berequired to allow some of the charging models above to be implemented. This is neededto allow Quality of Service (QoS) provision within the networks and also provide identitytagging or other information based on the charging model requirements. Reservationprotocols such as Resource ReSerVation Protocol (RSVP) may be used in the network toprovide the support for QoS, and move away from the best-effort service as currentlyused on the Internet.ConclusionsThe various GSM networks have the option to charge their subscribers using similar ordifferent models for the new 2G and 3G GSM based Internet services, as is already thecase with 1G GSM mobile networks, due to a variety of technical, commercial,geographical and political issues and concerns. In the mobile network market it maymake technical and commercial sense to adapt and combine some, or perhaps all, of theabove charging models and additional ones into ‘unified’ flexible models which will coverthe more diversified requirements of mobile charging. Figure below shows an example ofhow the various charging models may be combined for charging for GSM voice andInternet services. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 112. Telecom Billing Solutions 112 Figure 6.1: Combining Charging ModelsA basic customer subscription may comprise a fixed price tariff that includes freemobile calls up to a fixed limit, plus Metered Charging for extra mobile calls. PacketCharging may be included for Web browsing and email using 2G or 3G GSM for thesubscriber’s account. Expected Capacity may also be included for 2G and 3G GSM datatraffic as well as Edge Pricing and Paris Metro Charging for email and data traffic.Subscriber’s requirements vary greatly from students to business users, from lightdomestic users to heavy personal users. By modifying and combining charging modelstariffs can be developed for the major demographic groups of subscribers.The illustration above shows the overlap between the various pricing models and howthe boundaries can be made flexible depending on the subscriber usage profiles. Forexample, the mobile network operator may use Packet Charging in both Fixed Price andMetered Charging tariffs for some subscribers but only use Packet Charging with a FixedPrice charging model for other subscriber groups or tariffs. Some subscribers may onlywant to use limited Internet services, for example only text email and no Web browsing.The tariffs for the subscriber may become complicated but may ultimately give thesubscribers more control over the way they are charged for using the mobile voice andInternet services and the QoS they receive from the network. The network operators willalso have the advantage of being able to charge the subscribers for different level ofQoS for the different services and network provision. Once experience of realisticnetwork traffic in the next generation GSM networks has been gained and largequantities of network usage statistics have been collected and analyzed, then morecomprehensive or simplified charging models may be investigated, developed and © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 113. Telecom Billing Solutions 113prototyped from the ones discussed above. There will always be a trade-off between thecomplexity of the billing system to be implemented and the advantage the networkprovider will receive for having the systems in place. Fixed price charging schemesreduce the overhead of the charging and billing systems infrastructure, as they tend toprovide the simplest charging scenarios. Usage based charging models provideincremental and harder to predict income for the network operators as well as requiringmore infrastructure investment.When the GPRS networks are up and running and the charging models are in place theeconomics of the market may take over and under- and/or over-provisioning of networkresources may become apparent. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 114. Telecom Billing Solutions 1147. Billing Market Overview 7.1 Billing Vendor Market Overview 7.2 Market Drivers 7.3 World Billing (BSS/OSS) Market 7.4 Indian Billing Market 7.5 Buy, Build or Outsource? © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 115. Telecom Billing Solutions 1157. Billing Market OverviewThe evolution of different technologies has also lead to an evolution of billing software.The roadmap of the evolution in billing from last ten years has been shown below: Telecom Environment Telcos consolidation / Mobile 3G/ IP explosion Wireless Market Explodes / Mobile Goes digital / Growth in Telcos Wire line DeregulationAnalogue mobile Monopoly Incumbent Telcos1980 1990 1995 2000 2003 In-house Billing systems Emergence of Third Party Telecom Software(Amdocs/ Kenan) Features like interconnect billing, Fraud management, revenue assurance, etc integrated to BSS Outsourced Billing/IP billing/ consolidation of billing players Billing Development Figure 7.1: Roadmap to Billing EvolutionWith cellular voice tariffs at an all-time low, and penetration rates of over 60 percent inmost major markets, carriers worldwide are seizing upon the opportunity to boostrevenues and customer retention through the introduction of new and complex dataservices. As a result, most carriers expect data to account for at least 25 percent of theirtotal revenues by 2005.One of the biggest challenges facing the introduction of these new data services is thesuccessful billing of such applications. The last thing carriers want is to have to offer anyof these new services on a flat-rate basis. In many ways the ability to bill for a service isas important as the service itself. While often regarded as a dull, back-office function,billing has become the critical part of any transaction. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 116. Telecom Billing Solutions 116In fact, after network infrastructure expenditure, billing is often the second mostexpensive cost center of a carrier. Nevertheless, some carriers are losing up to 15percent of revenue through poor billing practices. Aiming to give a brief overview of thebilling market, we have divided it into eight categories. In addition to examining themajor players in this space, we have highlighted the big issues facing both carriers andvendors today. The categories are: • Carrier Strategies • Billing Vendor Market Overview • Vendor Challenges Today • Managing Third-Party Content • Wireless Routers • The Critical Role of Mediation • Future Vendor ChallengesCRM: Customer Relationship Management. Usually takes the form of software tools thatenable a carrier to track user preferences, in order to better serve the subscriber andreduce potential churn rates.OSA/Parlay: A set of standards that enable operators and third-party applications tomake use of network functionality through open interfaces.Legacy systems: Billing systems designed in-house by the majority of incumbentcarriers when voice services were first introduced. As a result, legacy systems are bytheir nature cumbersome to update, and many remain unable to deal with the complexchallenges of data billing.Postpay: Wireless services paid for by monthly billing (as part of a contract) after theservices have been used, as opposed to...Prepay: Wireless services paid for in advance (usually in the form of vouchers). © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 117. Telecom Billing Solutions 117Carrier StrategiesAll players in the service provider market have suffered financially from the telecomdownturn over the past two years, which has seen a massive slowdown in purchases ofnew infrastructure. The major delays and cancellations of next-generation deploymentsare having a big impact on carrier spending on wireless billing systems, and figures foroverall expenditure vary wildly. $1.30 $1.60 $4.10 $3.30 Wireline Wireless IP Cable Figure 7.2: Global Carrier Spending on Billing System (Source: Unstrung)IDC states that the market declined 14 percent in 2003 and that a further decline of 8percent is expected this year. There is a prediction that spending on commercial billingproducts to grow at a 14 percent annual rate between 2003 and 2006, twice the rate ofspending on in-house products.Legacy systemsCarrier cuts in expenditure have meant that the emphasis today is on new systemsintegrating with legacy systems, rather than carriers undertaking complete overhauls oftheir existing systems. Upgrades are only occurring where absolutely necessary, andanalysts worldwide expect major system overhaul expenditure to remain flat for thenear future. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 118. Telecom Billing Solutions 118For the most part, legacy systems constitute a thorn in the side of many carriers, andthe older the system the more of a challenge it presents. The biggest hindrance oflegacy systems is that they do not scale well and typically lack the throughput andresponse time required to properly bill for data services.Are carriers getting it right?Of greatest alarm, however, is that, while carriers are in the initial stages of rolling outnew data services, there is serious concern over the strategies many players areadopting for the billing of With industry players hopeful that new and complex dataservices will help reverse falling revenue figures from traditional voice services, thesefindings are a rude wakeup call to carriers pinning their hopes on a multimedia future.7.1 Billing Vendor Market OverviewMass consolidationThe billing vendor market has experienced massive consolidation over the last fewyears. Reductions in carriers’ capital expenditure has had a knock-on effect on vendors,and many of the smaller players have either been acquired by larger vendors or havesimply gone out of business. Two years ago the market had over 200 companiescompeting. This figure has recently fallen to around 90 worldwide. As a result, some ofthe larger players are getting bigger as they acquire products and, in some cases, wholebusinesses.Main playersSuch consolidation in the industry has inevitably led to clear market dominance by aselect few. The chart below shows that, in the telecom billing industry in general, the topsix players control over 80 percent of the market. This statistic takes into account wireline, wireless, cable, and IP billing: © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 119. Telecom Billing Solutions 119 19% 17% 8% 17% 11% 12% 16% Amdocs Convergys CSG Kenan Schlumberger Sema ADC Portal Others Figure 7.3: Market Share of Billing Vendors (Source: Unstrung)We break the wireless billing vendor market into two distinct categories –- thosevendors targeting the Tier 1 global carriers, and those fighting it out for smallercontracts from Tier 2 and 3 operators.Our top six Tier 1 vendors for wireless services, in alphabetical order, are: • ADC Telecommunications Inc. • Amdocs Ltd. • Convergys Corp. • CSG Systems International Inc. • Portal Software Inc. • SchlumbergerSemaSmaller companies battling it out for the share of Tier 2 and 3 carrier customer dealsinclude: • Anite Calculus • Cerillion Technologies Ltd. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 120. Telecom Billing Solutions 120 • Daleen Technologies Inc. • Digiquant A/S • Infozech • Lifetree Convergence • Protek • Sentori Corp. • Suntec • UshaComm Technology Inc. • VoluBill Figure7. 4: Billing Vendor PositioningChanging marketIn the past, the billing vendor market could be clearly separated into product offeringssuch as mediation, interconnect, and rating products, where each category had anumber of leading players. This situation was perfect for the smaller players specializingin specific functions, so long as carriers were wanting to pick and choose their offeringsfrom different vendors. These players include: • Rating – Am-Beo, Sepro • Interconnect – Intec Telecom Systems plc • Mediation – Narus Inc., Xacct Technologies Inc. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 121. Telecom Billing Solutions 121However, financial cuts have meant that some carriers are now looking to buy acomplete system from one vendor. As a result, the top names in this market are nowoffering complete off-the-shelf billing platforms, and are making life tough for the nicheplayers focusing on specific functions.Market valueDespite the harsh environment, the market for wireless billing systems remainsrelatively healthy. “Wireless is the strongest segment in the billing industry”. It ispredicted that the value of the worldwide packet-based wireless billing market willincrease from $94.6 million in 2001 to $855.7 million in 2005.The launch of new and complex data services by carriers has also led to a number ofvendors turning their attention specifically to the wireless market. Volubill, for example,was set up to focus purely on mobile data charging, while companies such as Sentorihave put a great deal of emphasis recently on targeting wireless carriers and MobileVirtual Network Operator’s (MVNOs).Vendor Challenges TodayThe biggest challenge for vendors today lies in educating the carriers that there arecommercial alternatives to some of the problems they are trying to fix internally. Therole of the vendor as educator is confirmed by the chart below. 7% 17% 17% 25% 34% Keeping billing systems as flexible as possible Educating the carrier in the capabilities of the system Predicting future demands from carriers Maintaining a com petitive edge in difficult times Others Figure 7.5: Present Vendor Challenges (Source: Unstrung) © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 122. Telecom Billing Solutions 122Managing Third-Party ContentHow content is managed will be key to the success of 2.5 and 3G environments. Thetraditional voice model of yesteryear had only two players – the service provider thatowned and operated the network, and the end user who paid for the service. Data,however, opens up a whole new host of challenges for vendors as multiple-party billingcapability becomes critical. New revenue models will need to take into account fiveplayers in this chain: the network operator, service providers, content providers, valueadded application providers, and the end user. Any new billing system has to be able tomanage this multitude of partner relationships – it is vital to successful business models.So what are vendors doing to help their carrier customers bill for third-party content,and is it enough?Many carriers are attempting to add this functionality to their legacy billing systems, butit seems to make more sense to buy solutions from experts in this area (expensepermitting, of course), and let the legacy billing systems focus on creating the bill itselfand the post-billing functions. The last few months have seen a number of vendorslaunch specific revenue settlement products. Two of the big players – Amdocs and CSGSystems – have introduced products they claim work independently of a carrier’s legacybilling system.Amdocs’ Commerce Payments product aims to enable electronic commerce byauthorizing and charging for current and next-generation third-party services in realtime; CSG’s Revenue Settlements offering promises to give carriers the ability to traceeach event end-to-end, thus eliminating the need for duplicate records.Other players have also proved their worth. Tier 2 player Cerillion surprised the industryby winning a deal to supply Europe’s first 3G service on the Isle of Man. Along withmediation partner Xacct Technologies, it is successfully billing for third-party contentfrom multiple sources.A lack of uniform standards is holding us back, however. Today there are emergingstandards like OSA/Parlay, which will enable external applications to communicate withthe carrier systems and infrastructure for real-time authorization and reservation ofsubscriber money. But the important point here is that they are only emerging – these © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 123. Telecom Billing Solutions 123new standards are young and still evolving, and it will be some time before they becomethe de facto.Wireless routersWireless routers are playing a significant role in the rollout of next-generation networks.Also known as GPRS Gateway Support Nodes (GGSNs) and Packet Data Serving Nodes(PDSNs), they are the primary interface between a carrier’s radio and packet corenetworks. These wireless routers comprise a new class of equipment that addssophisticated service creation, billing, and IP traffic management capabilities to thisstrategic point in the network. The tasks enabled by these products can help in thecollection of data and the billing of newly launched services, making life easier for thecarrier.Four young hopefuls have sprung up in this market, and all face a challenge inpersuading cash-strapped carriers that they need to install their specialist equipment: • Megisto Systems • Starent Networks Corp. • Tahoe Networks • WaterCove Networks Inc.These companies dont have the market to themselves, though. All the establishednetworking companies have acquired businesses or formed partnerships as a way to getin on the service node act.It is too early to predict how this market will shape up, but we think that the startupsequipment was faster, more scaleable, and would enable carriers to get wireless servicesup and running more quickly than anything the major players have to offer.The Critical Role of MediationMediation is playing a crucial role in the billing of wireless data services. The essentiallayer between a service provider’s network and the billing systems that allow carriers tocapture the data required to bill for their services, it provides a central point for thecollection of mobile network and billing events. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 124. Telecom Billing Solutions 124Many of the complexities of mobile data services can be handled by mediation. Such isthe importance of mediation that telecom analysis firm RHK believes service providersadoption of Next-Generation billing mediation systems should be at least twice thecurrent rate.The majority of service providers are encumbered with billing systems that are unable tocope with the data and content services that are currently emerging. Many havedeployed new billing engines to improve the rating and bill-generation process, but havemade only minor modifications to the billing mediation system. RHK believes that serviceproviders must improve or replace their billing mediation systems in order to addresskey business challenges in the rollout of wireless data services.The majority of mediation systems are supplied by three types of vendor: • Vendors of end-to-end billing systems – e.g., Convergys, CSG Systems • Pure mediation vendors – e.g., Intec, Narus, Xacct, Comptel Corp., Openet Telecom Inc. • Equipment vendors – e.g., Marconi plc The pure mediation vendor market has grown from a handful of players to more than thirty product offerings in the space of just five years. As in the traditional billing vendor space, it could be argued that there are simply too many vendors here, and we expect to see large amounts of consolidation in the mediation market over the next few years. The emergence of the larger players providing end-to-end solutions will make life difficult for the pure mediation providers.Future Vendor ChallengesThe move to wireless data services, from a traditional voice background, requires theneed for total flexibility from billing systems. Carriers remain unsure as to how theywant to charge for services, and many are still in the process of deciding which approachworks best. Flexibility to handle the unknown becomes critical, and products must beagnostic of the service being billed for. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 125. Telecom Billing Solutions 125Tackling prepaid content billing and dealing with roaming issues look set to become bigchallenges in the future. There has also been more of a focus on back- and front-officeintegration over the last couple of years. As a result, the integration of billing and CRMproducts from vendors looks set to become a hot topic. 16% 15% 8% 8% 46% Remaining independent as consolidation continues Dealing with data roaming Tackling prepaid content billing Dealing with convergence of prepaid & postpaid services Others Figure 7.6: Future Vendor Challenges (Source: Unstrung)In general, we found that vendors are quick to react to market demand for newproducts, and the majority of them seem to have one eye on any possible futuredevelopments. Recently we have seen both Am-Beo and Intec launch products forwireless LAN revenue settlement and billing, demonstrating the industry’s ability tosupport new carrier demands. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 126. Telecom Billing Solutions 1267.2 Market DriversSome of the technical and market drivers of the billing scenario are as follows:Technical drivers: • Link between Intelligent Network and Billing system. • Changing role of Mediation and its relation to CRM. • Transition to Third Generation wireless networks • Enhanced services and other non-voice applications • Shift from post-event billing to Real-time commerce transactions • Convergence of prepaid and post-paid customer accounts • Increasingly complex data distribution and monitoring requirements • Increasing focus on revenue assurance and operational reportingMarket drivers or business drivers: • Corporate governance and its effect on revenue assurance • Asia Pacific Region presents greatest opportunities for Growth • Bundling of services i.e. converging different types of services for wire line with wireless. • Demand for real-time rating is strong due to tariff structures that add complexity to services • Legacy in-house solutions to be replaced by smarter out of box billing Solutions. • WLAN services picking up in both Europe and Asia hence leading to more data oriented billing solutions. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 127. Telecom Billing Solutions 127 TODAY TOMORROW Packet Mobile Connectionless Mobile Packet basedConnectionless based Telephon IP Telephon IP y Apps y Apps Circuit based Connections Wireline Connection Circuit based s Wireline Figure 7.7: Market ComparisonThere is a comparison of today’s market and tomorrow’s market: Increase revenue Create value for subscribers Reduce churn Build more market share through bundling, or develop markets with new services for existing users Create new markets for these new wireless data services by service diversification. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 128. Telecom Billing Solutions 1287.3 World Billing (BSS/OSS) MarketEurope billing market:Some of the key features of Europe billing market are as follows: OSS/BSS Market worth $ 2.8 Billion. Expected OSS Market growth of $14 Billion by 2008. Two thirds of OSS spending remains with in-house development. Introduction of 3G and IP based billing systems show promise. Future market growth expected from East and Central European countries.North America:Some of the salient features about the North American market are as follows: BSS Market is worth $ 4.4 Billion. Modest growth of $6.8 Billion by year 2008 US had 60 percent of the total OSS market in 2002 falling to 46 percent in 2007. Legacy/in-house solutions own the market with 34.3 percent. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 129. Telecom Billing Solutions 129 Key market deterrent are uncertain regulatory policies between the competitive carriers and the incumbent BellsCentral and Latin America: Brazil and Mexico are the most promising OSS/ BSS markets Deregulation and liberalization of market has resulted in growth in players. Tremendous wireless growth leading to replacement of Legacy Software by third party software. In-house/Legacy billing systems are being replaced with new out of box billing solutions.Asia Pacific (APAC) market: OSS/BSS Market worth $ 1.2 Billion. OSS Market growth of $10 Billion China would be a chief contributor to OSS/BSS growth in the region. Deregulation of telecom market and participation of private players leading to tremendous growth. Huge growth of wireless operators since hardly any state owned wire line infrastructure present.Global Billing and Mediation Solution ForecastThe total market for billing and customer care mediation solutions will increase from US$10.7 in 2002 to US $13.6 in 2007. Billing and customer care will be the vast majority ofrevenues remaining at approximately 96% of global external spending. Purchases of billing and mediation systems by service providers for Wireline service will increase from US $5 billion to US $6.1 billion. Wireless service purchase will increase from US $ 4.2 billion to US$ 5.4 billion. Fastest growth is from cable and satellite service provision which grows from US $ 1.6 billion to US $ 2.2 billion. Among delivery channel System Integrators and consulting will receive the largest proportion of the revenue at US $ 4.1 billion growing to YS $ 5.0 billion. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 130. Telecom Billing Solutions 130Vendor services account for the next piece, estimated at US$2.8 billion, but growing toUS$3.7 billion. Which is slightly larger than Software and licensing revenue, accounts forthe remainder. Overall revenue growth is 4.9 percent per annum, with the Asia-Pacificregion outpacing the average with 6.6 percent growth. The more mature North Americanmarket inhibits global sales growth, which grows at a more modest 4.4 percent perannum on average. However, mediation services see the fastest growth in NorthAmerica at 11.8 percent on average, with MEA at a stagnant 4.9 percent averagegrowth. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 131. Telecom Billing Solutions 1317.4 Indian Billing MarketIntroductionThe telecom industry in India has been going through a continuous phase oftransformation. In 1997, India had more than 20 operators. Today, that number hascome down to about 10 or so, with only four-five groups emerging as serious long-termplayers. While large-scale consolidation, driven by Mergers and Acquisitions, has led to areduced number of players, the average size of operation of each player has increasedconsiderably, in terms of the footprint as well as the subscriber base in eachcircle/metro. Prices have fallen to the extent of making the services drasticallyaffordable, thereby changing the positioning of mobile services from what some term asa shift from "a five-star service to a utility service". The change in business environmentdemands new ways to offer services, new levels of customer care, and even newservices. However transforming the billing system pose a serious challenge to theservice providers.Globally, especially in Europe, operators are putting most of their effort on billing, sothat it has come to be acknowledged as a strategic tool. In India, companies haven’t yetstarted thinking on that line. The key reasons for that are highlighted below: India is still to get used to the independent professional services model. CIO’s instead of dedicating time for strategizing spends most of the time in © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 132. Telecom Billing Solutions 132 implementation process. The CIO’s role should change from technology implementer to business strategist. There is lot of uncertainty about future business models. With content, m- commerce, location-based services etc. companies are not too sure of what will be a stable business model, prompting them to take a cautious approach in betting heavy on anything. Emergence of prepaid as the primary mode of subscription. This is still a fairly new phenomenon globally, with no established model to follow. Any strategy that is formulated without taking this phenomenon into account will not sustainable.Indian Billing Vendors Look outside IndiaIt’s a strange situation. Indian software solution providers are acclaimed the world overfor delivering high-quality, low-cost solutions. But when it comes to products very fewhave been able to achieve any significant breakthroughs. Take the case of the telecombilling solutions space. Indian telecom operators have internationally reputed systems inplace. But except for one or two exceptions, none of the major telecom service providersin the country have deployed solutions developed by domestic telecom billing solutionproviders. This despite the fact that most Indian solution vendors boast of quite a fewinternational telecom operators on their client roster. The tide has been changing in therecent past, but it has been an excruciatingly slow turnabout. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 133. Telecom Billing Solutions 133 Telecom Software Applications SMS Applicati on Servi ce Provisioning & activation OSS Asset tracking Churn Mgmt Fraud Mgmt Fraud Mgmt CRM (Modular) BSS BILLING (centralized) Existing Investment Billing Billing Billing Billing Distributed Additional Investment Metro Circle A Circle B Circle C Figure7.8: Indian Telecom Software Forecast (Source: SITM Forecast 04)The Billing SystemBilling can be defined as the process of adding up the price of each transaction made ina certain fixed period to determine the final aggregate amount, followed by thegeneration of a printable image of the bill. Pricing is a key aspect of billing. Records ofthe transaction are retrieved from the storage system at the end of the fixed period andthen processed to generate the final bill. This bill will also include other monthly fees andcredits.Changing technologies, volatile market trends and an equally unstable regulatoryenvironment means that Indian telecom operators are constantly devising newstrategies to keep their heads above water. Add to this the flurry of mergers andacquisitions in the recent past and it’s mayhem out there. A robust billing system shouldbe capable of reflecting the change in the aggregate if the price of an individualtransaction changes due to these or any other factor. Configuration tools should allow © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 134. Telecom Billing Solutions 134for quick loading of business rules, enabling the operator to rapidly take new productsand services to the market for additional revenue streams and cash flows.Billing includes various components, including rating, discounting, promotions andpricing. Rating is the process of computing a rate for usage of a service-voice or data.Rating means pricing individual calls. Each call is sent to a rating engine andtransactions are rated. The billing system takes all these calls and aggregates all othercharges to arrive at the final pricing. Pricing is the process of computing a price for a callby doing rating, discounting, and applying promotions—short-term incentives given tocustomers.A robust billing system should also provide tools for customizing or personalizing billingand reporting, fine-tuning of billing cycles and account parameters, creating promotionaldiscounts that are easy to implement, applying invoice corrections immediately,managing accounts receivables and payables, tracking account disputes and providingcustomer care with Web-based interfaces. Some of the key functionalities desired in atelecom billing solution include provisioning of service (normal and bulk), rapid andflexible configuration of services/products, express rating and accurate billing, integratedpayment and collection, a robust MIS tool and convergent billing solution.The billing system should be able to automatically calculate the amount of tax due andinterface easily with existing tax management software. It should help reduce costs withcomprehensive Web-based interfaces that provide customer care personnel with instantaccess to customer account information and track account disputes and manage theirpotential impact on accounts receivables and on collections processing.Opportunities for Indian playersJust as networks are the backbone of modern communication, the operations supportsystem, including billing and customer care functions, are the backbone of thecommunication service provider. A billing system along with a customer relationshipmanagement (CRM) solution provides telecom operators with a user-friendly interfacefor creating accounts, services, products and packages. Besides, the accountinformation, product/service details, payment, adjustments, call rating details and © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 135. Telecom Billing Solutions 135invoices are all stored in the billing system, and making it accessible online can provideinstant information to customers.Churn management is another factor that has a huge bearing on an operator’s business.A billing solution is directly linked with overall customer satisfaction. The informationcaptured by the billing system provides statistics on abnormal usage. This information isin turn used by the operator to effectively reduce churn. We need a customer care andbilling solution that enables an operator to meet all customer service requirements, andalso allows quick roll-out of products and services. The system should also be capable ofreal-time call rating and billing.”According to analyst, the Indian telecom billing space could be worth more than $600million. But for the Indian players in this growing sector the real opportunity lies outsidethe country.The telecommunications market outside the United States is estimated to be close to$1.4 trillion, according to the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Buoyed bygrowth in wireless and support services, the overall telecommunications marketinternationally is poised for a healthy 10.3 percent compounded average growth rate(CAGR) through 2006.The largest regional market outside North America is Asia-Pacific market and isprojected to grow at 9.1 percent through 2006. The Asia-Pacific market is very diverse,with uneven market growth. Of the top markets—Japan continues to exhibit only modestmarket growth while China and India are growing rapidly. In recent years, growth in thesubscriber base for mobile phones in both China and India has exceeded 80 percentCAGR. Considering these factors, a robust, scalable telecom billing system is today animperative for all operators. Thanks to cutthroat competition telecom billing has todaymetamorphosed from being a necessary expense into an important strategic tool.Billing complexitiesFor most Telcos, traditional competitive benchmarks no longer ensure loyalty.Essentially, the best competitive point left is customer care and service, including billing.The billing process encompasses the mission-critical collection and mediation of calldetail records through to the issuing of statements and receipt of payments. Beyond © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 136. Telecom Billing Solutions 136that, the bill is the one regular contact a Telco has with every customer, and contains apotential wealth of information about each and every account. Not only must telcosmaximise their customer relationships through this consistent point of contact, theymust also effectively utilise account information to develop a cohesive portrait of theirclients and leverage that portrait into marketing and churn management tool.For effective customer service decisions concerning payment defaults shouldn’t be takenon the basis of one particular transaction. Instead it should be based on an aggregate ofall the transactions between the operator and the customer over a certain period oftime. The billing system should be able to source the required information to provide anoverall picture of the customer.Complexities also creep in when the operator has to offer different pricing to differentsets of customers. For instance, members of closed user groups (CUG) have the benefitof lower rates than normal outgoing rates. So the system has to be configuredaccordingly in order to bill them. The same holds true for customers who have joinedunder a promotional scheme wherein various concessions and discounts are offered. Forexample, many operators offer customers something called the ‘Best Value Plan’. Basedon information gained from the records of previous transactions the system should becapable of figuring out the best value plan for the customer.Another pain area for most operators is the sharing of revenue. In the case of contenttransaction such as tunes, video clips, etc, the service is provided by a third party. Thenetwork operator provides this third party with customers and a transport mechanism.This service is soon evolving into a supermarket model where a telecom operator dealswith different partners for providing a variety of content—downloads, dating, chattingand m-commerce. The operator has to provide the customer with a single bill but has tosettle positions with each content service provider individually. The billing system shouldenable transparency at both the operator as well as the service providers’ end. In datathe final pricing is based after measuring the volume of data, which is generally differentfor each transaction. With a plethora of new services being introduced, one keycomplexity is multi-service mediation, which is to identify and quantify an event as abillable event. In my opinion a good billing system should be robust enough to scale tothe various demands made by network users and manage the complexity arisingthereof. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 137. Telecom Billing Solutions 137There is a mismatch between demand and the technology available. Service providersoffer new services and features in order to differentiate from their competitors but lackof available technology, at that point of time, makes the task of billing solution vendorsmore challenging. Apart from this the telecom billing industry is too diversified to have acommon standard. Hence the billing vendor has to do provide customized solutions foreach individual need.The Players and their solutionsThough many had entered the fray only a few stalwarts have been left standing. Amongthem Suntec seems to be the only one that has managed to make its presence felt inthe Indian telecom sector. The company, which started off by developing a solution forBSNL, recently managed to deploy its TBMS (telecom billing management systems) atHFCL Infotel, the networking arm of the Himachal Futuristic Communication (HFCL), aleading telecom operator in Punjab. The company has around 240 installations acrossthe country, including a few in Chennai, Bangalore and Maharashtra. The company alsoboasts of international clients like Batelco (Bahrain Telecommunications Company) andSNT Connect based in The Netherlands, among others.Suntec has two key products for the telecom sector—TBMS and ARE (advanced ratingengine), a rating engine that claims to handle large volumes of transaction data records.TMBS being an open standards-based design enables easy integration into theorganization’s heterogeneous operational support system (OSS) environment. Aconvergent, rules-based architecture provides the flexibility needed to configure a broadrange of complex billing parameters.Another Indian player, Infozech, provides a comprehensive range of products, includingeBill, a customer care and billing product targeted at telecom and next generationservice providers. Infozech’s product, ICAS (inter carrier access settlement) facilitatesinternational carriers and service providers to manage their charging, billing andreconciliation needs. Another product from the company’s stable, PMS, is a prepaidmanagement solution that helps providers with PIN management as in PIN generation,distribution, and recharge - call charging, activation, deactivation and traffic monitoring.The company boasts of international clients like Embratel Americas, World Link andGlobaltel, and is currently working on its first project in India. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 138. Telecom Billing Solutions 138Ascent Telecom (AT) provides the Matrix range of solutions, a comprehensive suite ofbilling and customer care solutions and 24x7 supports for prepaid and postpaid telecomservice providers. Matrix-VOIP Basic v3.1 billing solution is the prepaid offering byAscent Telecom. It enables operators to launch prepaid calling card services quickly witha low entry cost.ChallengesThe main challenge Indian telecom billing solution providers face is that of perception.Domestic billing vendors feel that Indian telecom operators are particularly biased whenit comes to implementing a solution developed by them. Maybe it has got something todo with the Indian fixation for things foreign. But the common sentiment is that whileeven a small mistake committed by an Indian vendor is blown out of proportion theoperators turn a blind eye to similar mistakes made by a foreign player.According to some analyst telecom emancipation is a recent phenomenon in Indiacompared to the rest of the civilized world where telecom services were taken forgranted even 20 years back, resulting in the proliferation of telecom solutions outsideIndia. These same products have matured, and today are extremely rich in features. Butshe feels that while Indian IT professionals are considered to be the best across theworld, the same cannot be claimed for Indian products. Opting for an internationallyacclaimed billing solution ensures that along with the product the operator also has toadopt best international practices within the organization.Why some Companies failed?Creating a product is a long drawn process and a risky venture. Many companies thatgot into the business were not able to sustain themselves mainly due to financialconstraints. Most Indian companies also faced the disadvantage of starting fromabsolute scratch.Also, international players are generally wary about any new product. Most companiesprefer a known brand rather than a new product from a lesser known or unknownplayer. For them pricing is not the only issue. Most companies have their own internaltechnical evaluation system, which an Indian player will have to clear before their © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 139. Telecom Billing Solutions 139solution can be accepted. This is one area where many Indian companies have failed toprove themselves.Formula for successValue for money is the mantra to success in any industry and the same holds true forthe telecom sector. We think that one of the key reasons for Suntec’s success has beenits ability to roll out fast—in as low as four months and in some instances within 45-60days. Suntec provides all functionality out-of-the-box, which enables the firm toimplement the solution faster.All the companies Express Computer spoke to swear by the partner-centric model. s. Inmost cases the partner is generally an established player with market credibility. Thesepartners not only provide an entry into an otherwise difficult market but also come inhandy when it comes to providing after-sales service. Businesses can leverage thesystems and specialisation that partners provide and at the same time, focus on theircore revenue generating activities. Partnerships are the key to success. Partners fromvarious industry verticals strengthen our network and the ability to satisfy customerneeds.Other factors that are key include the flexibility of the billing solution to accommodatethe ever changing demands of the telecom operator. The solution should be rapidlyimplemented and effectively managed. Ease of use is also paramount. Even the mostcompetent solution may turn out to be useless if it is not easy to use. To be a successfulsoftware product company a vendor should also possess an extraordinary understandingof customer need and should ensure performance and reliability for business-criticaloperations.Offering a convergent billing system has been another key strategy followed by manyplayers. Focusing on the prepaid segment has become a crucial strategy for mostcellular operators. According to industry experts, the prepaid segment is a crucial growtharea as they provide up to 55 percent of the operators’ revenue. With advancement inthe telecommunications space today in India, and all the dramatic changes which havebeen happening it can be concluded that billing for converged services, broadband andprepaid would be the focus area in terms of growth for a billing solution provider. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 140. Telecom Billing Solutions 140The most challenging part is the vendors’ ability to adapt to ever-changing marketrequirements. Successful companies have the ability to adapt themselves to new marketconditions and understand their customers thoroughly. Indian companies need to studythe concentration of potential customer bases around the world and devise a marketingmethodology in order to tap that customer base.The Way AheadThe gap between Indian software professionals and Indian solutions needs to be bridgedby having a proper software development life cycle.But there is no way an operator can stop billing. It is the core aspect of any telecomprovider’s business. The most Indian players are now facing billing problems, whichmight force them to look out for a better solution provider. The question is how long canthey continue with the old billing system. This is an opportunity that Indian telecombilling vendors need to tap. The USP that these vendors have to offer is their in-depthknowledge of the Indian environment.A significant growth in data and application services is expected in the near future. SMSmessaging, music downloads and online games are few of the services that can bemonetized, given the right billing mechanism. We are looking at a wider audience whoseneeds will be varied. To create a satisfied customer base operators would need toprovide more interesting services.With increasing competition in the mobile wireless service sphere, cellular players willnot only have to look at their service offerings to their end-users but also the crucialaspect of billing that will ensure effective control over the all-important thing, revenue. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 141. Telecom Billing Solutions 1417.5 Buy, Build or Outsource?The global economic conditions have provided the impetus for unprecedented growthand increased competition in the telecommunications industry. Viable options exist forconsumers in most metropolitan areas to choose a service provider and a number ofservice bundling opportunities. While these represent tremendous opportunity for theindustry, many companies find that expanding staff and services to keep up with therapid growth in a tight labor market is difficult and increasingly costly. One strategyfrequently employed to alleviate these pressures is outsourcing. The right outsourcingsolution should allow a company to leverage an external service provider to achievereduced internal cost and also gain valuable and necessary services with a high degreeof expertise. Telcos need to analyze their requirements and determine whether to buy,build or outsource the billing systemBuy?Advantages of buyingØ Standard products with open interfaces can immediately satisfy 70% of needs.Functionality is usually over 70% but missing interfaces limit the overall effect.Ø Buying gives flexibility and advantages in terms of time to market and customerservice.Ø Buying gives cost benefits and stability benefits.More leverage is possible on external suppliers than on in-house developers.Ø Some people will have previous experience of a specific billing system throughprevious employers and this can provide predictable levels of support as well asexpertise in system capabilities from day one.Disadvantages of buyingØ Telcos are wary of being used as a test site for an unproven product.Ø Project delays can generate problems keeping the business going with existingsystems.Ø If the software supplier lacks research and development facilities they will always bein catch-up mode.Ø The billing system may not be suitable for services which the company plans to offerin future. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 142. Telecom Billing Solutions 142Build ?Advantages of developingØ In-house developers see the solution as benefiting their own business. They sharecommon goals and priorities with the rest of the business and already have directexperience of linked systems and processes.Ø There is more flexibility to change specifications throughout the development cycle.Ø Developing billing systems in house will be a cheaper option than buying it.Ø Bulling systems can be developed such that it fits the company’s scalability.Disadvantages of developingØ It sometimes does not provide what it promised in functionality and time scale.Ø They tend to lack the long term focus of what billing software will do for them in thefuture.Ø It is generally more expensive than buying a solution (depending on the level ofcustomization needed).To Outsource or Not?There are three major functions involved in billing system operation, and you mayoutsource any combination of the three: o Customer service — the actual interaction with your customers using the system; o Billing system operation — operation of the billing system, including backups and recovery; and o Bill printing, stuffing and mailing.It is important to note, however, that outsourcing these functions do not mean entirelydivesting the company of these resources. It still will be imperative that some of thisexpertise is maintained in -house to work with the service provider and to communicateand implement the results of the outsourcers activity within the organization.Outsourcing the billing operation may be seen by Telcos as too risky especially as therewould be little control over the priority given to their system over the outsourcecompany’s other clients.Advantages of outsourcingIn general, companies outsource when they expect the following benefits : © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 143. Telecom Billing Solutions 143Ø Lower cost, because the outsourcing vendor can produce software or operatesystems more cheaply than the company can. Vendors often can offer such scaleadvantages by reusing code or sharing risk across a large book of contracts, forexample.Ø Increased flexibility, allowing the company to add capacity or reassign personnel asdemand moves up or down.Ø Faster speed in development, leading to reduced time to get a product or serviceto market.Ø Some form of accounting advantage—by shifting resources off the balance sheet,the company can sometimes report a better return on assets.Disadvantages of OutsourcingØ Shirking. This is when a vendor deliberately underperforms while claiming fullpayment. It may involve such tactics as billing for more hours than were worked andbait-and-switch staffing.Ø Poaching. This represents the clients loss of control over an information asset thatoccurs when a vendor develops a strategy and a strategic application for one client andthen redevelops the system for a second client. The second clients cost is likely to belower, placing the first client at a disadvantage, rather than offering it a sustainableadvantage. In the most extreme case, the vendor goes into the clientsbusiness and competes directly using the expertise it developed on the project.Ø Opportunistic re-pricing or holdup. When a company enters into a long-termcontract, it is not uncommon for the vendor to try to change the terms at some point."Vendor holdup" occurs when a vendor overcharges for unanticipated enhancements andcontract extensions. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 144. Telecom Billing Solutions 1448. Billing Systems – the Road Ahead 8.1 Telecom Billing Transition © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 145. Telecom Billing Solutions 1458. Billing Systems – the Road Ahead8.1 Telecom Billing TransitionMany established operators have a mature billing environment which may well besubject to review and upgrade even without changes in network technology andservices. We believe that over time, as the prevailing service environment moves to IPtransport, the billing environment will become IP-centric. The evolutionary path to an IP-centric billing environment may be seen as follows: Figure 8.1: Evolutionary Path to IP-Centric BillingThis is an outline path for Customer Care & Billing (CC&B), indicating the key softwarechanges which are likely to be required. Depending on the operator strategy, thebusiness platform may need to be greatly extended to include financial managementcomponents, content management components, and logistical components and extendedinter-operator billing components.There are three principal options for an existing telecommunications operator to takewhen planning their BSS architecture transition from 2G, through 2.5G to 3G networks.These are: © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 146. Telecom Billing Solutions 146 o To enhance existing platforms - a relatively straightforward step change but one which may soon come to seem inadequate o Move to all-IP billing platforms, mirroring future network transition and optimizing around the value-added services from which operators expect to gain a large part of their future revenue. This begs the question of which IP billing products are appropriate for a mobile internet provider (existing solutions have largely been designed for the fixed network dial-up ISP). o Move to a predominantly real time platform, perhaps based on the current prepaid model, where calls are rated while in progress and any further action which is needed, during or immediately after the call or session, is not delayed by batch process. Considered over time, elements of these approaches are likely to be mixed and matched. For the sake of illustration, this section considers a simple stepped approach.Stage 1: Minimal upgrade for rapid launch: subscription and volume basedbilling Figure 8.2: Conceptual Architecture: Rapid LaunchIt is possible to begin providing service with relatively little effort. Initially work with thelegacy system and generate bills for the basic services offered. Stage 2: Convergent voice and IP Service Billing © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 147. Telecom Billing Solutions 147 Figure 8.3: IP Service Billing (IP Component add-on)For billing of more complex transactional elements, however (such as email, orrequested content) it is necessary to bring in a dedicated IP rating and billing engine tosit adjacent to the circuit-switched voice billing platform. Taking invoice-ready materialdirectly into the telecoms billing engine to produce a convergent bill with at least aunified cover sheet and totals. Assuming it is capable of producing a converged bill, thelegacy billing system remains the prime invoicing engine in the medium term. This willhelp to ensure that the introduction of IP rating and billing is achieved with maximumspeed and stability.Taking the flow of mediated data CDRs (GCDRs) from the mediation device through intothe IP billing engine at this time, allowing the IP rating and billing engine to rate andcollate all IP-related charging information before passing it back into the invoicingsystem. This will integrate the processing of all IP - related charging data and will allowthe operator to benefit from the rating flexibility which is likely to be found in thededicated engine. Over time, it is possible that the IP billing system might become theprime billing engine. Natural drivers for this will include the shifting balance of prioritiesand processing requirements from the circuit-switched voice environment to the IPenvironment and the eventual movement of voice traffic to the IP network with 3G © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 148. Telecom Billing Solutions 148services. Other trends supporting this include the flattening and simplifying of voicetariffs, possibly moving towards an ‘all-you-can-eat’ charging model. Figure 8.4: Alternative introduction of IP Service BillingWith this interim step model, it will become possible to offer a degree of convergentbilling (at a billing only level), including handling complex cross-product discounting.However, this model will not support fully convergent BSS as customer data will still beentered/stored in different databases with greater or lesser degrees of consistencyacross them at any one time.The introduction of a new billing system alongside legacy software will also introduce theneed for integrated management of customers and services. To achieve this, we wouldrecommend close analysis of existing CRM capability to determine whether this canprovide a usable interface for the management of both customer databases. If this is notfeasible, overlay architecture may need to be introduced to minimize duplication acrossboth systems. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 149. Telecom Billing Solutions 149 Real Time Billing System Figure 8.5: BSS Evolution Real Time PlatformLong term, we may see the mediation function being absorbed within the real timetransaction processing architecture. This environment is essentially a real-timeenvironment interacting synchronously with the network elements much as an IN boxwould, providing real time rating and service management capability.This architecture allows the operator to fully optimize service management, provisionand rating, separating o Functions which need to be carried out in genuine real-time (such as rating and fraud monitoring) o Functions which need to be carried out immediately post call or session (such as B2B order processing and CRM upgrade) o Functions for which an interval of an hour or even a day may be acceptable (perhaps online charge presentment) o Functions which require processing over much longer periods (such as inter- carrier settlements).Application suites and servers would be driven by the real time processing of all callsand sessions. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 150. Telecom Billing Solutions 150Customer Account Management in a Real time environment o It is worth noting that real time rating does not mean that the only payment option is repaid. We foresee a scenario where although the call (or data session) is rated in real-time, the payment demands depend on the way the customer’s account is handled. For example: o The customer may be allowed zero credit. Services will only be allowed when a positive balance exists in the account, from which it follows that payment must be paid in advance, through voucher, credit card or debit mechanisms and the account will work as a conventional prepay account. o The customer may be allowed unlimited credit, but the balance must be cleared once a month, through credit card, automated debit or conventional cheque mechanisms. The account will work as a conventional postpaid account. o The customer may be allowed credit up to the equivalent of an agreed monthly direct debit. It will be up to the customer whether the account is allowed to remain in credit or debit, and small amounts of interest may be charged or paid. The account will work in the same way as certain types of store card. Figure 8.6: Real Time Transaction and Service Processing © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 151. Telecom Billing Solutions 1519. Convergent Billing – the Future ofBilling 9.1 Introduction 9.2 Market Overview 9.3 Product Overview – Prepaid-Postpaid-Nowpaid (Amdocs Enabler) © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 152. Telecom Billing Solutions 1529. Convergent Billing – the Future ofBilling9.1 IntroductionThe worldwide preference for prepaid cellular services forces CSPs to ensure that theirprepaid offerings and prepaid subscribers are a profit-generating part of their business.Moreover, CSPs are looking to extend revenues through the profitable marketing of nextgeneration services to the prepaid market, while enhancing loyalty of prepaidsubscribers and minimizing financial risks.Traditional, network-oriented prepaid systems, with time-based rating only, cannotmanage the mix of voice, data, content and commerce services demanded by today’scustomer base, and critical to CSPs to drive increased ARPU. In addition, most providershave had to invest in the inefficient and expensive upkeep of two separate systems tosupport prepaid and postpaid services, with prepaid subscribers having access to onlyvery limited services and suffering with very simple pricing schemes. Customers nowdesire access to a broad range of services, price plans and customer care, regardless oftheir preferred method of payment – postpaid or prepaid. Accordingly, CSPs are urgentlyseeking solutions to meet their diverse needs in a changing market.SEPARATE SYSTEMS FOR PREPAID AND POSTPAIDThe following diagram presents a common situation today, in which a service providermaintains two separate systems; one for prepaid and one for postpaid: © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 153. Telecom Billing Solutions 153 Figure 9.1: Prepaid & Postpaid BillingOperational Drawbacks The prepaid and postpaid billing systems are typically handled by different vendors – usually, a network equipment provider for the prepaid system and a billing vendor for the postpaid system. This can result in integration issues and ongoing compatibility problems as systems evolve. The prepaid and postpaid billing systems are typically handled by different departments in the organization – usually, the Network Department handles the prepaid system, while the IT Department handles the postpaid system. Each department has different strengths, capabilities and goals, resulting in inconsistencies between the operation and maintenance of the two systems. Each of the two billing systems maintains its own data, creating duplication – two different customer databases; two product catalogs; two raters – for prepaid or postpaid. All of this duplication results in unnecessary costs to the CSP. Different infrastructure – usually, the prepaid system is built as a network-oriented, SN-based or IN-based solution, while the postpaid system is built as a back-office solution, based on a totally different infrastructure. Two different infrastructures drives expenses as hardware maintenance, spares and training costs are duplicated. Two different processing modes – usually, real time for prepaid and batch for postpaid. Operational inefficiencies and high operational costs – the service provider has to implement, manage, support, maintain and upgrade two separate systems. Different evolution path for prepaid and postpaid systems – as these are two different systems, provided by two different Vendors, each would be upgraded or enhanced independently. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 154. Telecom Billing Solutions 154Marketing/Business DrawbacksThe operational and technical overheads and inefficiencies resulting from separate billingsystems for prepaid and postpaid described above translate directly into marketing andbusiness drawbacks that can very clearly affect the CSP’s bottom line. The CSR has different customer models and a different view of prepaid and postpaid users resulting in inconsistent customer service. Prepaid and postpaid subscribers are offered different services and price plans. A service or price plan which is be possible in one system may not be possible in the other, limiting the introduction of that service for a large population of customers. The CSP cannot create hybrid, prepaid-postpaid accounts. Similarly it cannot offer bundled prepaid-postpaid services and price plans. Most of current prepaid systems handle voice services only and offer only very basic rating capabilities. Therefore, in most cases prepaid subscribers are not even offered advanced data services. Prepaid subscribers are offered very limited customer service. In some cases, prepaid subscribers are anonymous and are not approached by the service provider at all. In others, prepaid subscribers are offered a very low level of customer service even if they are very valuable customers. For example, they do not receive statements for their usage; they are not approached with various marketing campaigns, etc. o Services and price plans are defined and maintained twice, in two different repositories – as a result, the introduction of new services is costly and time consuming. As well, the two systems likely have differences, which may result in hard to explain variations in price plans. These limitations leave the CSP exposed since the quality of service that it can offer its ever- growing base of prepaid subscribers is restricted by existing systems.Possible StrategiesService Providers are faced with several options for handling the challenges describedabove. First, they can keep maintaining two separate systems for prepaid and postpaid. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 155. Telecom Billing Solutions 155While this conservative strategy of carrying on as before can be tempting, especially inlight of the financial restrictions CSPs face today, it is in fact a risky option. The dangerof continuing with the inefficiencies and low customer service inherent with this strategycould result in much more substantial penalties in the very near future – mainly throughan eroded customer base.A second option is to pursue the once-popular game of trying to convert prepaidsubscribers to postpaid plans. However, as the market has shown, the trend is in theopposite direction – more than half of the global subscriber base is now prepaid –making this goal appear unrealistic. The third option is prepaid-postpaid convergence,which involves the maintenance of a single system for all prepaid and postpaidsubscribers.9.2 Market OverviewWireless operators, particularly in Western Europe and Asia Pacific, have seen subscriberpenetration rates of between 70-80% in their markets and a stagnation or even declinein average revenue per user (ARPU). The high take-up of prepaid is viewed by operatorsas both a blessing and a curse. On one hand subscriber numbers have increasedexponentially but on the other overall ARPU has been drivendown (this is mainly due to the fact that generally prepaid users create less revenue foran operator than their postpaid counterparts). Some of the reasons for this may bebecause prepaid users do not have a monthly rental charge, and that they producehigher churn rates as they are not signed up to contracts. To increase ARPU, operatorshave historically tried to migrate as many of their prepaid users as they can to postpaidcontracts. However, this has proved to be largely unsuccessful. The migration of prepaidusers to postpaid contracts is arguably still the operators’ main aim but there has alsobeen a realization that prepaid is here to stay and that other strategies will need to beconsidered. One of these is to offer pre and postpaid customers the same services,which may result in increasing prepaid revenues by enticing users to take up these newservices.To be able to offer prepaid users the same services as postpaid, and to offer postpaidusers the opportunity to have a prepaid facility for some services there needs to be © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 156. Telecom Billing Solutions 156some form of convergence or integration between the prepaid and postpaid billingsystems. Traditionally, ‘Convergence’ in the Telco billing arena has been defined as theability to be able to bill for services such as wireless, wireline and IP on a single billingplatform. However, in the context of prepaid and postpaid, convergence is theunification of customers, regardless of payment type, onto a single billing platform,hence the term ‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’.Wireless subscriber numbers grew at a phenomenal rate in the second half of the 1990sand have reached a point whereby some markets are saturated. Western European andAsian markets have now reached penetration rates of 70-80% and are only seeing singledigit growth. One of the main reasons for unprecedented subscriber growth is theadvent of prepayment for mobile services. Prepaid mobile services were initiallylaunched in Europe and the US in the second half of 1995, and 1996 saw a gradual rollout in markets such as Africa and Latin America. Since launch, ‘prepaid’ has grownrapidly and in the year 2000, 74% of total net subscriber additions were prepaid(source: “Global mobile prepaid strategies”, Chorleywood Consulting/ Baskerville). It hasalso been estimated that Western Europe had 72% penetration at the end of 2001 withroughly two-thirds of subscribers on prepaid price plans.The graph below shows the growing ratio of prepaid subscribers as a total of the cellularmarket over the past few years and provides forecasts up to 2010. Figure 9.2: Forecasted Ratio Prepaid / Postpaid as % of Mobile Subscriber Market(Source: “Global Mobile Forecasts to 2010, 3rd edition”, Baskerville Strategic Research) © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 157. Telecom Billing Solutions 157The graph above shows that prepaid subscribers as a percentage of the total markethave been growing year on year. They accounted for 45% of the total cellular market in2001 compared to 38% in 2000 and 27% in 1999. Prepaid subscribers as a percentageof the market continued to grow and overtook postpaid subscribers and will reach 61%by 2010. Operators have seen an exponential increase in subscriber numbers, largelydue to prepaid, but at the same time this has led to stagnation or even a decline inARPU. This trend looks set to continue as shown in the graph below. Figure 9.3: Forecasts - Worldwide postpaid ARPU vs prepaid ARPU (per month US$)(Source: Data taken from “Global Mobile Prepaid Strategies” Baskerville StrategicResearch)Note:Total ARPU is calculated by adding prepaid revenue and postpaid revenue together anddividing by their combined total subscribers. It is not derived by adding the averageARPUs of pre and postpaid together (as given in the graph) and dividing by two. If thiswere to be done the figure would be distorted as it would not take into account the ratioof prepaid: postpaid. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 158. Telecom Billing Solutions 158Success of PrepaidThe success of prepaid account adoption is mainly due to the following factors:• Cost Control – no unexpected costs, no extra bill to pay, only pay for usage• No Contract• No rental charge• No credit checks – good for credit challenged, youth market• AnonymityInitially prepaid helped operators in the aim of increasing their subscriber base andmarket share by giving them the ability to gain a footprint in developing countries, theyouth market and in attracting high risk customers with reduced risk to the operator.Next Generation ServicesWith the emergence of 2.5G and imminent arrival of 3G, prepaid users may demand thesame services as their postpaid counterparts. Likewise, with the unpredictability of costinvolved in using next generation services, postpaid consumers may also demand theability to pay for different services in different ways. For example a user may want tocontinue paying for voice calls via a postpaid contract but use a prepaid account todownload videos and data in order to manage spending.Reasons for ConvergenceIn order to offer the same services and payment options to both prepaid and postpaidsubscribers, operators need to integrate both sets of customers and their data.Regardless of how they pay for the service prepaid and postpaid are becomingalternative payment methods rather than service types.Operator BenefitsThe main benefits of convergence to the operator, besides having the ability to increaseARPU, is the capability to capture usage data and personal information (if permitted byusers) and the time and flexibility to market new tariffs and promotions. This providesthe operator with detailed profiling knowledge of its subscribers, which in turn allows it © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 159. Telecom Billing Solutions 159to launch targeted marketing campaigns and offer flexible tariff plans tailored toindividual users usage, needs and preferences. By tailoring products and services to theusers’ individual needs this will help increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn.The migration of prepaid and postpaid users to one single platform can help reduceoperators costs by having:• a single database for all customers• a single billing catalogue with all prepaid or postpaid products, tariffs & marketingoffers• rating processes that can be real-time, batch or ‘tuneable real-time’ in order tooptimize hardware utilizationSubscriber BenefitsThe main benefit for prepaid subscribers is the ability to obtain the same services aspostpaid users without the overhead of a contract, monthly rental charge etc. Forpostpaid users the greatest benefit is to be able to have different payment methods forseparate services. As discussed previously, with the arrival of 3G, users can experimentwith new services whilst being able to control spending. This can be done, for example,by using prepaid for next generation services and postpaid for voice calls and SMS.Another major advantage of ‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’ is the ability to have preand postpaid hierarchical billing. An example of how this can work is explained below.The diagram below shows a company hierarchy in which departments and levels of theorganization use different payment types according to the wishes of ABC Ltd. ABC Ltdhas a postpaid account and in this example has allowed each department to also have apostpaid account. The departments then pay their bill from their budget. Eachdepartment can control its own costs by allowing different personnel within thedepartment to have different payment types. In the above example the SalesDepartment has allowed the Sales Manager to have a purely postpaid account, whichmeans the company will also be paying for his personal calls. The same benefit is notextended to the Sales Assistants, as they are given a postpaid account for businesscalls, but prepaid for personal use. The prepaid balance could be topped up © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 160. Telecom Billing Solutions 160automatically at x amount per month or the individual could pay their own costs,according to the wishes of the department. Figure 9.4: Prepaid and Postpaid Hierarchical BillingThe example shows the flexibility of hierarchical billing as the Finance department haschosen to set up its pre and postpaid accounts differently to the Sales department. Preand postpaid hierarchical billing does not have to be defined per level, but can bedefined by individual.Pre and postpaid hierarchical billing can also be used in a family environment. In thiscase a Father could have a postpaid account for all services and subordinate accounts,his wife and child could have a postpaid account for calls, and a prepaid account for nextgeneration services i.e. video and data downloads. If the wife or child needs more creditthen this would be debited from the Father’s postpaid account up to a pre-defined creditlimit. This helps the Father to control all costs. There are many combinations of how theaccount could be set up. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 161. Telecom Billing Solutions 161Operator ConsiderationsThe operators face many decisions and challenges with ‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’,the major issue being how to perform rating.Near Real Time vs. True Real TimeNear real time can be described as an event that is rated after it happens, but notimmediately, whereas true real time is described as the rating of an event as it happens.The operator must realise that performing true real time rating will increase pressure onthe hardware platforms, especially with Next-Generation services, therefore, theoperators will incur higher costs to process all data in a 99.99% availabilityenvironment. The decision operators will need to make is whether to rate services innear real time or true real time. This may be influenced on the type of service, high risk(high price and cost) or low risk (low price and cost), and the type of customer, high risk(new prepaid customers with no history) and low risk (customers with good paymenthistory and profiles).It would not be good customer service to terminate a conversation or download due to alack of credit for a low risk customer, therefore, it may be better to allow the customerto complete their transaction and then recharge. It would also be worth consideringwhether true real time would need to be applied if a low risk user has selected a lowprice service. Operators will also need to be aware of the potential opportunity forfraudsters as subscribers can be allowed to run into negative balances.There are instances when true real time would need to be applied, apart from when theuser is a high risk customer, for example International Roaming, Gambling and otherHigh Risk Services. An operator may wish to receive money immediately from the user ifit had an agreement with a third party operator, which entailed that operator to receivepayment on transaction termination. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 162. Telecom Billing Solutions 162VendorsVendors have recognized that operators are requesting that they offer a variety ofarchitectures and solutions which will fit within the operators current prepaid andpostpaid systems. These architectures and solutions should allow operators to selectmodules gradually as their business evolves or allow them to move into a full-scalesolution, which will support their future business needs. In response to this the latestversions of many CCB vendors systems purport to offer ‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’albeit at varying levels of integration and complexity between the network elements andthe CCB system itself. In fact some have offered different models and levels ofintegration to operators depending on current system architecture, business strategiesand existing legacy systems. There are many issues that vendors will have to consider,some of which include:• ‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’ must be able to provide real-time transactionmanagement• Convergent billing system must support payment for all services including prepaidbalance, direct debits, e-wallet or postpaid• Advice of charge will be required to be able to notify customers if they have sufficientcredit to be able to successfully complete their transaction before they start theirdownload• The ability to be able to download a file and talk on the phone at the same time from asingle prepaid balance i.e. Parallel rating of services from a single balance• Ability to interface to third party content providers so that operators are able toprovide a wide range of services and products• Postpaid systems operate in real time offering the ability to rate the EDR (event detailrecord) as soon as the event is finished, whereas prepaid operates in true real time,rating the call as it is being made and informing the user that their balance is low duringthe call and if necessary terminating the call (Call Tear Down).The diagram below shows the major features of existing prepaid and postpaid systems.(note: in this example, and subsequently, the prepaid solution is IN based. There areother prepaid systems that do not sit within the IN but these are not the focus of thispaper). The two platforms (as shown below) are treated as completely separate entities. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 163. Telecom Billing Solutions 163 Figure 9.5: Current Prepaid and Postpaid set upPre and Postpaid Convergence ArchitecturesPre and Postpaid Convergence (using IN Prepaid Platform)As previously discussed the operator will need to look at its current set up, architecture,budget and business strategies to decide how it would like to best implement ‘Pre andPostpaid Convergence’. If the operator has a sophisticated IN prepaid platform in place,then this can continue to function as before and the operator can just decide to integratethe prepaid platform with its existing postpaid system. An example of this is shownbelow. Figure 9.6: Prepaid and Postpaid Convergence © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 164. Telecom Billing Solutions 164The IN drives some of the rating for prepaid voice calls and basic messaging, however,the IN will be bypassed for the content and commerce transactions. A small balance,which is not seen by the user, is held on the IN platform for the necessary real timebilling of voice and messaging services. All other services are charged for by the ratingsystem held in the postpaid billing system. The main balance is held on the postpaidbilling system and this is the balance that is shown and updated by the user. The ratingsystem will transfer small balances to the IN and other platforms such as m-commerceas and when required.The rating system will make sure that there are sufficient funds to ensure prepaid creditis available and not exceeded. The same can also be applied for postpaid content andcommerce transactions to ensure that credit limits are not exceeded.Advantages• No need to upgrade or replace existing IN prepaid platform• One single balance for the consumer• Meets marketing requirements for prepaid and postpaid billing• All promotions, tariffs and services can be held on one platform• Allows the user to have a prepaid bill• Scaleable and flexible• Provides customer with advise of charge ability• Hierarchical billing for prepaid and postpaid convergence• Short implementation timeDisadvantages• Prepaid platform has to duplicate the tariffs for the prepaid customers• Balances have to be held on both platforms and be updated regularly © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 165. Telecom Billing Solutions 165Pre and Postpaid Convergence (using CCB system) Figure 9.7: Prepaid and Postpaid Convergence (CCB Driven )The above diagram shows an example where the IN only carries out its basic functionsi.e. call control. The postpaid billing system performs all the remaining functions such asrating, balance management, AAA etc. The call set up, in-call control and tear down aredriven by the rating system, which in turn informs the IN platform. The above methodputs less emphasis on the IN and allows it to carry on performing its primary tasks. Thegreatest benefit of this option is that only one subscriber database is required, moreflexible tariffs can be designed, all balances are held in one place and a sophisticated INprepaid platform is not required. However, in order to successfully implement this, thereare performance issues to be considered. The rating system must have a low latencyprocess request, to be able to provide a fast service, which traditionally rating platformshad not been designed to do for prepaid customers. Migration of subscribers is simplerfrom prepaid to postpaid. A disadvantage is that a longer implementation time isneeded. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 166. Telecom Billing Solutions 166ConclusionPrepaid is here to stay and may eventually overtake postpaid, so is ‘Pre andPostpaid Convergence’ the answer that operators are looking for to increaseARPU?There are many benefits to ‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’ for operators, such as theability to acquire detailed profiling knowledge of prepaid users, increased responsivenessto competitive environments through short time to market new tariffs and promotionsand providing flexible payment methods. However there are issues that operators willneed to consider such as ‘will the increase in implementation costs provide an adequatereturn on investment?’Subscribers will also see benefits such as hierarchical billing, ability to control costs,testing new services using different payment methods and prepaid users having thesame services as their postpaid counterparts. However, a major question postpaid usersmay begin to ask themselves is “why am I paying a monthly fee when a prepaid usercan have the same services as me without paying the monthly charge?”‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’ is not the only issue operators need to consider.Increased competition will arrive with Greenfield 3G operators and combined with thisthere is also increased downward pressure on call tariffs as national regulators exertpressure. These factors may reduce ARPU and increase churn.‘Pre and Postpaid Convergence’ is not a magic wand that will guarantee your businesssuccess; it is merely the enabler that allows the business to offer more enhancedservices, which must be used and promoted effectively. This requires strong businessstrategies and the right people in the organization to implement them. It is important toremember that Pre and Postpaid Convergence is in its infancy and is a concept that isyet to be proven.9.3 Product Overview – Prepaid-Postpaid-Nowpaid (Amdocs Enabler)Amdocs Enabler is a real-time billing product for voice, data and content services.Enabler provides an integrated online-offline charging platform, supporting prepaid-postpaid convergence with one product. It is designed for rapid, cost-effective © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 167. Telecom Billing Solutions 167deployment and low cost of ownership. Amdocs Enabler provides real-time serviceauthorization, rating and balance management, as well as advice of charge and budgetcontrol functionalities, while interacting with various network elements for realtimesession control within 2G, 2.5G, 3G and IP networks. Amdocs Enabler is a production-proven, carrier-grade product, offering high-availability, scalability and robustperformance. Amdocs Enabler offers unified support for prepaid and postpaid services. Itprovides a consolidated view of the customer – whether prepaid, postpaid, or hybridprepaid-postpaid – throughout the relationship, from customer service through billing.Pricing plans and services can combine prepaid and postpaid offerings, enabling broad-based customer loyalty plans. Hybrid prepaid-postpaid accounts are supported, offeringcross-channel discounts and benefits between prepaid and postpaid services. As such,Amdocs Enabler is uniquely positioned to enable the CSP to nurture its prepaidcustomers through a unified customer view, sophisticated offerings for next generationservices and enhanced customer service. Moreover, Amdocs Enabler offers theefficiencies of maintaining one billing system for prepaid and postpaid, with a singlecustomer database, product catalog and rating engine.3.2. Main ComponentsThe following diagram presents a convergent prepaid-postpaid-nowpaid platform, basedon Amdocs Enabler: Figure 9.8: Prepaid-Postpaid-Nowpaid Convergence © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 168. Telecom Billing Solutions 168Below are brief descriptions of the main components of the platform:• Online/Offline Charging Platform – responsible for the real-time processing ofrequest messages and event records originating from various network elements. Multipleprocessing modes are supported, including request-response, transaction-based and file-based modes.• Real-Time Bridge – responsible for the bi-directional, request-responsecommunication with the various network elements.• Acquisition & Formatting – responsible for the acquisition of request messages,formatting them into a common-format event record and returning a response messagto the network element.• Rating – performs guiding (customer and service identification), real-time rating andpre-rating of events. Maintains various accumulators (performance indicators) fordiscounts, allowances and benefits, and maintains usage information.• Balance Management – maintains the real-time account balance and reservedamounts; supports various balance policies and generates balance threshold-basedactions.• Product Catalog – handles all product and service offerings in an easy-to-accessformat in a single database; supports flexible definition and bundling of price plans andservices.• Customer Information – maintains and manages all customer billing information in asingle database, supporting a unified customer model for prepaid and postpaid.• Billing – compiles, calculates and summarizes all elements that appear on theconsolidated bill, including recurring charges, usage charges, onetime charges, creditsand adjustments. Provides a flexible discount engine for dynamic accumulation,hierarchy-based aggregation and discounting rules.Replenishment Management – manages the recharge of prepaid balances throughmultiple payment methods (vouchers, cash, debit, credit, postpaid pay-channels) andrecharge channels (CSRs, IVRs, ATMs, Web, handset); supports flexible replenishmentpolicies for managing recharge amounts, frequency and bonus plans.• Voucher Management – manages the life cycle of recharge vouchers, as well asvoucher ordering from the manufacturer and voucher distribution to the dealers.• Commerce Payments – handles real-time payment authentication, authorization andcharging for next generation third-party services. Provides a “nowpaid” functionality, © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 169. Telecom Billing Solutions 169which supports the customer’s choice of payment method – debit, credit, prepaid,postpaid – at the time of purchase.BenefitsEnabler provides a multitude of operational and business benefits resulting from trueprepaid-postpaid convergence:One platform• A single prepaid-postpaid vendor• Single-set of system modules for handling prepaid and postpaid:One Rating EngineOne Product CatalogOne Balance ManagementOne Customer Information Database and a unified Customer ModelOne Usage Repository• Cross-platform Audit & Control; System Management; Error Management• Common infrastructure for prepaid and postpaid• Add-on modules from Amdocs library of applications for prepaid and postpaid, such asCommerce Payments, PRM (Partner Relationship Management), Fraud Management, etc.• One product roadmapReduced TCO (total cost of ownership)• Implementing Amdocs Enabler assures reduced TCO. By virtue of being a singlesystem from a single vendor, the CSP’s costs – both investment costs and operationalcosts – are substantially scaled back. The CSP deals with only one vendor and oneintegrator, and needs to manage, support, maintain and upgrade only one platform.There are no ongoing costs for synchronizing future developments in each of two (ormore) separate platforms. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 170. Telecom Billing Solutions 170Same Services and Price Plans• One repository for service definition and maintenance (one Product Catalog)• Offer any service and price plan to all subscribers, regardless of their payment method• Bundled prepaid-postpaid price plans• Rapid introduction of new services for prepaid and postpaidUnified Customer Model and Hybrid AccountsAmdocs Enabler customer model supports hybrid accounts, with prepaid and postpaidsubscribers (e.g. a family). The following diagram describes a hybrid, prepaid-postpaidfamily. Both parents are postpaid subscribers and both children are prepaid subscribers,all residing under single customer and account entities. The parents and children mayreceive separate invoices for their usage. Figure 9.9: Enabler Customer ModelThe Enabler customer model provides the following benefits:• Same customer model for prepaid and postpaid• Create hybrid accounts with prepaid and postpaid subscribers:Hybrid family – e.g. parents are postpaid; children are prepaidHybrid corporate – e.g. department A is postpaid; B is prepaid• Seamless migration from prepaid to postpaid and vice-versa• Allow recharging a prepaid balance from a postpaid pay-channel• Total payment flexibility per subscriber:Per service – e.g. voice is postpaid, data is prepaid © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 171. Telecom Billing Solutions 171Per context – e.g. corporate services are postpaid; private services are prepaidPer day of week – e.g. postpaid on work days; prepaid on weekendsPer dialed number – e.g. allow emergency calls for prepaid, regardless of balancePer accumulation – e.g. postpaid up to $200 per month; prepaid beyond• “Nowpaid” – for total payment flexibility in commerce transactionsPayment FlexibilityAs discussed above, the Enabler customer model supports hybrid prepaid-postpaidsubscribers. Each subscriber may have several pay-channels (postpaid and/or prepaid)under each billing arrangement. The event distribution mechanism enables such asubscriber to link each service to either a prepaid or a postpaid pay-channel, providingtotal payment flexibility. The diagram below presents the event and charge distributionof a hybrid subscriber. In this case, mobile surfing and mobile entertainment servicesare linked to prepaid pay-channels, while a VoIP service (Webtalk) and all corporateservices are linked to a postpaid pay-channel. Any other combination is supported aswell. Figure 9.10: Payment ProcessThe “nowpaid” ConceptEnabler fully supports the “nowpaid” concept of payment. This means that at the time ofpayment, customers can choose to pay from their prepaid balance, postpaid bill, debit or © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 172. Telecom Billing Solutions 172credit card for a simple and secure transaction with total payment flexibility. The real-time prepaid balance and advice of charge information can be presented to thesubscriber before selection of a payment option.Postpaid RechargeWithin hybrid accounts, a subscriber with a postpaid pay-channel can recharge theprepaid balance of another subscriber. For example, a parent can recharge the prepaidbalance of his child, as described in the following diagram. The recharge can be done ona one-time or recurring basis. Figure 9.11: Recharging ProcessCross-Channel DiscountsCross-channel discounts, benefits and allowances between prepaid and postpaidsubscribers can be offered within hybrid accounts. For example:• If prepaid usage reaches $50, give a 5% discount on postpaid• If postpaid usage reaches $50, give a free $5 replenishment• If total prepaid-postpaid usage reaches $75, give 20 free SMS messages• Give 100 free minutes for calls within the family, every month © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 173. Telecom Billing Solutions 173The ability to track and provide these cross-channel discounts provides a competitiveedge for CSPs looking to attract families and businesses by offering benefits andsynergies deriving from extensive usage via a single account.Enhanced Customer ServiceWith Amdocs Enabler, all subscribers, regardless of their payment method, may beoffered the same level of customer service: queries, support, offers and self care. TheCSR benefits from a unified customer view. The same pre-integrated, add-on AmdocsClarifyCRM tools (e.g. Sales, Marketing & Analytics) are applicable to all subscribers,prepaid and postpaid. The CSP can issue a converged bill for prepaid and postpaidactivities. All these capabilities ensure that the CSP has a better understanding of eachcustomer and enhances the CSP’s ability to maintain and improve the relationship.Convergent BillAn example of a convergent, prepaid-postpaid bill is presented in the following diagram: Figure 9.12: Convergent Bill © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 174. Telecom Billing Solutions 174Convergence RoadmapThe transition from the current separate prepaid and postpaid systems to a convergentsystem may be achieved in several ways, in accordance with the customer’srequirements. The approach can be a rapid transfer to a single convergent billingsystem, or phased, in a manner that guarantees benefits and ROI at each stage. A full-convergence solution can be implemented at once, maintaining existing IN SCP andadditional network elements, and providing a smooth migration path from legacysystems. Alternatively, the convergence can be implemented through a phasedapproach, integrating different modules at each phase (e.g. Customer Care, CustomerDatabase, Product Catalog, Rater) until a unified platform is achieved. The optimalimplementation method differs from client to client and is defined on a case-by-casebasis. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 175. Telecom Billing Solutions 17510. Conclusions & Recommendations © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 176. Telecom Billing Solutions 17610. Conclusions & RecommendationsConclusionsService Operators:Service providers, both incumbent and competitive newcomers will be called upon todeploy strategies to migrate their networks to New Generation Network configurations.Therefore, telecom service providers should explore new services such as applicationhosting, voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP), IP faxing, and IP messaging, offeringtremendous opportunities for OSS billing companies to develop robust systems tosupport these new services and networks. 1. Service providers should determine the total cost of ownership of the billing and customer care system. In some cases, it may be more expensive to maintain the legacy system than to replace it. However, they should be sure to weigh that cost against the risk associated with replacing such a vital system and the expense of training and changing habits. 2. Service providers should investigate incrementally replacing the Billing system. Use an integration framework to slowly migrate away from the legacy system by adding new modules and enhancements to minimize risk. 3. They should build a solid business case as to why the billing system needs to be replaced or enhanced. They should do not upgrade for technology sake alone. They should be sure to illustrate what business problems that technology can solve.Billing Vendors:The convergence of voice and data networks has resulted in unprecedented cooperationamong participants as they work together to design advanced solutions that will be ableto bill by byte, packet, quality of service (QoS), or time of day. 1. Companies specializing in next-generation network billing systems should partner with a participant that supplies a more conventional circuit-switched © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 177. Telecom Billing Solutions 177 based billing system, thereby creating an opportunity if the service provider decides to implement a next-generation network. 2. Billing companies should continue to support conventional networks with new products and features, but not at the expense of creating solutions for next- generation networks.RecommendationsUnified Telecom Licensing introduced by TRAI has spurred a wave of “Consolidation” bygiving way to intra-circle Mergers and Acquisition. Operators would be encouraged tolook into Convergent Billing Solutions on account of M&A and also to provide bundledservices to the subscribers. But cross-product and cross-service bundling is not allowedby TRAI at present (it being anti-competition), thus take-off of such billing solution willbe grossly determined by regulatory environment.Presently, BSNL has proposed for a Convergent Billing Solution. Assignment involvesdeployment of Centralized Integrated Billing Systems with supporting technological andcommunication infrastructures. Prepaid-Postpaid is not future but reality these days.Future would see the wave of True Convergence viz. convergence of differentnetworks be it 2G, 2.5G, 2.75G or 3G (CDMA, GSM, GPRS), VoIP, MVNO, etc.Recent recommendations of TRAI dated 5th October 2004 (Refer Annexure I) would bringall billing process under the auditing of TRAI, this process can be facilitated byintroduction of a Consolidated Billing System and thus Convergent Solution in future.TRAI Recommendation dated 7th October 2004 (Refer Annexure II) shows how dynamicthe billing environment is in India. Operators should evaluate future options in decidingfor their Billing strategy. They should also gauge their billing system for quick roll-out ofservices to fight competition. While, the Billing Vendors need to build systems which aremodular to integrate modules as per operators’ choice and needs. Apart from this thetelecom billing industry is too diversified to have a common standard. Hence the billingvendor has to do provide customized solutions for each individual need. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 178. Telecom Billing Solutions 178ANNEXURES IDated: 5th October, 2004TRAI begins process for Billing and call charging verification of TelecomOperators by an independent Agency In a competitive telecom market, operators offer various tariff packages,introducing new ones periodically. It is not easy for the subscribers to verify whetherbilling under these tariff plans is being properly implemented. In fact, TRAI has beenregularly receiving many billing related complaints particularly from the mobilecustomers. It is seen that most of these complaints emerge from likely lapses/ flaws inbilling Programme. The Quality of Service (QOS) Survey, which TRAI is conductingquarterly through a specialist Agency, has also reported that “the billing parameter is farbelow the QOS norms and the operators need to focus on this to improve”. In thisbackground the Authority felt that a special regulatory initiative is needed to assure thecustomers that Service Providers provide an acceptable level of overall accuracy in thecalculation of call charges. The Authority has, therefore, decided to initiate a process forauditing the billing systems of telecom operators. The international practice also pointsto approval of the billing system by competent Authority and industry code for checkingthe accuracy of the call charging and billing standard. The Authority proposes to appoint a Consultant, who will advise it on themethodology to be followed for auditing the billing systems of telecom operators,keeping in view the best international practices and Indian conditions. Based on themethodology finalized by the Authority, the Consultant will also undertake the task ofauditing of billing systems of telecom operators. The Authority plans to initiate verification of the billing system of telecomoperators by the end of this calendar year. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 179. Telecom Billing Solutions 179ANNEXURES IIDated:7th October 2004TRAI: Postpaid Subscribers to get itemized bill relating to long distance callsfree of charge.1. TRAI today notified the 32nd Amendment to the Telecommunication Tariff Order(TTO)1999 mandating that if any customer requests for itemized bills relating to longdistance calls it shall be provided free of charge.2. TRAI has been receiving consumer complaints that the service providers arecharging extra for providing the itemised bills in respect of long distance calls. TheAuthority considered the matter keeping in view the provisions in the various licencesrelating to billing and customer service. The license agreements for Basic Service, NLDand ILD services provide for giving itemized bills relating to long distance calls tocustomers without demanding any extra charge whereas the licence agreements forCellular Mobile service and Unified Access Services lay down that directions of TRAI,from time to time, in this regard shall apply.3. Subscribers have the right to know and verify the charges for long distance callslevied by the service providers and itemized bills are required for this purpose. TheAuthority has, therefore, in the interest of the consumers decided that in case anycustomer requests for itemized bills relating to long distance calls it shall be providedfree of charge. The prepaid customers already have the facility to ascertain the chargeson a call-by-call basis without any extra charge. This decision of the Authority wouldtherefore extend this benefit to the billed customers i.e. the postpaid customers as well. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 180. Telecom Billing Solutions 180ANNEXURE IIIBilling Solutions used in different Telecom Circles in India:Circle Service Provider Billing Product VendorVendor Billing Systems Used EarlierMetroChennai RPG Cellular Services Ltd CABS 2000 SEMA No change Bharti Mobinet Ltd Arbor Lucent SEMA, Usha CommunicationDelhi Bharti Cellular Ltd Arbor Lucent SEMA Sterling Cellular Ltd ISIS CSC Intellicon Looking for change Mahanagar Telephone Progressor EHPT No change Nigam LtdKolkata Usha Martin Telekom Ltd Unicorn Usha Kingston SCL Communication Bharti Mobitel Ltd Arbor Lucent LHS, WiproMumbai BPL Mobile BSCS LHS No change Communications Ltd Hutchison Max Telecom CABS 2000 SEMA No change Ltd Mahanagar Telephone Progressor EHPT No change Nigam LtdCircleAndhra Pradesh Birla Tata AT&T Arbor Lucent Kingston SCL Bharti Mobiles Ltd Arbor Lucent LHSAssam Reliance Telecom Pvt Ltd GABS SISL INTEBISBihar Reliance Telecom Pvt Ltd GABS SISL INTEBISGujarat Birla Tata AT&T CABS 2000 SEMA No change Fascel Ltd BSCS LHS Shinawatra, EHPTHaryana Escotel Mobile CABS 2000 SEMA No change Communications Ltd Aircel Digilink India Ltd ISIS CSC Intellicon Looking for changeHimachal Bharti Telenet Ltd Arbor Lucent Usha Communication Reliance Telecom Pvt Ltd GABS SISL INTEBISKarnataka Bharti Mobiles Ltd Arbor Lucent LHS Spice Communications In-house In-house No change LtdKerala Escotel Mobile CABS 2000 SEMA No change Communications Ltd BPL Cellular Ltd BSCS LHS No changeMadhya Pradesh Birla Tata AT&T BSCS LHS No change Reliance Telecom Pvt Ltd GABS SISL INTEBISMaharashtra Birla Tata AT&T CABS 2000 SEMA No change BPL Cellular Ltd BSCS LHS No changeNorth East Reliance Telecom Pvt Ltd GABS SISL INTEBIS © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 181. Telecom Billing Solutions 181Orissa Reliance Telecom Pvt Ltd GABS SISL INTEBISPunjab Evergrowth Telecom Ltd Arbor Lucent BSCS Spice Communications In-house In-house No change LtdRajasthan Hexacom India Ltd In-house In-house Looking for change Aircell Digilink India Ltd ISIS CSC Intellicon Looking for changeTamil Nadu BPL Cellular Ltd BSCS LHS No change Aircel Ltd Unicorn Usha No change CommunicationUP (East) Aircell Digilink India Ltd ISIS CSC Intellicon Looking for change Koshika Telecom Ltd BSCS SEMA No changeUP (West) Escotel Mobile CABS 2000 SEMA No change Communications LtdWest Bengal Reliance Telecom Pvt Ltd GABS SISL INTEBISLHS has been acquired by SEMALucent’s billing and customer care business has been acquired by CSG Systems InternationalThe new operators are not shown in the list.Note: The chart may not reflect the latest billing systems in use due to unavailability of latestinformation. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 182. Telecom Billing Solutions 182ANNEXURE IVDifferent Billing VendorsIndian companies:InfozechLifetree ConvergenceSuntecUshaCommOther Billing companies:IntecTelcordiaPrimalIntracomHughes Software systemsUnysisDigital GlobalsoftWiproAlltell Telecom servicesAbiliti SolutionsAbiliti Solutions is an industry-leading provider of billing and rating solutions, service and expertise for network serviceproviders.ADCADC is a leading provider of convergent customer care and billing solutions for the telecommunications industry.AscomAscom is an internationally active Swiss telecommunications and service automation group.Atreus Systems - Atreus xAuthorityService fulfillment OSS solution that helps carriers and service providers create and provision IP applications.Axiom Systems - AXiOSSOSS software that helps service providers to ensure comprehensive coverage of the entire Service Delivery process.B4EB4E serves the global telecommunication, on-line, and utilities market with its convergent billing software which is based onleading technology and superior architecture.Bharti Telesoft - EULOGYGSM Retail Billing System helps service providers to manage, monitor and control their retail business.Ceon - Ceon Integration & ProvisioningOSS, Operational Support System, that allows broadband service providers to offer voice, video, and data services.Calculus SolutionsCalculus Solutions Limited provides a low-entry cost, scaleable and integrated Customer Care and Billing (iCCB) product set forpan-European emerging and mature telcos.CerillionCerillion Technologies delivers evolutionary and fully convergent CRM and event based billing solutions incorporating Xacctmediation for 3G, mobile and fixed wire. Cerillion Technologies has implemented the world’s first operational UMTS billingsystem for BT Wireless.ConvergysConvergys is the global leader in providing outsourced, integrated, billing and customer care services.CSG SystemsCSG Systems, Inc. is one of the worlds leading providers of customer care and billing solutions for the convergentcommunications industry—voice, video, and data.CommSoft - CommVergenceCustomer care, billing and provisioning software - allows communication providers to bill for multiple services on a single bill.CPqD Technologies & Systems, IncCBOSS © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 183. Telecom Billing Solutions 183DaleenDaleen Technologies develops, designs and implements convergent billing and customer care software solutions for thetelecommuni-cations industry on a worldwide basisDST InnovisDST Innovis provides customer care and open billing solutions to video/broadband, telephony and utilities industriesworldwide.ExtentExtent Technologies provides innovative Billing, Customer Care, and Marketing solutions for next-generation service providers.Eftia - Master.ScribeOSS software that facilitates start to finish order fulfillment and comprehensive management of service requests.eMerging Information Systems - LibertisPoint of Sale, Rating, Dealer Management, Billing, Tarrif Administration, Customer Care, and more.Formula Telecom SolutionsFTS is a global provider of Convergent Operational Support Systems (OSS), specializing in the design and implementation ofmodular and end-to-end Billing & CRM Solutions, for Mobile, Fixed line, Virtual and Convergent operators in the globalmarkets.Info DirectionsInfo Directions employs advanced technology to develop next-generation rating, billing, and customer care software solutions,in-house or in the ASP environment.Infozech SoftwareInfozech Software Inc. is a next generation telecommunication solution provider of Customer Care & Billing and Settlementsolutions related to multi-service, real time & converged networks of voice, data and content.InovawareInovaware provides a business system rather than a simple billing system - including important sales and marketingfunctionality.IntasysIntasys Billing Technologies is a global leader in innovative, cost-effective OSS solutions.Infozech Software - eBillCustomer Care and Billing solution. Prospect and Customer Management, Agent Management and Care, and more.LogicaLogica is a leading global solutions company providing management and IT consultancy, systems integration, products,services and support.MaxBillMaxBill is an innovative provider of cost-effective OSS Customer Care and Billing (CC&B) solutions for the converging telecom-munications and utilities industries.MetraTechMetraTech offers cutting edge billing systems for the networked economy that enables wholesale & retail billing of servicesbetween businesses & the end consumer.MIND CTIMIND, supplies solutions for billing, accounting and management for Internet telephony, switches, Internet-based services anddata.MindportMindport is a global solutions provider of media commerce technologies for pay-TV and the Internet, enabling platform andchannel operators to maximize their e-business opportunities.MTSMTS is leading the market for convergent communication management solutions.MetaSolv Software - MetaSolv SolutionProvides an OSS with rules-based functionality, intelligent network templates & powerful customer care tools.Nexus Telecom - NexusDBSAdvanced Billing System providing integrated mediation, tariffing, rating, discounting, and more.Open International - Open.flexIS Telecom BOSSManages customer services, billing, market demand studies, commercial management, operations, and more.Portal Software © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 184. Telecom Billing Solutions 184Portal Software, Inc., is the leading provider of customer management and billing software for communications and contentservice providers.RODOPIRODOPI is a comprehensive billing, provisioning & customer care software suite for ISPs, IPPs, ASPs and Telcos.RR EnterprisesRR Enterprises is a recognized leader in providing a subscriber Management and billing software system unequaled in theCable, MMDS, DBS and Internet industry.SaveraSavera is the leading provider of 100% Web based Interconnect billing solutions for the telecom and IP markets.Sepro TelecomSepro provides next generation rating and billing solutions to the telecommunications and e-commerce industries.Sentori - CaptivatorBilling and customer care solution for communications service providers and enterprise communications systems.STROM telecom - TelBillFlexible and easily adaptable billing system for telecommunication service providers.Telution - COMX Mid -Operations support and billing software suite for communications and entertainment services providers.TelicaUnited Support Systems - Evolution CC&BCustomer Care and Billing Solution; highly flexible billing system to support subscriber-related activities.Sylantro © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 185. Telecom Billing Solutions © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.
  • 186. Telecom Billing Solutions 186DisclaimerIn no event shall Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune; hereafter referred to as SITM,be liable for any indirect, punitive, incidental, special, or consequential damages arising out of or inany way connected with any content (or any material provided hereunder), whether based oncontract, tort, strict liability, or otherwise, even if SITM has been advised of the possibility of damages.All rights reserved. This document is the sole property of SITM. No part of it may be circulated,quoted, copied or otherwise reproduced without the written approval of SITM. © Copyright 2004, Sohag Sarkar, Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune.