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Charging for digital service – The time for change

By August 27, 2013 No Comments

But now the body of evidence is turning to proof that there is an urgency to implement real-time capabilities. There are studies out there, from Infonetics and others, that say that it is the priority for mobile operators over the next couple of years. Infonetics goes further and says that the need for real-time will force a full scale replacement of legacy billing systems. At a recent conference on new billing models, a senior billing manager with a European telecoms operator spoke for 30 minutes on the urgency of real time and the immediate need to “become an internet-like company.”

Openet, too, has conducted an in-depth survey among 80 operators around the world. Their findings add hugely to the body of evidence. Indeed, it is basically ‘case closed.’ The question now is ‘when,’ not ‘if’ operators should implement real time.

Some of the top line statistics make compelling reading. Perhaps the most telling is that 64 percent of operators admit that IN charging systems were designed for circuit switched voice. Those days are clearly over and 70 percent intend to replace IN pre-paid charging systems with real-time charging/OCS systems in the next four years.

Two more findings stand out. The first is that fully 87 percent of operators will replace their billing systems with real-time charging systems in the next four years. The second is that real-time charging is the key to innovation in telecoms services. It is almost sad to think that many of the systems down for retirement were actually the new ‘next generation’ systems that replaced the mainframe as competition was introduced. In those days, it took months and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to change a tariff in the system. As such, telecoms operators were forced into investing in table driven systems. It is the same now, telecoms operators, if they are to survive and ‘become internet-like’ companies need to have systems and processes that support the ‘now’ generation. And more importantly, they must have cultures within their companies that do the same.

Although real-time capabilities are indeed the key to innovation and will enable telecoms operators to offer their customers the right product or service, in the right way, at the right time, it is a little altruistic to believe fully that this is the driver. The immediate driver for real-time systems is more hard nosed. Certainly a better customer experience is a goal, albeit a bit ‘fluffy’ but money creates a clearer objective. The world is going real-time, customers are demanding information ‘now’ and regulators are getting tough on billshock. In response, operators are implementing real-time systems to enable the revenue assurance and fraud management functions to keep up, indeed become a pro-active part of their support function.

Only one part of this survey does not sync entirely with other thinking. Even though 57 percent of operators say that they will be launching Rich Communications Services (RCS) this may well change. So far, attempts such as Joyn have been cumbersome and obviously the product of committee creation. Unless such services become useful in some way other than as an attempt to ‘fend off’ over the top messaging applications, then RCS, like other community built offerings, will disappear. It is interesting that an almost equal number of operators will leave messaging apps to the messaging specialist such as Skype and Viber.

This survey and report have many rich pickings. Not least, the number of operators who understand that a centralized product catalogue is the key to improving ‘time to market’ or the number of operators who are thinking that cloud based billing and charging will become widespread in the next three years.

This report deserves a look and we will be having a deeper dive very soon.