Charging’s Next Phase – The cause of and solution to many 5G challenges
April 5, 2022 - Frank Healy
For some in the industry, charging was assumed to be able to handle whatever 5G would throw at it. It would simply cater for or adjust to whatever incredible and yet-to-be-defined new services could be delivered as a result of 5G improvements to latency, speed, coverage, capacity, density and so on. The assumption was often that if charging couldn’t manage based on whatever system was already there for 4G then it would simply need some tweaks to get it to work as it should.
The challenge, as forward-looking service providers soon found out, was that their already over-loaded and overly complex 3G and 4G monetisation systems were not up to the job for a much-expanded 5G universe. Research from analyst Omdia in 2020 had already pointed out that a significant number of Operators had the spaghetti of more than 50 revenue management systems in their stacks. Even before the ambitions of standalone (SA) 5G and all its potential they already had huge transformation challenges.
As 5G-driven services start to grow exponentially and diversify these already burdened 4G monetisation environments are, in many cases, likely to break. Many are not cloud-based and have limited scalability (down as well as up) in ways that efficient automation of new services require.
Operators that were used to thinking in terms of millions of SIM cards just two years ago are now planning for billions of connection points, driven by eSIMs, for everything from security cameras to vehicles to connected stadiums and lamp posts. With this kind of scaling a fresh approach to service launch is needed and it cannot be from a bygone era. It also needs to consolidate what has gone before (i.e. 4G and 3G). Total cost of ownership on a per-connection basis needs to be significantly more efficient at this scale. It also needs to be SaaS-based with updates seamlessly happening in the background.
For many organisations, not just telcos, service diversity needs to be ever more smartly managed by a range of business teams who demand end-to-end service visibility on behalf of customers. All of this has organisational implications for most service providers as they rethink how they are structured and reorientate themselves for post pandemic expectations. For telcos it needs to encompass more user-friendly charging capabilities for diversified teams.
Monetisation itself can also become the source of innovative value for service providers. Think how new banking and payments companies have become disruptive. Companies such as Revolut and Klarna and Checkout.com provide an ever-expanding range of services such as insurance, investment products and lending beyond their core payments business. For example, one service they provide or are looking to provide is “buy now, pay later”. Such innovations become easier if the building blocks upon which they are based are not constrained by the past.
With the diversification opportunities as well as enterprise vertical focus that 5G charging can provide, there is an opportunity for service providers to consider how best to evolve into such spaces. Tomorrow’s focus and revenue can be built upon today’s experiments if the right focal points and building blocks are in place.
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