It’s fair to say that LTE is now mainstream. Six years after the initial launch, there are now over 400 active LTE networks with this figure set to increase to 450 by the end of 2015. LTE is not only bringing faster speeds to customers, it’s also increasing the rate that operators are innovating. With 3G we had ‘all you can eat data’ and the odd service pass and that was about it. With LTE we’ve seen shared data, service bundling with content services, more personalised offers direct to the device, application service passes, the emergence of digital lifestyle services and the start of innovative pricing models such as sponsored data – to name but a few.
However, operators are not innovating just to be different and compete with the mobile phone company across the street. It’s a matter of survival. With competition coming from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and a host of other agile digital service provider companies, mobile operators need to be able to get products to market as quick as these companies, need to have the agility to seize new revenue streams and provide the best customer experience possible.
And they’re not going to do this if they’re hamstrung with legacy BSS that were designed only for traditional circuit switched voice and texting services.
We’re already seeing many operators deploy centralised OCS (online charging system) for real-time charging for all data services and passing a rated data usage to the existing billing system to cater for post pay customers. This approach makes sense as circuit switched voice and texting is still around and will be so for a good time yet. This way operators can use their legacy billing systems for the purpose they were intended for and take an adjunct approach for real-time data charging and cater for new IMS services such as VoLTE, VoWiFi as well as data services.
For pre-paid customers (which make up the majority of mobile consumers worldwide) charging was typically carried out in the IN platform. LTE will lead to the introduction of the IMS and the functionality of IN services, particularly call control and prepaid charging, must be carried forward in the IMS domain, something which existing IN systems are incapable of supporting, which is a bit of a problem. However, there are many existing services that IN does support – such as circuit switched voice – and as long as the operator provides them, then they need to be charged for – but not as part of a legacy platform that doesn’t provide the capabilities operators need for LTE. Many existing IN platforms are now reaching end of life and operators are looking to replace them. However, service control must be an integral part of the IN replacement solution if the functionality of policy/online charging is to be fully exploited for all customers for all services. IN replacements should continue to support legacy 2G/3G networks and their subscribers for the foreseeable future – at least for the next five to seven years – as near-total migration to LTE and IMS will take at least that long. This is why Openet has teamed up with Opencloud to provide an IN replacement solution that caters for circuit switched and IMS traffic. This approach gives operators the BSS platform to have the flexibility and agility that real-time charging enables, for all customers for all services and take advantage of the innovation that LTE is driving.
Click here to download the Ovum white paper: Updating IN services for LTE – Developing next generation BSS for IP Networks
Jon Ross, GVP, Product and Solution Management