With 46 percent seeing this within three to four years, this is presumably more to do with the timescales for LTE roll out than the fact that operators do not see the need. Certainly LTE is the trigger for replacing systems. And the conclusion is that there is complete agreement that systems will be replaced. As we have said before, this conclusion complements other recent research from Infonetics which concludes that a wide spread replacement is about to take place.
One question is ‘what are they going to replace their systems with?’
According to the Openet research 95 percent of the operators they asked said either a real-time or online charging system (70 percent) or a convergent charging system (25 percent). Only five percent believe that another IN solution is the answer.
The other question is where the cloud sits in all of this. A much discussed question in the industry and an area where we are in danger of doing what we always do. When a new technology comes along, whether it be desktop publishing, e-billing or cloud based billing we tend to think that the world will migrate to that technology – exclusively. This, of course, never happens. What happens is that companies choose the best technology for the process in question.
This is amply re-enforced by Openet’s report. Only 17 percent of respondents believe that cloud based systems will be the whole solution – hosted either by the vendor or a Systems Integrator. This, coincidentally, is the same percentage as those who believe that everything will be kept in-house. The largest element thought that a mixture of cloud based and in-house solutions (37 percent) would be the answer. 29 percent (of presumably Tier One telcos) think that there will be a centralized cloud based solution that will support local operating companies. While this might provide the reduction in hardware investment and operating costs, there will need to be discussions about local requirements in terms of currency, tax and culture.
Having concluded that a widespread replacement of charging systems is underway, the final question must be how quickly will this happen. The answer is that the next four years are going to busy for real-time charging vendors, with 47 percent of operators seeing the replacement happening in the next two years and a further 40 percent in three to four years’ time.
The major driver for this seismic change is flexibility and reducing time to market. Operators believe that this can be addressed through integrating policy control with the real-time charging platform (73 percent), automating the process of making relevant offers to customers based on real-time analytics and intelligence (69 percent) and centralizing the offer process. Importantly, 79 percent believe that the ability to centralize the product catalogue is a vital goal for the next few years and in a multiple answer question, 77 percent believe that centralized convergent charging is the key. Even those operators who did not necessarily focus on centralization still believe that rapid deployment and avoiding having to go back to vendors for product development are critical success factors.
All in all, this report has crystallized a hugely important trend for the telecoms industry. While the discussions about the coming of real-time have been going on for some time, this report puts the timescales and priorities into clear perspective. Supposing that there are 500 operators in the world introducing LTE in the next few years, with 89 percent needing to replace systems it is about to get quite busy.
Download your copy of the full report here.