Billing Systems – This is part 2 of previous post charging and billing system evolution. Idea of this blog post is discussion and exchanging knowledge only. All questions & answers / suggestions / comments to improve this post are welcome. This post comes from hand on experience experience in live environment, Lab work and reading from internet.
How billing systems took shape time after time. Telecom subscribers getting smarter (so it’s not only the handset which is getting smarter !!!), demanding more and more with less cost. At the same time many new players are entering the marketplace. To compete in this environment, operators have to maintain and grow their part of the new value chain to gain loyal customers. Adding new blended services to ride on infrastructure i.e investments made during all those time is the prime goal.
In today’s rapidly changing environment, service innovation and real-time capabilities are critical to maximizing revenue. Real-time convergent charging enables service innovation, allied to real-time control of debt exposure for more partner services and the ability to rate and bill on behalf of partners. Online and offline charging are integral capabilities of any MNO/MVN. Prepaid services always require online charging for real time service authorization, rating and balance management.
Postpaid services can use this online charging architecture for new service offerings. However, capitalizing on today’s tremendous opportunities can be challenging.
The convergent system has a centralized management of customer view, hierarchically stored product catalogue, flexible customized pricing options, freely assorted sub- and primary-account, facilitate and assure the marketing, customer care, and new business development. OCS enables easy shifting between pre-paid and post-paid, flexible service bundles and tariff packages aiming to different groups of customers that provides more promotion methods for the operators to exploit the market.
This new generation of charging solution greatly attracts customers through its distinguished and improved benefits, and reduces the customer churn ratio, thus greatly enhances the customer loyalty and puts the telecom market expansion on the right track.
The convergent and unified billing system enables customers to use all services at a time, and the customized price bundle caters well to customer needs at different levels.
Billing Systems – Journey
Year 1990 – The traditional offline charging system which only collects charging information after a service is rendered is unable to prevent the huge revenue loss caused by service overdraft.
Year 2000 – The IN-based prepaid system authenticates the user’s identity and checks the account balance before giving authorization to use the relative service; immediately deducts related fees from the user account; and terminates the service upon expiration of the user’s account balance.
Year 2007 – The OCS provides a unified online charging functions separated from all network elements (NEs) such as service control point (SCP), short message service (SMSC), and multimedia message service center (MMSC).
Year 2010 – A convergent billing is the integration of all service charges onto a single customer invoice and a unified view of the customer. Customer should call a call center and should get complete account information for all the services opted. Customer receives a single bill and makes a single payment for all the services.
Year 2020 – Very Likely we will see Network Charging System with too much of Artificial intelligence & data science capabilities. Evolution from charging system to charging network– There are an IMS network charging system and a method. The method includes: when a special charging identifier which indicates making charging processing is not present in the charging request received from a network element (NE).
NE Charging & Billing
Charging entity adds a special charging identifier to the charging response sent to the NE based on the charging policy. When a special charging identifier is present in the charging response, the NE adds the special charging identifier to the service request. There after this is sent to the subsequent NE or to the service response sent to the previous NE. When a special charging identifier is present, the subsequent NE and the previous NE determine whether send a charging request to the corresponding charging entity based on the special charging identifier and the charging policy.
By adding the special charging identifier to the service request sent to the subsequent NE or the service response sent to the previous NE; and after the corresponding charging entity identifies that a special charging identifier is present, it determines whether make charging processing based on the special charging identifier and the charging policy. Thus the repeated charging for the user service is avoided.
In convergent billing, charging technologies are going to be “Network Charging” as opposed to a “Charging System”. Network Charging is capable of being deployed as a standalone application or provide a foundation and evolution path for additional business requirements such as billing, invoicing, billing time discounts or re-rating, using the productized integration with Billing and Revenue Management. When the second generation OCS is deployed, the combined solution provides efficient data traffic management and revenue-generating opportunities to differentiate on personalized quality of service.
The integrated policy and charging solution is intelligently driven by customer knowledge and value enabled by the shared subscriber profile repository residing on the online charging system. The charging system originally forms part of the support network and can be regarded as a supporting platform for networks or services. In a converged environment, the charging system is unable to complete the entire charging process. Many network evolutions, however, are stimulated by changes in charging requirements.
Disclaimer – All credits if any remains on the original contributor only.
Books + Other readings Referred
- Open Internet
- Hands on experience in live environment
- Lab work & personal research @AILabPage
Conclusion : There’s no single answer to this without end-to-end architectural analysis. Let us open a discussion on this and build some intelligence around it. To date, the telecom industry has witnessed overwhelming success through commercial applications of the OCS. Operators from more than a dozen countries in Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa are integrating the OCS in their networks, and increasingly more are welcoming the product now its time to add other elements which are very crucial from future prospective to give new shape / definition to convergence. This is my own thought process on the basis of reading from google and work experience from last decade plus.
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