Billing - Embracing Next Generation Telecom Services
Telecommunication as a technology has never been so close to us than it is now. Every enhancement, innovation across any industry vertical leverages the power of telecommunication and this is just the beginning. Advancements in telecommunication and human desire to have control, have first-hand information on services and spend real time has moved the power in hands of end customers. More than ever, everyone involved in the value chain is now and will be willing to pay for the services and the benefits that they derive from it. This is making the industry invest in innovative solutions with user centricity, low cost and faster delivery as the main themes necessitating changes in the Telecom billing space.
Telecommunication is already witnessing change in form of Digitization, omni-channel experience, rich content being provided by various partners in form of various applications over the cloud. This is evident from the fact that we already have approximately 7 billion mobile connections, more than 100 billion app downloaded and 270 billion app downloads expected by 2017. This has enabled Telecom billing to be now realized sitting close the customers and is no longer viewed as a mere Back end system. The value chain of billing has expanded from End Customers, CSPs to include OTT players, 3rd Party partners providing innovative solutions and content.
Telecom billing applications traditionally have been focused on billing end customers i.e. retail or enterprises mostly in postpaid mode. However, aligning to the current trend there is a need for these applications to bill real time, provide real time alerts to end customers monitoring their spend, provide proactive recommendations to end customers by analyzing their usage and spend. The same billing applications now need to be extended to integrate on real time basis with OTT Players and 3rd Party providers for faster revenue settlements, reconciliations, settling any dispute and concerns to keep all the stakeholders happy. This along with the omni channel digitization that the end customers are looking for have necessitated billing applications to develop rich, reusable APIs, which had never been the focus of billing applications. These reusable APIs in time to come would be backbone of the billing applications when it comes to cloud.
In addendum to the ongoing wave are the next generation technological advancements enabling new services. Some of the technological advancements being LTE advanced/direct, VoLTE, NFV, SDN and convergence, both services and spectrum. Next Generation would be an era of new services (enabling direct device to device discovery and communication without latching to central network, enabling context specific dynamic network resource allocation), connecting new industries, and empowering new experience for everyone in the value chain. New services in the form of smarter cities; proximal and aware services for e.g. letting user know of the nearest healthcare; mission critical applications for e.g. monitoring power grid; autonomous vehicles; mobile broadband providing enhanced speed, security. All this is getting complemented with the advent of new devices, sensors, robotics etc.
Above would necessitate 2 big changes. First movement from "customer" to "user" centric approach. User would not only be end customers, but devices, sensors, networks, robots etc. Second, customer sitting at the edge of the value chain/network today would soon be seen as under the gamut of users and these users being an integral part of the value chain/network. Not only connectivity but content and computing is expected moving closer to this new user. We are soon to witness the true world of "Internet of Everything". Approx 25 billion devices are assumed to be interconnected by 2020. The services being rendered by and to this new user community is soon to fall under the umbrella of being billed/to bill. This would require telecom billing applications to be architected afresh, configurable as much as possible supporting new charging models real time supporting growing "user" community. Telecom Billing applications would need to stretch to provide multi industry support, industry specific policy management, service specific and agnostic charging, OTA (over the air) and NFC (Near Field Communication) payments. Some of the new charging models serving new users could be: Dynamic intelligent pricing based on the time and load, context and priority based, content and priority based, value based etc. This new user community creating volumes, charging models, partner trust as never seen before would stretch Telecom billing applications envelop on lines of Scalability, reliability, security and performance.
Cost has been and will always be one of the major driving factors or should we say "low cost". All services, innovations, automations being done on one hand is to provide a fresh set of services would need to ensure that the cost remains low and affordable. The new user value chain would soon be on the two sides of the same coin i.e. being billed and capable of billing. This is driving and would drive telecom billing applications to be made available as a Service, enabled on cloud/premise, shall we say: "Billing as a Service" necessitating the telecom billing applications to evolve themselves on security, access management and stringent KPIs. In addendum to cloud, to keep costs low, Users are looking at convergence, adopting different strategies i.e. convergence of billing applications across countries, service lines (triple, quad play), and customer segments (retail, enterprise). Telecom Billing Applications would need to be enhanced to handle such varying convergence strategies providing agility, flexibility and scalability.
Telecom billing applications would need to be enhanced, architected to handle the next generations and changing market dynamics especially in light of LTE Advanced, Internet of Everything and Cloud.