Home > Business Idea, Future Business Ideas > Redesigning Telco Assets: Billing

Redesigning Telco Assets: Billing

This post is part of a series that focuses on new ideas for existing telco assets. See also: numbering planscall routing and caller privacy.

The telecom industry is known for having some of the most complex billing, rating and mediation solutions. Prepaid, post-paid, events, fixed with overage,  discounts, real-time, etc. The problem is that billing and services have been extremely tightly integrated with the network. Most of the more obscure network elements and telecom protocols include CDRs, tariff plans, SMS and even MMS as hard-coded elements that can not be separated from the control or user data. The end result is unnecessary complexity.

Divide and conquer

Too many times billing systems need to be connected at extremely low-levels in the network. Additionally billing systems have become toolkits that come close to programming environments in features and complexities. Billing solution providers have focused on adding features to win RFPs instead of making their solutions easy to manage and integrate.

To introduce new services quicker, billing will have to be moved outside of the network. Networks should produce usage data but in a generic format, not service specific. It is each service that defines its own metering and  billing strategy, ideally based on some common metering & billing framework. This means that the configuration of the billing system only focuses on bundling and discounting and not on service-level billing. Each service configures its own metering & billing and as such less integrations and customizations are needed to a central billing authority. Thousands of services can be launched without needing months of integrations and customizations.

New features

New features could be added to give more future to existing services. Examples could be:

Inside call billing events, whereby similar to in-app-billing one of the two parties is able to do and accept transactions while talking. This would enable a lot more premium services, e.g. support in which you pay if the issue is resolved, donations to non-profit organizations inside a phone call, etc.

During call bill direction reversal, caller pays until the one being called accepts to start paying and even pay a premium.  Usage examples could be proactive premium services that call subscribers and get their authorization to start paying premium charges (or risk being blocked). This allows for try before you buy type of businesses.

Micro-payments or subscriptions, allows subscriptions to services that only cost €0.05/month or €0.01/event. Apple and others are enjoying a juicy revenue share from in-app purchases but can not offer micro-amounts yet due to the high cost of credit card processing. Operators are still able to offer new services until disruptive players like Google Wallet, Paypal, Square, etc. take the market.

Revenue sharing calls, share the revenue of a call either for normal or premium calls on an ad-hoc basis. Similar to the premium call concept but without having to sign up to expensive premium numbers. This could be combined with smart numbering plans.

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  1. April 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm

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