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Press Release

Mobile Wallets Are the Piggy Banks of the Future

Mobile Wallets Are the Piggy Banks of the Future

Mobile Wallets Are the Piggy Banks of the Future

8th of October 2018

 

 

When was the last time you used paper money for anything? That thought crossed my mind as I was giving my daughter her weekly pocket money, in notes and coins of course.

As someone who’s worked for the last decade on mobile financial systems, the irony didn’t escape me. Why is it that I give my kids pocket money to instil the habits of budgeting and saving – that is, getting ready for the real world – but still provide them with physical money they store in the piggy bank their grandparents bought them?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach my children how to manage digital money, which I firmly believe is the future of all money?

I’d rather not open them a bank account or introduce them to the mobile wallets I use – I am not that modern a father. I want them to learn and have fun doing it, but I’d still like to view and control their activity. And I would like their relatives to be able to play a part, just as easily as they would have dropped a coin in their piggy bank.

It turns out that I am not the only one looking for an online digital piggy bank or, as we at Alepo call it, an e-piggy bank.

While savings accounts and even cryptocurrencies for kids have popped up recently, this use case, I believe, is still at an early stage of maturation. The e-piggy bank may very well turn into one of the more compelling ways of onboarding young families to mobile money systems. It has inherent value to consumers in both developed and developing economies. It complements the increasingly digital lifestyle that is evidenced by the growth in smartphone usage, not only among adults, for whom it is becoming virtually ubiquitous but also among children.

An e-piggy bank is an add-on service that mobile wallet platforms can offer to customers who have children.

It lets kids receive money from their parents, relatives, and friends, request money and create different wallets to save towards their chosen goals – all under parental supervision.

Parental supervision is essential to protect children from fraud and inappropriate spending, but also from a less obvious angle: regulatory.

In many countries, children’s accounts must be linked to a parent’s, and ultimately be owned by the parent, potentially with outward spending restricted to comply with KYC and AML regulations.

Given the complexity and feature richness required for such a solution, there are two questions.

Why should mobile money operators deploy such a solution, and how?

The why is simple: the mobile money landscape today is not the same as the one in which the likes of mPesa grew. It is a competitive landscape where customers in most countries have multiple options. Finding compelling use cases and unique differentiators are key to drive mobile money adoption and improve the ever-critical digital circulation ratio. Read my full post: Digital circulation ratio is the key to mobile money profitability.

The how is not as simple. An e-piggy bank needs to be easy to use, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to implement.

It may be difficult to implement on top of an existing mobile money system unless that system already has the inherent flexibility to deal with complicated nested business relationships and the ability to customize policies at each of those levels.

Further, it may be tough to build and tailor a platform that’s simple enough for a child (or a grandparent) to use. But a seamless user experience is crucial for an e-piggy bank to work.

I happen to work for a company that makes a mobile money solution, so I was able to put my thoughts into action. We want to help mobile money providers engage families and children safely and effectively. And as ulterior motives go, I’m hoping this also means my daughter will be able to get her own e-piggy bank soon.

For more information about the e-piggy bank feature as part of Alepo’s mobile money solution, reach us at mobile.money@alepo.com.

Pankaj Garg

Pankaj Garg

Product Owner, Mobile Financial Solutions

Pankaj Garg is a FinTech expert who is passionately engaged in managing mobile financial solutions at Alepo. Backed by over 12 years of experience in the software industry, he offers unique insight while designing solutions to match industry demands. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

High Circulation Ratio Is Key to Mobile Money Profitability – Here’s How to Improve It

High Circulation Ratio Is Key to Mobile Money Profitability – Here’s How to Improve It

High Circulation Ratio Is Key to Mobile Money Profitability – Here’s How to Improve It

14th of June 2018

Every day, the mobile money industry processes over $1 billion and generates direct revenues exceeding $2.4 billion yearly, according to GSMA’s 2017 State of the Industry report. In fact, mobile money transactions in Kenya have now exceeded the country’s gross domestic product according to estimates by ICTworks. No small feat for a platform introduced a little over a decade ago in the African nation where today, five operators coexist.

The poster child of mobile money success, Kenya demonstrates the massive scope for the platform as an enabler of economic growth. Mobile money has enabled financial inclusion of millions of people by empowering them with digital financial services.

Without taking away from its unparalleled success, it is important to note that mPESA – at the forefront of Kenya’s mobile money revolution – entered a largely unbanked market, with minimal competition, relied heavily on agents for transactions, and used first-generation, feature phones as the main conduit of transactions. Whether in the developed or developing world, few parallel examples remain. Today, operators must organically build complex and varied ecosystems to attract money into the platform and creating incentives to remain in the system.

The key measure of how useful money is within a given mobile money ecosystem is the digital circulation ratio. A measure of how many times money is transacted before being cashed out.

Simply put, increasing the digital circulation ratio involves increasing reasons to enter and stay in the system.

More options for the consumer

The most straightforward way of increasing the digital circulation ratio is to offer customers more ways to spend, giving them the incentive to use their mobile wallets more frequently for a variety of purposes. Traditional options like bill payments and money transfer remain significant, but there is also scope for more complex transactions. Some of these include:

  • Buying insurance plans
  • Mutual funds
  • Government subsidy distribution
  • Payments to enterprises (college fees, for instance)
  • Saving money (micro savings)
  • Microloans

Using a mobile money platform helps people build their credit scores, making them eligible for microloans through financial institutions. The score is calculated based on the transaction type, history, transaction value, location, services used, frequency of use, and so on.

Extending services to merchants, enterprises

GSMA states that in 2017, digital circulation averaged 1.6x. However, deployments that successfully scale merchant payments have a ratio closer to 4x. Further, the most successful providers are those whose platforms offer a vast payments ecosystem; each one, on average, is integrated with seven banks, at least 90 billers and 30 organizations for bulk disbursements, and 6,500 merchants.

It is business to business (B2B) and business to business to consumer (B2B2C) models that are fundamental to this success. These capabilities help expand the available vectors into the system, while providing more reasons for them to remain within. Some of these include:

  • Retailer payments to suppliers: Suppliers now become part of the system by virtue of receiving payments.
  • Supplier payments to enterprise: By having the option of making payments through the platform, the suppliers remain within the system instead of cashing out once they receive payments.
  • Enterprises disbursing promotional cashbacks or employee salaries: Now, the enterprise has reason to continue using its money through the system.

Building such business lines requires high flexibility, not only to create different rules and policies for each business line, but also to provide business entities with internal autonomy. Flexibility provides capability, but to turn it into opportunity, the vital factor is trust. Thankfully, trust can be mediated using private blockchain.

The potential of blockchain

In creating a more diverse and complex ecosystem, it is essential to bring in major partners such as government agencies, large corporations, non-profits, and various other entities – all of which must command trust. How is trust between various entities facilitated? The answer is blockchain, where a tamper-proof ledger of all financial transactions is maintained by and shared between selected partners.

At Alepo, we strongly believe that the ability to easily roll out blockchains to partners could be a game-changer. While fully decentralized blockchain-based mobile money systems have limited appeal owing to lengthy transaction times and increased costs, private blockchains can help to create highly regulated and trustworthy relationships between various major entities that participate in the ecosystem. In such an environment, the blockchain ledger is only shared with select third parties and is opaque to other participants in the system.

Diversity and innovation are the future

Mobile money systems need to create opportunities at every level and build their own ecologies, rather than relying on tapping into societal and/or economic factors. They need to have advanced partner and business channel management, flexibility in how these channels are monetized, as well as capabilities to monetize customer data itself through innovative services such as microloans. As the systems become more diverse and complex, there is a diversity in monetization methods that can be employed – analytics, advertising, revenue-share models, and more. For the success of any system, it is crucial to choose a platform that can support different business models and multilayer disbursements.

 

mobile money profitability

A varied ecosystem can drive up the circulation ratio

Pankaj Garg

Pankaj Garg

Product Owner, Mobile Financial Solutions

Pankaj Garg is a FinTech expert who is passionately engaged in managing mobile financial solutions at Alepo. Backed by over 12 years of experience in the software industry, he offers unique insight while designing solutions to match industry demands. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

Why ISP’s Need Data Monetization

Why ISP’s Need Data Monetization

Why ISP's Need Data Monetization

15th of November 2018

The Way Things Were, Is the Way Things Are.

Even as mobile plans continue to evolve and become increasingly more unique, the majority of internet service providers (ISPs) in the world are still offering the same plans they were offering 20 years ago: flat-rate, monthly plans with a specific QoS (bandwidth speed) and unlimited data. ISP offers are simple because that is what customers have traditionally demanded from ISPs. The customers seem happy with what they are receiving, and ISPs don’t see any reason to fix what isn’t broken.

Or Are They?

However, internet usage has changed, as the adoption of streaming and other over-the-top (OTT) apps continue to increase. Gone are the days of simple browsing. Internet usage has become a bandwidth-straining practice encompassing a wide range of OTT apps including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and many more. This diverse, but consistently draining usage can create a strain on provider networks, which may already find it challenging to distinguish themselves in a saturated marketplace. ISPs must now face the fact that their traditional offerings are no longer the best means of business. The flat rate plan that used to be a great deal for the provider, has now become a steal for the customers.

The Solution is Data Monetization

Through the use of a data monetization strategy, ISPs can address both issues at once by preserving network integrity through fine-grained plans that cater to customers’ exact needs as they arise. A data monetization platform gives ISPs the power to create a network where a broad selection of customer behaviors can be catered to precisely, meaning that data is used and rated as efficiently and profitably as possible.

The Key is Differentiation

Now, data monetization solutions aren’t for everyone. Data monetization isn’t just a simple change, but rather an entirely new way of doing business for ISPs. Data monetization is for ISPs who are looking to differentiate themselves in a shifting marketplace by offering advanced business plans to combat the ever-increasing data use, innovating, and providing more customer-focused offers to retain and grow their customer base.

We’ve put together a list of some of the top game-changing data monetization use cases for ISPs.

A la Carte

Give customers complete control over their data use. Instead of offering massive “all you can eat” plans that drain customers’ wallets and over serve their data appetites, give them an “a la carte” option instead. Customers can choose to only pay for the exact data they use, the specific applications they want to use, the times of day they want to use them, and the speeds they need. By allowing customers to choose what’s best for them, you are ensuring that valuable bandwidth isn’t being wasted on grandma’s emails. With a la carte options, customers have the complete freedom to design, purchase and activate data allowances for their exact needs.

Zero-Rating

Differentiate yourself by offering plans with subscriptions to certain apps or websites that don’t impact the user’s overall data usage. For example, with a monthly 2GB plan, subscribers receive free access for up to 1GB of data for the website or app of their choice. Or, incentivize usage during off-peak times by offering things like free gaming after 10 pm. Form partnerships with apps or websites to provide this service for free, or at a lower cost. This can be a huge incentive for customers to choose you instead of the competitors. Many operators today are buying and building their own content. So, use zero-rating for your own applications and platforms, as a way to incentivize their use.

Turbo Boost

Let customers increase their speed instantly with bandwidth on demand. An increase in speed, or a turbo boost, comes at a small fee when they need the extra bandwidth.This can be a huge benefit for customers who typically subscribe to a lower bandwidth speed, but occasionally need the boost in speed to stream a movie or video chat with their family across the country.

Parental Control

Allow parents to have more control over their children’s internet use. Give parents the ability to restrict certain websites or applications, limit the times of day that child users can be on the internet, and limit the amount of data a child uses.

Happy Hours

Give a usage discount or a speed boost on special days, times or anniversaries. Happy Hours are a great way to incentivize data use during off-peak hours, decreasing the congestion peak times. Or, make customers feel special with a promotion on their birthdays or anniversaries, or on special days or holidays, giving customers a temporary higher bandwidth speed and/or a discount on data usage.

Think you’re ready to take the data monetization plunge and to truly differentiate yourself in the shifting marketplace? Read more about how you can, in the Alepo Solution Brief: Empowering the Internet Service Provider with Alepo Data Monetization!

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Partner and Sales Director

Ryan is intrigued by where telecommunications will go in the next few years. As a Partner and Sales Director, she’s been exposed to many aspects of the industry in different technologies and markets. When she’s not speaking in telecom acronyms, you can find her traveling the world, skiing the Colorado Rockies or doing DIY projects on her home.

Native WiFi Calling Gaining Ground on OTT Calling

Native WiFi Calling Gaining Ground on OTT Calling

Native WiFi Calling Gaining Ground on OTT Calling

15th of November 2018

Making calls over WiFi is no new thing to us. It’s hard to even remember the days before online video and chat OTT services like Skype and WhatsApp. However, what was once an experience distinct from cell phone calling, requiring separate software and logins is now becoming integrated into standard cellular service, altering how people make their WiFi calls.

The Early Days of Native VoWiFi

Apple’s iPhone started the change. When FaceTime launched 7 years ago, the shift started to happen almost overnight. Like iMessage, if you were connected to WiFi, you could make FaceTime video and voice calls without using your cellular data or voice plan. The benefit to subscribers was immense, considering most people spend the majority of their time connected to WiFi. The only disadvantage of FaceTime and iMessage? It only worked between Apple devices.

Today’s Native VoWiFi

Fast forward to today. Now, calls can be made over WiFi to any other device, be it another cell phone or a landline, just by calling as you would for any call through the device’s native dialer. What does this mean? Gone are the days of WiFi calling’s dependence on OTT apps or the need to have an Apple device! For operators, instead of a threat, WiFi calling actually presents a unique opportunity for real innovation. Plus, if operators implement VoLTE, this offers users a truly seamless handoff from cellular to WiFi calls, presenting an extra incentive to not use OTT apps, as they can remain mobile, even when calls began over WiFi.

Native WiFi Calling vs OTT WiFi Calling

OTT (over-the-top) VoIP WiFi calling is a cloud-based service that requires a separate client and typically does not allow for mobility. Carrier WiFi calling, on the other hand, is integrated with the mobile carrier’s network, uses the native dialer on the handset, and is generally an extension of the mobile subscription plan, and typically includes a seamless mobile experience.

 Native WiFi CallingOTT WiFi Calling
DescriptionUsers’ devices directly access IMS networks to perform voice services with few changes in the core network. Calls will glide from cellular to WiFi and back again without any interruption in service.This is similar to what Skype calling or a voice call over WhatsApp offers, which works great until you leave the WiFi hotspot. Calls will drop as soon as you are out of WiFi range. It is unavoidable for calls to drop since there is no seamless handoff from cellular to WiFi.
Advantages
  • Unified dialing/message interface. No need to fire up a third party app.

  • Voice service continuity can be achieved utilizing the same phone number (seamless handoff).

  • Same QoS maintained as that in VoLTE.

  • Easy set up on the user’s device (just turn on WiFi calling option).

  • Only IMS network remodeling required.
  • Easy to deploy, no IMS or additional network infrastructure necessary

  • From a user's perspective, all he/she needs to do is download the app, register and it’s ready to go.
Limitations
  • An ePDG needs to be in place.

  • Limited user devices support WiFi calling, currently the latest models of iPhone, Samsung, LG, HTC to name a few (this list is naturally going to get bigger over the time)
  • Not a carrier-class voice solution, thus less reliable.

  • Lack of service support

  • QoS not guaranteed (no ownership of customer experience).

  • No general and regulatory services provided. (i.e. Emergency calls).

  • No standards defined.

Native WiFi Calling Benefits

Overall, native WiFi calling can be a win-win solution for both subscribers and operators. According to an Ericsson Consumer Lab study1, the key reasons users are interested in native WiFi calling are those shown in the chart below. Users value the fact that they do not need to download any extra apps or perform any additional logins. They also appreciate that their VoLTE calls get seamlessly handed over once they come in the range of WiFi, and vice versa. But, the bigger drivers are extended coverage and eliminated roaming charges. Gone are the days of going out on the back patio to get a better signal because the inside of your house is a dead zone. Or avoiding calls while traveling abroad for fear of the massive roaming charges you might rack up.  For carriers, these subscriber benefits correspond with distinct business gains, such as reduced CAPEX and OPEX, new revenue streams, competitive advantage, improved customer experience, increased international service, improved quality of experience, and first-mover advantage.

Voip wifi calling

Figure 1: Why Users Find WiFi Calling Appealing

Conclusion: Watch Your Back, OTT!

With all the benefits of native WiFi calling, it’s easy to see why OTT apps are losing their stronghold on the WiFi calling market. It will be interesting to see how the OTT market changes over the next few years to try to remain competitive and relevant!

Learn more about WiFi calling with Alepo’s white paper.

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Partner and Sales Director

Ryan is intrigued by where telecommunications will go in the next few years. As a Partner and Sales Director, she’s been exposed to many aspects of the industry in different technologies and markets. When she’s not speaking in telecom acronyms, you can find her traveling the world, skiing the Colorado Rockies or doing DIY projects on her home.

WiFi Calling vs. WiFi Offload

WiFi Calling vs. WiFi Offload

WiFi Calling vs. WiFi Offload

15th of November 2018

While on a call the other day, it occurred to me that even highly knowledgeable people in the telecommunications industry have a difficult time deciphering the differences between WiFi calling and WiFi offload. The two types of technology are both constantly talked about, and often in relation with one another, but somewhere along the way, the defining line of what distinguishes them has become blurred. I’ll try to clear up this confusion so that you can make clearer decisions when the time comes for you to consider WiFi strategies. To start, let’s explore WiFi Offload…

The (Abbreviated) Origins of WiFi Offload

Years ago, the industry was hit with a pair of realizations: 1) the current cellular infrastructure wasn’t going to be able to handle rapidly growing data usage and 2) WiFi is a much cheaper and easier network to build than cellular. So, the solution of utilizing WiFi to handle cellular traffic was born.

So, Just What is WiFi Offload?

Getting slightly technical, WiFi Offload uses EAP-SIM/AKA technology, to automatically “offload” cellular users onto a recognized WiFi network as soon as they come in the range of the hotspot. Offload is as straightforward as it sounds. The EAP-SIM/AKA authentication compares the SIM information in a user’s phone to the information in the mobile provider’s home subscriber server (HSS). If the SIM credentials match, it kicks a user off of the cellular network and puts them on the WiFi network, without any action from the end user. The experience is seamless for the user and they shouldn’t even notice that their phone has been offloaded onto WiFi. This is similar to the way that your phone automatically connects when you come within range of your home WiFi. The difference is that the user is automatically offloaded onto hotspots they have never connected with before, and there is no need to enter a password or key.

Why Mobile Network Operators are Interested

Offload helps operators ease network congestion and improve the quality of service their customers receive in high-density areas. Often, operators will put hotspots in crowded public locations, like a stadium or downtown area, where network congestion is high. Operators can also “expand” their network coverage, installing hotspots in areas with poor cellular coverage, instead of installing a microcell. The main benefit here? WiFi is MUCH cheaper.

If those benefits weren’t enough, operators can form partnerships with other businesses/ISPs/MNOs in the area, or worldwide, to let their subscribers automatically offload onto the business/ISP/MNO WiFi networks as well. The advantage here is that operators can expand their network without making any investment in hardware. Plus, they can gain revenue by letting other operators’ customers roam onto their WiFi network.

Depending on their business model, operators utilizing WiFi Offload can either continue to charge customers at the same rate they would for cellular data or provide WiFi access free of charge. Regardless of charging models, operators and customers gain significantly from utilizing WiFi Offload.

Operator Gains:

  1. Free up space on the cellular network, especially useful in high density/congested areas
  2. Provide a higher-quality of service (QoS) to all users
  3. Form partnerships to expand their network coverage without investing a dime in hardware

Customer Benefits:

  1. Save cellular data if their operator doesn’t charge them for the WiFi use
  2. A boost in QoS makes streaming movies and video chatting much better, and customers won’t experience the frustration of not being able to send a Snapchat or post to Instagram when they’re at the biggest football match of the season.
  3. Say goodbye to dead zones! Customers will love the increase in coverage locally and/or worldwide.

So, What’s WiFi Calling?

WiFi calling is related to offload, but not quite the same. So, now you have a network of WiFi hotspots around the city, and you are offloading users onto it. Great! Now the issue is, how will a user choose to make a call?

The Rise of OTT Apps

Traditional mobile phones could only make calls on voice networks (2G and 3G). To fill this void, OTT apps like Skype and Whatsapp hit the market with high-quality calling and messaging enabled over any data connection, LTE or WiFi. Operators then started to see a huge decline in the revenue they used to get from voice calling and text messaging. Users realized that they could save their minutes and messages by simply calling and messaging with their OTT apps. Operators were forced to focus on data as their key service offering. Finally, voice over LTE (VoLTE) was introduced and calls could be made over a data connection. But, calls still couldn’t be made on WiFi. But it was only a matter of time. Today, all new phones hitting the market are WiFi calling enabled too, meaning a user can make a call on WiFi with their phone, without using an OTT app. This is often referred to as VoWiFi. But, native VoWiFi calls (not through an OTT app) will not work on a WiFi calling enabled smartphone unless the operator makes the required changes in their network. This is what a WiFi calling solution provides. So, until the operator changes out their network, their users will have to use an OTT app to make VoWiFi calls.

The Fall of OTT Apps

The time has finally come for operators to take back what they have lost from OTT apps. When an operator has a network that supports both VoLTE and VoWiFi, they can provide a seamless experience to their users. So, when a user is on a WiFi call and they move out of range of the WiFi hotspot, the call is seamlessly connected to the LTE signal and the call can continue uninterrupted, and vice versa if they come back into range of a hotspot. Because all new handsets are WiFi calling enabled, this functionality is going to become progressively important as calls are increasingly made on a WiFi or VoLTE connection, as opposed to the traditional voice networks. The fact that operators are already decommissioning their 2G and 3G networks is an indication that all calls in the future will be on LTE data, which is going to increase the need for seamless VoLTE to VoWiFi calling.

Why Mobile Network Operators are Interested

The key benefits of WiFi calling for operators:

  1. Combat OTT apps and gain back lost revenue
  2. Provide a better, controlled QoS compared to OTT apps
  3. Provide benefits to subscribers. Happy subscribers = loyal subscribers!

The key benefits of WiFi calling for users:

  1. Simplicity! No need for an app. Just call straight from your phone’s native dialer.
  2. Calling over WiFi doesn’t use up talk time minutes
  3. WiFi calls don’t waste LTE data!
  4. WiFi often has a much higher-quality and a clearer sound

Conclusion

So, while WiFi Offload and WiFi calling are distinct, they both provide benefits to operators willing to shift their network to support calling over WiFi. While offload is designed as a dynamic solution to congestion and limited coverage, WiFi calling provides an opportunity for customers to originate calls over WiFi, not just get offloaded when the cellular network falls short. This gives customers and operators the opportunity to preserve cellular network integrity, and offer higher-quality calls at a lower price. To combat OTT apps and increase customer satisfaction, WiFi Offload and calling present the perfect opportunity to increase revenue and quality of service in a highly competitive market with plateauing or falling profits.

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Partner and Sales Director

Ryan is intrigued by where telecommunications will go in the next few years. As a Partner and Sales Director, she’s been exposed to many aspects of the industry in different technologies and markets. When she’s not speaking in telecom acronyms, you can find her traveling the world, skiing the Colorado Rockies or doing DIY projects on her home.

Delivering Service Innovation with Convergent Billing and Charging

Delivering Service Innovation with Convergent Billing and Charging

Delivering Service Innovation with Convergent Billing and Charging

15th of November 2018

For telecom operators, fixed line services were the only source of generating revenue in the past. Since then, the industry has taken great strides, with operators developing various innovative services that have empowered customers to look beyond voice and SMS and explore streaming video, maps, music, and many more data applications.

The opportunities created for customers have enabled telecom operators to plunge into new services. Today, quality customer experience plays a big hand in generating revenues. In this customer-centric era, telecom operators are driven to promote timely personalized offers and deals at attractive price ranges to cater to customer needs.

With the rise of service offerings, operators are facing tremendous pressure on their billing platform. The need to enhance the capabilities of the BSS system has become as significant as improving network capacity from time to time.

Why should telecom operators upgrade their billing system?

Telecom operators have put billing systems on the front burner for driving initiative to capture revenue and reduce costs. What telecom operators need at this hour is a BSS system that can fulfill the evolving needs of customers.

There are many communication product opportunities resulting in a complex blend of mobile and fixed offerings apart from applications, entertainment, and value-added services. This has only complicated the billing process. Flat-rate pricing has taken the backseat with flexible and creative pricing emerging as a strategic differentiator for telecom operators. The increasing price complexity has in turn driven operators to augment BSS systems with more capabilities for handling billing and charging complexities.

Even though there is a great demand for mobile data services, operators fail to earn good revenues from these services. New charging models not only make it a requisite to redefine rating rules, but also promotes BSS systems with robust capabilities to support the ever-growing event data records.

The pricing models for prepaid and postpaid services pose another challenge for the telecom operators. With different systems driving the rating and charging of these services, operators realize the need for a convergent platform to conquer the expensive and complicated process. Take pre-paid and post-paid billing for instance; there are two different systems driving the pre-paid and post-paid billing services. Telecom operators face challenges while using different systems for different network services and also when legacy systems do not support the launch of new charging models.

There is also the dire need to hasten time-to-market when it comes to new services with the objective to gain competitive advantage. These challenges entail a convergent billing platform that lays the foundation for improved customer experience, faster reaction to market changes and reduction in operating costs.

Are there any challenges?

Though convergent billing systems provide answers by turning a single invoice to a combination of customer charges, implementing this system comes with its own set of challenges. The litmus test comes when there is a need to create an agile and dynamic architecture aimed at sustaining the ever-growing and evolving telecom business to integrate into legacy infrastructure.

With increasing transactions day to day, the pressure on the single platform could pave the way for problems. If there is a single point of failure it could cause a delay in charging a customer or disallow customers from using such services. A spike in transactions could put too much pressure on the single billing and charging system due to which customer service can take a beating. This potential damage caused by immense pressure on the platform can also translate into revenue losses for the telecom operators.

With the right planning and modern architecture in place, such challenges can be mitigated and turned into opportunities.

Why make a move to customer-centric convergent billing system?

Today, customers are at the core of telecom operations making them the dominant partner in their relationship with telecom operators. The days of providing fixed line services and raising a single invoice for customers are at an end. Triggered by evolving consumer demands, more business partners have joined hands with telecom operators, like content providers and resellers to generate one bill for multiple services. Customers subscribing to services also see it as a way to procure additional content.

In this scenario, a convergent billing system must adopt a customer-centric approach by allowing operators to create convergent offers and promote personalized services. The system must allow telecom operators to create a bundle of services and cater to the specific needs of customers.

What makes up for the ‘ultimate’ convergent billing system?

Telecom operators must look for the following salient features that make up for the ultimate convergent billing system.

Real-time charging

Real-time charging is key to any prepaid/postpaid convergent system, as it’s necessary to enforce not only prepaid plans but also any intelligent postpaid plan, with dynamic rates or caps. The ideal convergent billing system is the one that allows consumers to keep a tab on their usage. By sending real-time alerts to customers, the system not only alerts customers about their usage limits but also recommends better plans. In short, robust convergent billing systems ensure consumers take control over end-to-end real-time services.

Integration with other systems

The real worth of the convergent billing system is evident when it is integrated with legacy systems. This can be achieved by leveraging open interfaces and Service Oriented Architectures that help reduce the complexities resulting from the integration. Also, the key to ensuring integration success is a vendor with a strong history of successfully integrating with a wide range of systems.

Support for an array of business models

Business models evolve with time. In the past, telecom operators billed business customers and expanded their services to cover individual customers. Initially, telecom operators reached out to consumers through direct selling and later ramified their operations by joining hands with resellers. With business models evolving, convergent BSS systems must adapt to emerging business models embraced by telecom operators.

Rapid time-to-market

Existing billing systems fail to support modern products while time becomes a constraint in configuring individual products. The systems also lack the ability to promote product/offer definitions as well as rating/changing scenario definitions. The ideal convergent billing system must ensure new services are implemented quickly and easily.

Allow new charging models to be added

Data service usage has reached a new high. For telecom operators, this translates to an increase in network capacity investments as well as maintenance rather than an increase in revenues. An ideal convergent billing system must make it easy for telecom operators to personalize tariffs and services to customers, distinguish service types and add new charging models.

Allow convergence on many levels

Multi-level convergence allows providers to invoice customers in a way that makes sense to them. Multiple services, pre- and post-paid can all be invoiced to a single account, or divided into sub-accounts. This eases confusion on behalf of the customer–the services they’re receiving and value they’re getting is clear, on the page, and all interactions with the company reflect this shared balance and account.

Robust and scalable system

Reliable service delivery is the key to ensuring customer satisfaction. A modern convergent billing system must be robust and scalable to recover resiliently when a problem arises, without creating a dent in service revenues. In order to respond to market shifts quickly with a rapid expansion of service offerings, the system must be capable of handling a breadth of transactions and ensure the security of system and data.

Like the emphasis on customer service driving changes in the telecom industry, changes in customer data toward convergent and personalized offers is creating a paradigm shift in the way customers are billed. From leveraging the promise of data to cutting costs and generating revenue, convergent billing and charging systems have become requisites for telecom operators to thrive in the market as it exists today, as well as how it will evolve into the future.

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Director, Innovations

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.