Stretching the limits: mediation's mission expands

Dan Baker, Dittberner
15 Apr 2007

It would be difficult to overstate the role that mediation software plays in the world of telecom. Today, it's nothing less than the lifeblood of billing and charging - and a slew of other upstream systems like fraud detection, interconnect payables, traffic analysis and even security.

Yet mediation wasn't always a 'high profile' technology. For years mediation was an easily forgotten component in a carrier's OSS/BSS. In circuit-based networks, mediation was relegated to mundane task of collecting usage information and feeding call detail records (CDRs) to downstream apps such as billing and fraud.

Mediation got more exciting when IP networks arrived. With IP, the once monolithic circuit switch was now broken up into functional components: gateways, controllers, application servers. So the information needed to bill and analyze usage was no longer coming from one network element. Mediation was needed to correlate events across multiple elements and convert them to a billing-friendly IPDR.

Perhaps mediation's biggest leap forward occurred when advanced wireless networks arrived. In a 3G network today, mediation often acts as the central 'service control supervisor' of the network - managing access to services, monitoring prepaid money balances and postpaid credit limits.

Today's mediation pioneers are stretching the limits of mediation's mission even further: managing content services, settling with carrier partners, controlling interactive games, and helping telcos optimize revenue and network utilization.

The drive to a single platform

Convergent mediation is the merging of voice, data and content services on a single mediation platform - and it's an important trend for 3G operators.

But at first glance, you may ask: 'Since mediation systems are adept at translating and aggregating data from many different usage streams, why is it necessary to move to single converged mediation platform‾'

That objection makes perfect sense, except for one thing - operators have discovered that from a revenue assurance and marketing standpoint, it's better to have usage consolidated in one system. And it becomes almost necessary when you're doing real-time correlation of events.
Let suppose that we trying to track and bill for the usage of Andy, who's using a 3G phone to do a combination of Web surfing, phone calling and music downloads. Here are the events:

- Andy picks up his 3G phone to initiate his billing session
- He first calls his friend Denise, but her line is busy. (1st voice call billing event)
- Without terminating the session, Andy begins WAP surf the internet (WAP billing event)
- While surfing, Andy finds some music which he downloads (content billing event)
- Andy interrupts his surfing to call Denise again (2nd voice call billing event)

Okay, let's look at what's happened. From a telecom usage standpoint, four consecutive events occurred in one mediation session: a phone call, an internet session, a content download and a second phone call.

But from Andy's standpoint as a consumer, these events are all knitted together. Andy doesn't care if it's voice or data usage. To him, the handset was simply used for 5 minutes for a combination of things.

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