Eitan Elkin, product marketing manager for the Revenue Management business unit at Amdocs, explains how online charging systems can introduce badly needed real-time capabilities, and how virtualization will provide extra agility and flexibility
Billing Insights: What is the key attraction of an online charging system?
Eitan Elkin: The key attraction is the fact that it is in real-time. With the changes in the charging market - the fact that modern communication is always in real-time, with everyone wanting immediate response to every need - you need a system which will drive your online monetization. In the past, only prepaid subscribers were handled by real-time charging systems and that was only because communication service providers (CSPs) were afraid of monetary exposure. Today, postpaid subscribers enjoy real-time notification on their usage consumption - whether because of regulatory pressure (‘bill shock prevention’ in the EU) or the CSP’s need to differentiate and better the service to data-plan users. It is the real-time response and operation of the OCS which makes the difference.
Why are service providers now looking closely at this?
If we make a rough distinction between legacy systems and modern charging ones, we can look at two domains. The first one is the legacy prepaid systems that were part of the network or engineering domain. Those were IN based systems - they were real-time but simplistic. The flip side of the coin was the IT-based offline or batch billing systems which catered to the postpaid subscriber base. These were separated and everyone was happy. These days the demands are different in terms of regulatory and market needs. To allow things like real-time notification for postpaid subscribes when they reach a consumption threshold when roaming (whether self-set thresholds or regulatory ones) you need real-time. If you want to have things like hybrid family plans (e.g. parents are postpaid, kids are prepaid) you need an OCS which is both real-time and convergent. The legacy systems do not allow this, with many of the IN based ones getting too old and reaching their end-of-life. Hence, they need replacing with a modern real-time, convergent charging system.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of OCS compared to current charging systems?
The modern OCSs, such as Amdocs’, are fully convergent, flexible real-time systems. They can support all lines-of-business (wireline, wireless, pay TV, broadband, etc) on a single system, which opens up a multitude of possibilities in interesting marketing bundles with true cross-LoB discounts (‘for every pay-per-view you order this weekend, we’ll grant you 100MB on your data plan’), the ability to support all the access technologies, from SS7 to IMS-based LTE, and big savings in both opex and capex.
The legacy systems, as I said, are separated. Usually, the prepaid and postpaid systems are totally different, run by different organizations. Each LoB has a different silo, so true bundles are hard to implement. The end customer gets different bills and the time to market of a new plan or offering is slow since it’s cumbersome to actually push something that spans more than one system or to respond to new technologies.