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How Real-Time Convergent Billing, Policy, Self-Service, and Analytics are Changing the Future

  • June 2014
  • 12 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2171946

Summary

Table of Contents

The report also explains why Stratecast believes the AsiaInfo billing solution suite is changing the competitive landscape for the CSPs that use its solution to monetize the advanced service offerings their customers are growing to love.

Introduction

In the communication service provider (CSP) billing world, “real-time” and “convergent” have been marketing buzzwords for many years. Recently, as real-time solutions and convergent applications have become the norm, a new marketing buzzword has arisen: “analytics,” particularly when bandied about with that other buzz phrase, “big data.”
Most readers are undoubtedly familiar with these terms. In simple language, real-time means whatever action is needed happens without delay; the action happens immediately. Real-time billing entails rating & charging and adjusting appropriate balances, along with a myriad of other activities, as the service is consumed. Convergent applications equate to one application covering multiple domains; where, in the past, separate solutions existed for each. The days of one billing solution for postpaid customers and one billing solution for prepaid customers, for example, are gone—or at least their days are numbered. These two descriptors, real-time and convergent, share a history. Prepaid billing requires real-time rating & charging, or, at the very least, near-real-time rating & charging; otherwise, customers would regularly consume more than they paid for. Convergent billing solutions that cover both prepaid and postpaid customers—one of many forms of convergence—require real-time processing.

The newer buzzword, analytics, is all about finding answers in data. The first question to ask with regard to analytics is: what data? The next query: what are the business problems to be addressed? Many approaches exist to answer these fundamental questions. The stereotypical big data analytics approach answers the first question with “all of it.” Gather all the data in one place; then, figure out how it ties together; and figure out what questions to ask. While this is an overly simplistic representation, big data analytics can yield important information. Another approach, which Stratecast terms purpose-built analytics, narrows the data that is examined, along with the questions that can be asked. With this narrowed focus, real-time answers quickly become possible. A very simple example may include looking at a stream of billable usage data and asking who is currently using Facebook on their smartphones.

Regardless of their buzzword status, real-time convergence combined with analytics is changing the future for both CSPs and the customers they serve. This report discusses how CSPs globally have embraced real-time convergent billing solutions; and the impact these solutions have on the customer experience, which ultimately translates to the bottom line. This report examines how one solution supplier, AsiaInfo, has moved beyond the buzzword stage to a solution suite that combines real-time convergent billing and policy, real-time self-service, and real-time purpose-built analytics. The report also explains why Stratecast believes the AsiaInfo billing solution suite is changing the competitive landscape for the CSPs that use its solution to monetize the advanced service offerings their customers are growing to love.

The CSP Billing and Policy Landscape

Stratecast has taken a deep dive into the changing communications marketplace, and evaluated the role of billing and policy management within the CSP business support system (BSS) operations. The examination of over global suppliers that offer a variety of billing, policy management, or combined solutions resulted in reports, released over the last months, along with two final reports to be released in the coming weeks. The functional relevance of these reports to each other and to end-to-end billing are summarized in Figure 1.

Key Insights into the CSP Billing and Policy Marketplace

The extensive Stratecast study of the CSP billing and policy marketplace3 includes a detailed survey and questionnaire sent to over global suppliers, and countless follow-up interviews with executives from these suppliers. This information, when compiled and digested, has led to a number of important conclusions that are especially relevant to this discussion, including:

- Real-Time, Convergent Billing Solutions are Essential – Real-time and convergent are no longer just marketing buzzwords, but rather, table stakes capabilities in the increasingly complex communications services marketplace. Many CSPs still use multiple billing systems, each for a particular “silo”—a non-real-time, postpaid billing solution and an IN-based, real-time, prepaid billing solution, for example. While these systems were once considered best-of-breed, they are aging, nearing their end-of-life, and now limit what types of services a CSP can offer its customers. Replacing such systems with a single solution is important in order
for CSPs to reduce operating costs, and to bring new complex service offerings to market.
A convergent billing solution must provide real-time processing to address both prepaid and postpaid payment types and, more importantly, to allow the CSP to offer innovative, policy-driven, real-time services that customers want. In addition, a convergent billing solution must now address a range of convergence types: payment methods (prepaid, postpaid, or hybrid); network technologies (fixed, IP, wireless, and others); and service types (voice, data, messaging, and video).
- Best-of-Breed Gives Way to Best-of-Suite – One of the advantages of regularly revisiting a topic is that it hones the ability to identify trends over time. Stratecast surveys the global supplier community, and publishes its billing and policy series every two years. In our 2009 series, best-of-breed solutions were deemed the most essential, only to be supplanted by best-of-suite solutions in 2011.5 Stratecast’s most recent survey results highlight the growing preference for best-of-suite solutions— percent deemed them essential, and percent as somewhat important. Perhaps even more illustrative: of the over one hundred suppliers Stratecast examined, suppliers offer end-to-end suites that cover all major billing functions—up from suppliers two years earlier—and when combined, these suppliers account for approximately percent of the total billing market by revenue.

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