Building in flexibility for the future

Nigel Upton, GM for BSS products at HP's Communications, Media and Entertainment group, outlines the forces behind real-time charging

Billing & OSS Supplement: What are service providers' main pain points‾

Upton: Our customers tell us that they are under tremendous pressure to find new sources of revenue and increase the ARPU from existing customers. But their hands are tied. They have inflexible legacy billing systems that stifle new service rollout. These legacy systems are often proprietary and difficult to modify quickly, which makes the introduction of new services both expensive and lengthy. This scenario is typical for many service providers and is compounded by multiple siloed billing systems. Lastly, they must plan for the transition to an IP world and services based on customer lifestyles and social interaction. With unproven business models and unknown customer uptake on services, it is no wonder that service providers are losing sleep.

Why should service providers pay attention to real-time charging (RTC)‾

Real-time charging gives operators the ability to charge 'on the spot' for a service and realize the revenue immediately. RTC supports customer-centric billing models and the ability to charge discretely for individual services or bundles.

Another way RTC drives more revenue is by enabling services to the widest range of customers, both prepaid and postpaid. This allows them to differentiate on the way customers can pay for their services. Knowing what the cost of a service will be before the charge gives customers more account control and encourages trying new services.

We believe real-time charging is a key element for telecoms in Asia Pacific, where we are seeing providers launch new services extremely rapidly and may offer promotions for as short as one week.

What should service providers look for in evaluating a real-time charging system‾

In evaluating a system, it must provide the end-to-end user access control, session management, charging control and billing integration that addresses converged voice and data services.

Another key area is IT impact and cost. IP data increases transaction volumes and complexity. The solution must handle those extreme transaction volumes with low latency, and be able to scale rapidly to meet growth. A platform based on blade technology and Linux supports a low-cost entry to RTC.

Open interfaces and industry standards and frameworks such as IMS and SOA are critical to a long-term RTC strategy. A standards-based solution will provide the flexibility today and in the future as services and requirements change.

What is HP's approach to real-time charging‾

Our vision is that real-time charging is the foundation of new-generation services in emerging and established markets. There is no costly 'rip and replace' required to implement the HP RealTime Charging solution.

The RTC solution is based on the HP IUM and OpenCall product portfolios supported by best-in-breed partner solutions. The solution is flexible and adaptable to current systems without costly modifications - it can sit next to legacy systems while they transition to IMS. We have bridged telecom and IT by using technologies such as blades and Linux to keep costs and complexity low.