Anyone who thought billing was just another accounting function would have been stunned if they attended Informa’s NextGen BSS and Pricing Mobile Data joint event in London this week.
It was not because of startling new technology on display, the competent presentations or the active discussions going on during the breaks – it was the realization that billing, charging and pricing are being taken seriously again by the C-suite.
After years of big spending on the network, there is a realization that whatever travelling over that network that can be monetized, must be. But that is not always as easy as it sounds.
New products and services should be great drivers of revenue but if they cannot be monetized at launch they become just another traffic generator over mobile networks, in particular, that are already starting to creak. Business and marketing departments need to involve the billing folk right from the start if for no other reason than to say what can or can’t be done in terms of charging.
For many operators, it has been many years since they invested heavily in billing systems. Sure, they have rationalized some by transforming their business systems and updated them, but many are simply not ‘fit for purpose’ in the digital era where they are expected to charge for things they would never have imagined just a few years ago.
The whole essence of this new billing world is that everything needs to be done in real-time, and those big, old, post-paid legacy systems just don’t work that way. And don’t even think about converging your even more ancient IN pre-paid platform as an option, presuming the vendor that supplied it to you is even still around.
‘Next Generation’ strategies are passé and we are currently in the ‘Now Generation.’ Everything is expected in real-time, and in order for data limits, credit limits, roaming blowouts and data tiers to be managed it means that applying a value to any service has to be done at the point of delivery – in real-time.
The only way this can be achieved effectively and economically is by utilizing Online Charging Systems (OCS) for all customer types and all transactions, but this requires a wholesale change in thinking to introduce and manage them.
Vendors at the event had many solutions on show but there was a distinct underplay on who, in the operators, has the knowledge to consult and manage this wholesale change in the way billing departments will be working.
It may be the very same people that were released in the last cost-cutting exercise that found work with the vendors when they found their services ‘no longer required.’
The billing people left in the operators may now be their most valuable resource, the vendors of OCS their most valuable partners and the ability to charge for anything and everything in real-time, their biggest differentiator. The old adage – ‘if you can’t bill it, kill it’ has never been more valid.
If networks do simply become the utilities experts are predicting then we will have to be able to monetize whatever travels over them, and we are nowhere near that stage yet.