All posts by Debolina Ray

Are You Ready to Unravel the Digital Billing Maze?

Ever guessed who will be your next partner in wholesale, digital or OTT? Seeing the pace at which partnerships are burgeoning across the length and breadth of the industry, it seems you won’t get an easy answer to this question. In this rat race, growing partners is the need of the hour, and that too across categories of entertainment, security, gaming and more; there won’t be much time to analyze the partner’s background or work on the business logic. But you are confident that your digital journey is on track, with newer business and revenue opportunities.… Hurray!

Now, things turn upside down when you realize after a few days that there’s a difficulty with managing the partner account, faulty content delivered to subscribers, disputes arising from agreements, or you find out that there’s a serious problem in the way business terms are being executed. Why do these happen?

Well, the issue could be arising from a lack of preparation and foresight; no one is to be blamed either, the rapidly evolving business landscape throws a curve ball. With several thousands of digital companies forming a complex maze of partnerships, challenges are certain. These challenges could arise from all quarters, not from your partners alone, but your customers or external sources as well.

Let’s look at some of the typical challenges you may confront in your engagements with new types of partners:

  • There is a content provider and a partner who deals with a variety of content types including OTT video and mobile apps, but you find it difficult to integrate all types of services on one platform.
  • The content offered by your partner is incomplete or corrupt, and the charges need to be reversed to a customer. How will you settle the deal in this context?
  • A customer engages in fraudulent activities; for example, after downloading the content, he/she defaults the payment arguing that the content is of poor quality.
  • Partner settlement becomes difficult as your partner engages in unethical practices like using a fraudulent platform for tracking the number of downloads or the impressions.
  • A phishing fraud affects your customers, forcing you to compensate massively.
  • An inadvertent regulatory violation from your end leads to a serious legal complications, leading to financial loss and damage to reputation.

And the list goes on…

Where does the problem lie? Who is to be held responsible? How to overcome these challenges?

The underlying problem with most Telcos pursuing digital opportunities is sometimes the lack of preparation both in terms of technology, infrastructure and awareness. With constant changes to the digital landscape, regulatory pressure and escalating CAPEX, anticipating everything that could go wrong is a downward spiral. An upgrade to your Business and Operations Support System (BSS/OSS) could be a solution, but how far and to what extent the upgrade should go? Most Telcos have already initiated the BSS/OSS transformation, but has not yet achieved the level of digital maturity which they are supposed to. Why so?

Well, the scenarios discussed above indicate that the technology infrastructure you are building to protect your digital business should be capable of addressing not only the current challenges but also the future events that are likely arise. In other words, it should be capable of predicting the future scenarios to an extent and address the problematic ones before they impact the system. And be future compatible so that it can adapt quickly.

Broadly speaking, an encompassing OSS/BSS strategy that addresses different aspects like revenue management, billing & partner management and customer experience in a proactive manner is the need of the hour.

Stay tuned to understand how Subex can help you build a digital billing strategy that helps you rise to the status of a successful Level 4 digital service provider (DSP).  If you want to know how Subex’s solutions can help you build a digital ecosystem that boosts your revenue streams and enhances customer value, contact us.

The Evolution of Internet Protocol

In traditional interconnect, every telecom operator has domestic and international partners to terminate traffic, or use hub operators to route the traffic to specific destinations using Time-division multiplexing (TDM) circuits. But with full service IP networks coming into the arena, telecommunication operators can provide video, data and voice using the same backbone network structure. Over the next few years the traditional TDM/PSTN and IP would probably continue to coexist. Interconnection in effect also undergoes a transformation here. Interconnection creates end to end service connectivity and interoperability across providers.

As the industry is transiting into a hybrid model where IP coexists with TDM, the physical infrastructure for call transfer and exchange is undergoing a technological transformation. All new networks are using the IP backbone and this has lesser points of interconnection as compared with the TDM/PSTN network. The need for more bandwidth and to keep up with network trends now, focusing on accurately transport newer types of data, IP is definitely the most cost effective and sustainable solution.

The current subscriber needs and demands are seamless, ubiquitous connectivity of mobile services everywhere, giving them access to information and social data. And while today the focus is on voice and video, voice is rapidly becoming a part of other bundled packages and offerings.

The focus of past bilateral agreements between telecom providers were typically based on commercials and volumes with penalty, shortfall or send/pay clauses associated. Settlements happened at a defined frequency where invoices are exchanged, compared and reconciled in cases of disputes. Quality metrics in the traditional interconnect model were parameters like ASR, NER, etc., which sampled/monitored data to derive the call quality and checked periodically for SLA violations and route failures. At this stage, the IP layer was merely handling transport, while the actual services (be it voice, content, OTT, or web based) would be delivered in any combination. With IP related services becoming a predominant offering, it means the understanding of quality, routing and agreements would change dynamically over the next few years and lead to the need of a ‘new’ interconnection model that would be able to handle these level of agreements, charging and settlement. Quality of service for IP now needs to prioritize data security, encryption and protection of information.

The target being constant connectivity, another challenge in terms of both technology and business is roaming agreements. Initially GPRS roaming required complex agreements between every individual operators and each operator had to maintain dedicated links. GSMA had launched GRX (GPRS Roaming eXchange) technology a few years ago to handle mobile packet delivery and exchange. This started off supporting 2.5G technology and eventually 3G as well. The idea behind this was to ease roaming agreements between GPRS vendors. GRX is typically based on a public IP backbone and used GTP (GPRS Tunneling Protocol) and enabled the GRX operator to act as a hub for the interconnect partners without having direct or dedicated links between them. GRX is making way for IPX (Internet Protocol eXchange) which addresses some of the drawbacks of GRX. Primarily MNOs could leverage the benefits of GRX and this was a model based on best effort, hence QoS, security, acknowledgement were not guaranteed in this method.

IPX on the other hand, has clear quality parameters like Service Availability, Jitter, Packet Loss and Delay. It also has defined traffic classes: Conversational, Streaming, Interactive and Background Class, so any kind of application has to be clearly mapped to a potential QoS class name, for example: Instant Messaging is Interactive, Video is Streaming while File Transfer is Background. Telecommunication operators with backbone network would look at offering an IPX solution to mobile operators, content providers and aggregators by supporting multiple data, video and voice services. Mobile operators earlier had to rely on multiple platforms for voice and data and can now look at a unified synergy. The target market would look at not only MNOs (Mobile Network Operators), but also MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), Content Providers, App Providers, Fixed Line Providers.

With IPX built on a secure IPVPN network, a lot of the parameters around security and protection would be eliminated, while all kinds of data can traverse through a standard backbone network. Operators need to focus on sustainable revenue models. A strong settlement and assurance system would be critical in this play to understand the packetized data structure and price based on the CoS (Class of Service).

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