The case for convergent billing

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          The need for convergent charging has been a fairly simple one: telecom companies have been adding subscribers, and with that a growing market of diverse services. Billing and charging are critical components to any telecom infrastructure, and using convergent charging is a mechanism that will help drive simplicity and flexibility through a consolidated means of payment. The average telecom customer, today, uses a multitude of services – ranging from voice to data. With such disparate services there is a need for a centralized and uniform means of charging and billing. And, centralizing it helps create an efficient and seamless customer experience. It also could be leveraged to address multiple opportunities. Consolidated customer experiences Research by GlobalWebIndex suggests that the average consumer has 3.64 connected devices. With wearables and IoT making its entry into consumer markets, this is bound to increase. In the context of such devices, convergent billing and charging would focus on a single point of management. Telecom companies would leverage next  generation BSS and billing and charging infrastructure to consolidate charges towards all services consumed into one bill. While a single multi-service and multi-device account provides consolidated and convergent billing, implementing it presents significant challenges. Institutionalizing such a platform requires a well thought of architecture that is agile and dynamic. Most telecom companies, perhaps, will need to build such capabilities or identify IT solution providers who have it planned in their product roadmap. Shift in data usage Initially download driven, data consumption today is focused on ‘live’ and on demand experiences. Such experiences include live video streaming, music and video on demand streaming, and real time experiences. The rigors of supporting such data usage is not only an infrastructure concern, but also software. With several tech giants and unicorns, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Uber, etc. invested in real time experiences, the underlying data could open revenue models that open B2B2C models. Third party pays Third party sponsored data plans have been doing the rounds lately. In this model, corporate sponsorship provides free data access to customers – a model that promotes and bolsters customer loyalty and creates a separate revenue source for telecom companies. The nuances of this model depends on the ability of the telecom operator to create and manage a complex payment structure. In addition, it’s often lacking in personalized customer engagement mechanisms and marketing capabilities. While the sponsor would provide sponsored data via the telecom operator, the telecom operator, in turn, is expected to drive lead generation and engagement. For the telecom industry, there has been a shift in revenues from the more traditional channels of SMS and voice to data. Data, by itself, is an opportunity that is highly lucrative, but will require a change in paradigm. Such a change will require significant investments in convergent billing solutions like Sterlite Tech’s Elitecore convergent billing solution, and incorporating flexibility and agility in business support services. And, such investments are bound to derive strong monetization opportunities.

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