The communications industry has evolved quite a bit over the last few years with the proliferation of 5G networks and the arrival of new voice, video, data, and multimedia services. At the same time, there’s been an increased drive to bundle value-added services, the emergence of multi-play service offerings on mobile networks, and the desire to create a single bill for all communications services (e.g., cable, internet, and mobile) — which benefits both operators and customers.
In response to these trends, leading telco organizations are modernizing their business support systems. To this end, many have embraced convergent billing and charging systems that enable them to leverage real-time decisioning and realize the full promise of 5G.
What is a convergent charging system?
A converged charging system (CCS) allows telcos to both control services and manage account balances in real time for all customers regardless of payment method.
Coupled with a streamlined billing system, a CCS provides a single place for managing all pricing, rating and service offerings in real time while billing handles invoicing, collections and financial reporting for the traditional postpaid customers.
More specifically, such a CCS system:
- Authenticates subscribers and ensures they have enough credit in their accounts before delivering services.
- Notifies users when they’ve reached their account balance threshold.
- Terminates service connectivity when account balances are depleted to avoid bill shock.
- Encourages users to engage with more services at the most opportune times to drive more revenue.
Why do telcos need convergent charging systems?
One of the main reasons telcos use a CCS is to be able to offer a variety of solutions to customers while having all tariffs and offer configurations in the one place, including post-paid services (e.g., a monthly bill), pre-paid services (e.g., a real-time promotion), and the ability for traditional postpaid customers to avail themselves of prepaid promotions. This way, customers have a better understanding of how many resources they’re consuming — and how much they can expect to pay for it.
On top of this, converged solutions can help consolidate multiple billing systems, which enables telcos to reduce their operating expenses by using one platform (instead of several) to manage their product offerings across all customer segments.
Convergent charging systems (coupled with streamlined billing) also:
- Reduce revenue leakage
- Increase marketing opportunities
- Improve the customer experience with personalized, real-time promotions
- Deliver pricing transparency across service offerings
5G and the need for real-time decisioning
In the past, operators collected call data records (CDRs) from every network element for multiple business functions, including offline charging.
But in the 5G era, the responsibility for generating these records now lies with the charging function, such that it is no longer possible to rely on this data coming from the other network elements.
Making the most out of 5G starts with having a converged charging system with real-time decisioning capabilities. This way, each event becomes streaming data and is reported on and acted upon in the moment — which is only possible with an underlying data platform that is capable of making decisions in 10 milliseconds or less.
Thanks to this functionality, operators are increasingly running all services, including post-paid services, in real time. By doing so, telco operators can:
- Improve the customer experience with up-to-date account information available at a glance.
- Establish family groups with a mix of pre-paid and post-paid users that shares assets.
- Comply with regulations by automatically notifying subscribers when they’ve gone over their spend limit or are roaming (which also improves customer experience).
- Meet 5G standards by ensuring the CHF generates offline records as fast as possible.