|Latin America 2005
|Next generation service management – a single view of the customer
|Business Development and Product Marketing Director, CALA
|Intec Telecom Systems
Alejandro Nestares is the Business Development and Product Marketing Director for Billing of Intec’s Latin American region. He joined Intec when it acquired ADC. At ADC, he managed business development in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. Before joining ADC, Mr Nestares was responsible for business development in Europe and the Middle East for Portal Software. Mr Nestares has more than eight years of experience working with next-generation billing systems. Alejandro Nestares holds a bachelors degree from the University of Houston.
To grow, operators need to detect market trends, develop new services and flexibly bill for them. Traditional billing systems gather data after the fact and bill monthly. Pre-paid systems, though, work in real time. Existing systems cannot track subscriber usage patterns or handle the real-time demands of fully converged fixed, mobile, voice and data services. Operational Support System (OSS) Service Management platforms let operators track subscriber trends, offer innovative service bundles and bill multiple services with a single, converged, bill.
The rapid deployment of broadband access in Latin America is enabling the growth of new and innovative packet-based services. This has a tremendous impact on Latin American network operators. To support the new real-time services, operators need an ‘always-on’ Service Management platform, at the heart of their operational support systems (OSS). This ‘always-on’ service potential is dramatically changing the way operators in the region are doing business. In Latin America today, telephone subscribers receive a single bill at regular monthly intervals. Since the recent deregulation, competitive services and business models have emerged and convergent billing systems have come to the rescue allowing the billing of multiple services using a single or ‘convergent’ bill. Fixed and wireless, pre- and post-paid, voice and data operations are converging into one single business model with one single bill. Brasil Telecom is a perfect example of this new business model: it has been the region’s pioneer in successfully converging their wireline and wireless business into one single operation. A convergent billing system was a key factor in their success. Given this success and the advance of deregulation, other operators in Brazil, like Grupo Telemar, are considering converging their wireline and wireless operations with Telemar and Oi to be more competitive and react to market and industry demands. Other operators, like América Móviles and Telefónica, are also working to lead the region’s wireline and wireless markets. They know that to lead they must focus on convergence and centre their operations upon the customer. The recent purchase of TIM Peru by América Móviles and the fight over the state owned Colombia Telecom are clear indicators that the future in the region relies on convergent operations. Both Telefónica and America Móviles have all the ingredients to lead the convergent revolution in the region, but they face operational challenges reacting to the market. Convergent billing is a key factor in their operational transformation. They must migrate from their existing systems into an ‘always-on’ system capable of real-time, cross service, charging for their entire operation. It requires a new architectural paradigm. Separate systems cannot provide integrated support for wireline, wireless, prepaid and post-paid, voice and data customer types. It should be possible to pay for any service using, as needed, any payment method available. ‘Always-on’ service management systems must provide a single view combining all account types, customer types and services. Then, too, all accounts should be accessible in real-time through the OSS and by the communications network itself, and give the operator a real-time financial view of the converged customer and the converged business. Prepaid architectural limitations In traditional OSS infrastructures, there is a clear separation between the network and support systems. In traditional post-paid billing, chargeable event records proceed to the back-office for billing via a mediation system. The emergence of consumer pre-paid mobile services made it necessary to charge accounts in real-time, so the new billing systems had to reside directly within the network. Today, converged operations call for the convergence of traditional and real-time, pre-paid, charging systems. Although the success of the pre-paid service model in Latin America continues unabated, pre-paid solutions suffer from a number of serious architectural limitations that convergent billing systems must resolve, including: – Customer relationships cannot be modelled and applied in real-time. With little or no interaction between stand-alone databases (balance managers), special customer and discount relationships cannot be modelled and supported on today’s pre-paid systems. This means that services such as Pre-paid Business Accounts, charge guiding from pre- to post- paid account, Friends-and-Family or Parents-and-Kids type service bundles cannot now be offered to pre-paid subscribers; – Inability to differentiate pre-paid services. In both the mobile and fixed worlds, service differentiation is difficult to achieve. Pre-paid services look and feel the same in most of the world. From Spain to Argentina, the pre-paid subscriber experience is almost identical: there are only a limited number of services – voice, SMS, perhaps voicemail and occasionally roaming; – Pre-paid does not readily support data services. Some pre-paid systems charge for pre-paid data in real-time (e.g. a ring-tone download), using circuit-switched transport and transaction charging. While ‘atomic’ or once-off charges are possible to levy, they cannot charge for usage and volume-based packet data services in real-time, not to mention concurrent voice, data or m-commerce services; – Pre-paid is difficult to upgrade for next generation services. Pre-paid billing platforms design cannot handle data services, so most operators must use ‘bolt-on’ billing systems to support data services. Pre-paid vendors are responding, but old, tired, network architectures confine them; – Inflexible rates and limited tariff selection . Traditional pre-paid platforms cannot offer flexible, innovative, tariffs and discounts. A flexible ‘rules-based’ approach facilitates marketing in highly competitive situations. The support system challenge – getting it right Dealing with all these challenges is a tough mark for convergent billing systems and convergent operations to meet. The key challenges operators in Latin America must face to achieve customer ‘closeness’ or convergence are: – Overcoming the limitations of existing post-paid service architectures. The challenge is to migrate from traditional batch back-office mainframe operations to real-time revenue management processes; – Getting to know customers. By combining a single view of customer usage for all possible services with a real time dynamic transaction management architecture, operators will be able to use cross service customer information to personalise each and every one of the customer’s interactions in real time. They will be able to personalise each CDR (call detail record) using the customer’s usage and behaviour information in real time. For example, a pre-paid international roaming call might earn a deep discount based upon total international wireline usage, including international calls made from the customer’s house; – Getting to value customers. Referring to the point above, it is essential that service providers learn about their customers’ needs. By observing customer usage patterns, service providers can quickly detect market trends, prepare targeted marketing campaigns with partners and build revenue-making product and service offerings; – Giving customers what they want, whenever and wherever they want it. Access to services should not be dependent upon a particular payment method. Any payment method the subscriber prefers to use at the time of purchase should be allowed by the system. Next generation Convergent Service Management architectures place the customer at the heart of the new operator’s business model. In Latin America, this model must support service delivery by any type of transport: dial-up Internet, 2G, 2.5G or 3G mobile access, xDSL lines or WiFi services. The new Architecture must provide Latin American operators with a single view across all pre- and post-paid accounts, as well as a real time service management capability. Operators must allow subscribers across the region to access the service they want, whenever and wherever they want it and, most importantly, have them pay for it using any payment method they wish, or which the operator selects, on a given occasion. This gives operators the tools to differentiate themselves from their competitors by satisfying the needs of their customers and to exploit new revenue opportunities, limited only by their imagination.