Future Proof Billing: A perspective from managing user bandwidth.

Monitoring and managing customers’ bandwidth usage allows operators have more control on the usage of their network and this can be done by software like policy manager or a comprehensive PCRF solution. However, PCRF solution is a huge solution which comes with a comprehensive feature stack and a big price tag. Most operators do not have the need for such a system during the initial phase of operations. Even a light weight policy manager can add up to the capex cost of the operator.

Although, most operators have big plans but they need to start their operations from a ground level. Their resources are limited and so are their options. The success during the green field days lies in making the most out of the available resources. They need to have minimum systems to keep things simple and maximum utilization for the available ones. A billing system is very critical for any operator to function and hence most operators go for one. Most people look for future proof solutions but they do not cover every angle about how future proof the solution is. Here is one of the most critical aspects to look for in a billing system when looking for a future proof solution. Can it handle / support effective user bandwidth management?

Acceptable usage policy management allows billing systems to manage the user’s bandwidth through prioritization. In this methodology, billing system generates a list of user who are approaching their bandwidth consumption limit. This list is then prioritized based on how much bandwidth is yet to be consumed. Once the list is generated a customized action can be taken to give the users a heads up that they are approaching their usage limit. Once they exceed the usage limit, either the user is put in a lower bandwidth channel or the account is put on hold, either of which can be customized based on the operator requirement. Operators have seen this as a great way to avoid spending money on buying new systems while not compromising the end user customer experience.

As the operator grows in size, number and eventually a little cash strapped, he can move on to buy a simple solution which can automate the whole process, without complicating the entire business process and workflow. SURE! AAA which is a full-fledged RADIUS and Diameter supported solution suite for broadband operator who operates on any technology. In addition to this, SURE! AAA has a small component which acts as a policy manager. This policy manager takes care of enforcing policies as defined by the operator. SURE! Policy Manager has the ability to integrate with the billing system to collect the policy details, collect the usage details from AAA and enforce the appropriate policy on the B-RAS. This simple activity allows operators to get creative in terms of their services with additional packages where the user can consume higher bandwidth until he is below the defined usage consumption and will be consuming lesser bandwidth once he crosses the usage limit. An additional benefit of this solution is the ability to optimize the bandwidth.

These solution stacks has the ability to create a platform where the operators can grow at an unprecedented level. Once the operator grows beyond a point, his requirements also grow proportionately. We have seen that many such operators who are scout for opportunities to extend their offering to other segments of the markets to increase their customers as well as their ARPUs (Average Revenue per User) and in the process, they also tend to extend their offering into LTE. Penetrating such market segments pose new challenges along with opportunities. In terms of business process, billing should be automated and seamless because by this stage, the operators will be anywhere between 500,000 to couple of million sub-base. Standalone solutions like PCRF, OCS play a critical role in successfully launching and offering services like LTE, High Speed FTTx Broadband services, Wi-Fi, etc. The billing system should be able to seamlessly integrate and interact with high performance standalone solutions to deliver the required output. Only by doing so, a solution can be truly future proof.

A truly visionary operator looks at the scale of phenomenal growth. A truly future proof billing system should be more of a growth partner rather than vendor to the operator. An ex-CTO of a leading telecom company once said “We migrated to SURE! when our sub base was less than 10,000 and we were promised that the solution can support 100,000 sub base. We are now approaching half a million sub-base and the billing system is still functioning without any hassles and without any changes in the code.”.

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