You would be forgiven for saying that not much has changed in the world of billing. At the Next Generation BSS Summit, hosted by Informa in London this week, there was talk of data centricity, real-time, more real-time, centralization (or was it consolidation) and Cloud. You could, of course, talk about any and all of this until the cows had not only come home, but were safely bedded down with a scoop or two of dinner in front of them.
Was there anything really different? Like all events such as this, the insights came at you in moments when you were wondering when lunch was. A panel discussion in the late morning revealed that Spanish MVNO Tuenti aimed at a young demographic and now wholly owned by Telefonica actually started life as a social network. Economic conditions in Spain forced the owners to think laterally how to maximize revenue and the result was a sale to a large telco. More to come on this.
There was ground breaking research sponsored by AsiaInfo Linkage and conducted by Northstream that estimated that operators across Europe could have gained 4.7 billion euros by implementing real-time self-service. Again, more to come. It was encouraging that Orange has started talking about ARPA, average revenue per account, rather than ARPU, now we are moving to a multiple device world.
The pricing guys who were part of the event for the morning were, as you might expect, frustrated by technology which they saw as a barrier to innovation. Jim deMarco, CTO of Redknee commented that customers are probably more empowered than we think they are, and “I hate that billing is so complex, to the customer we are just a button.” This would make a good mission statement for the billing community over the next few months and years.
The panelist from Telenor provided advice about how quickly operators should turn to data centric pricing, go too quickly, he said and you lose the marketing levers provided by voice and text. Mind you he also predicted that operators around the world will not be completely data centric until 2025, which is not exactly optimistic.
The frustration of the day was that with all this talk of data – flat rate or otherwise – it was talk about just that. Data. Data is the raw material, it is not a product. It was not until the last talk of the day in the BSS stream that Mark Winther, VP of IDC bemoaned how bad we are at seeing data in the same way as consumer goods companies see, say, water. Perrier, Evian and Volvic no more sell ‘water’ than Starbucks sells coffee. We need to get better. We also need, said Steve James of Tuenti, to ‘democratize’ data and that, according to James is not the same thing as offering a flat rate or ‘all you can eat.’ We will be exploring billing, pricing and charging against a customer’s profile in the next few days and weeks.
The most interesting sentiment was not about data or bundling, centralization (good concept for large operators) or real-time. It was that the two events – Pricing and BSS – now belong together. The topics were interchangeable and many delegates wanted to listen to both streams. Otherwise a very interesting event – and another day to come.