Implementation choices for a real-time infrastructure

We have said before that the age of billing in its traditional form is over. We live in the ‘Now’ generation. We need the same information from our communications devices that we do from our financial ones. We need to know our balances, be able to take up special offers and monitor our usage of the nebulous ‘data’ as it happens. Of this there is no longer any doubt.

This is good, in theory. The only ‘slight’ problem is that to change the way that we deliver such radically different services and support to our customers means risk and investment before we reap the rewards.

In a paper that follows up the extremely good white paper, Charging for the Digital Economy, produced by Openet(Infonetics’ favourite policy management company) that presented a clear picture of when operators will be taking that risk and making that investment, they asked consultants Analysys Mason to articulate those implementation options.

The paper maps out, clearly, the continuum of need that drove the adoption of real-time and points to where it will take communications services. This will be increasingly driven by Marketing as it realizes the potential of knowing what your customers are doing as they are doing it.

From a financial start to a marketing end, real-time is here to stay. In short, real-time can control customer spending, encourage customer spending and ultimately improve the customer experience.

The figure below illustrates this continuum well. It also illustrates the range of services that real-time will support, many of which are already emerging.

AM fig 2.2

The paper contains a range of use cases that are already in action.

From a North American carrier that is using geo-fencing to offer location based services, to another that migrated two billion customer records to an analytics platform, in order to assess the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. The runtime on queries was 50 to 60 times better than it was before. The list is extensive and worth the download just for the examples, from every continent. Family and shared plans; tethering detection; bill shock prevention; time based offers; ‘freemium’ deals and OTT partnerships all feature in the list.

Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 10.21.40


Each of the different potential partnerships in a transaction needs real- time information [Source: Analysys Mason, 2013]









A significant section of the paper outlines the choices that face operators when they take the decision to move to real-time processes. Three distinct functionalities are required.

  • • A real-time (online) charging environment that enables payment
  • • A real-time policy management system that manages policy instantly
  • • A real-time analytics infrastructure to provide supporting data – now

There are, of course, choices in how operators decide to implement this real-time functionality. Whichever route is chosen there is considerable risk. The ‘big bang’ approach is generally seen as the riskiest, and sometimes if the approach fails, the failure can go public. That said, if legacy systems are stretched to a point where they are not fit for the purpose of supporting customers, then the choices are limited. A parallel approach may suit some operators. For others, the ‘adjunct’ approach may be the best mix of risk and calculation.

This paper champions the adjunct approach – as does Openet – and points out that the rapid roll out of LTE is pushing many operators down this road in the short and medium term.

Whichever implementation strategy an operator chooses – and there are pros and cons for each – the simple fact is that the choice must now be made. The days of telling customers what they have done and how much it cost are over. They now demand to know, in advance, how much what they are doing is costing them.

Welcome to the ‘Now’ Generation. We need to support it.

Download the Openet sponsored White Paper here.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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