OSS, Billing Puts the Muscle Behind Successful Offerings

It may not be as exciting as ordering pizza with your television remote, but the back office and billing keep the communications market humming along much more effectively than a cheese with pepperoni ever could. OSS is the personal assistant to the diva, the blue-collar car factory worker behind the white collar advertising machine.

Todays three-part back office track is devoted to the hardworking, behind-the-scenes technologies out there that make this great industry possible.

Next-Generation Billing Strategies, moderated by Betty Cockrell, director of industry relations, Billing Concepts Inc., starts the day. Traditionally, billing is based on the transport network: telephone billing for telephone networks, cable billing for coax networks, dial-IP Internet billing for ISPs. Next-generation billing is a single solution for all kinds of services provided over an IP network, particularly voice.

Jim Dalton, CEO at TransNexus Inc., which has been involved with VoIP clearing and settlement since 1998, will look at the technology and business issues regarding clearing and settlement of intercarrier VoIP traffic that never transits at traditional telephone switch.

We believe the most critical question is, what will be the prevailing business model, says Dalton. The traditional interconnect business model for telephony interconnect has been per-minute usage-based billing and settlement. The rise of VoIP and ENUM is leading a growing number of proponents who claim that settlement billing is senseless and VoIP peering between carriers should not be billed. My presentation will focus on the diverging business models (traditional interconnect settlement billing versus no-interconnect billing), and the underlying technologies in a framework that will enable the audience to understand the issues and reach their own conclusions.

The discussion is of particular importance to CLECs as new entrants in the VoIP space, such as Google, Skype, Yahoo and MSN, are interconnecting peer-to-peer over IP networks and do not interconnect via the PSTN at all.

For example, cable companies are saying they will provide free termination among their customers without settlement billing, notes Dalton. Google and EarthLink have announced they will federate and freely exchange VoIP traffic without settlement billing. VeriSign Inc. argues publically that settlement of VoIP interconnect is an inefficient relic of the PSTN that should not be replicated in VoIP. There is a growing public debate about whether or not VoIP peering should include settlement billing.

Meanwhile, how customers are affected as networks converge is the other, equally concerning side of the billing coin. Ron Whaley, vice president of sales and marketing at OSG Billing Services, joins the panel to discuss invoice-as-marketing tool for the next generation, e-billing, full-color printing and customer self-care.

The billing process is comprised of many variables, and the invoice is the end result, he notes. For most companies, the invoice is the only communication and representation a company has with the customer. As the telecom industry moves forward with all the latest technology, it is not only necessary to update billing platforms and software, but you must update the way you present your invoice.

ILD Telecommunications Inc.s Chairman and CEO Mike Lewis and President and COO Dennis Stoutenburgh will cover the bases in Managing the Customer in a Business Process Outsourced (BPO) Environment, the second session in this track. Their discussion will show attendees how to evaluate potential BPO providers and key areas to evaluate and plan a successful BPO implementation. The discussion will include a case study reviewing the critical customer-affecting areas that companies must consider when evaluating an outsourced arrangement (the needs-analysis process, cost-benefit equations, business efficiency drivers and a review of overall back-office processes).

Lewis will discuss the trends of back-office outsourcing in todays volatile communications environment, while Stoutenburgh will touch on the critical customer-affecting areas, which areas are less important, key financial considerations and a review of the customer case study.

Last up in this salute to OSS/BSS is Achieving Zero-Touch Customer Provisioning. The discussion will focus on how service providers can turn up new services without truck rolls and without subscribers taking off work and waiting around from noon to whenever for a technician to show up.

Service providers are under increasing pressure to reduce overall operational costs, while growing their service portfolios, says Scott Jeschonek, senior product manager at ECI Telecom Ltd.s Data Networking Division, which makes the ST Series Broadband Services Router and the ShadeTree Management Suite for dynamic subscriber management. In addition, the traditional notion of a static service is giving way to dynamically provisioned and temporary services. The service providers must respond at all operational levels by improving their OSS/BSS, introducing more and more systems automation and reducing the overall customer service engagement by using Web-based customer self-management systems.

The discussion will focus on the operational deployment of a service and the subsequent enabling of subscribers to self-manage their service levels. Jeschonek will discuss the current state of service deployment, the limitations of this approach, some of the features that are influencing a move toward a more dynamic environment and how service providers need to respond.

David Markowitz, vice president of marketing at OSS vendor Zhone Technologies Inc., will cover UNE-P-to-UNE-L migration and the use of line-powered voice. This requires no change of wiring or CPE, and provides immediate compliance with Lifeline and CALEA requirements, he says. For data we will discuss Single-End/Dual-End Line Test (SELT/DELT) and loop-test automation. For video we can discuss hijacking the existing in-home coax to deliver IPTV without requiring CAT-5 to each TV.

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