April 17, 2014

10 Elements of Real-Time Convergent Charging Evolution (Part 2)

Here are the second five of 10 real-time convergent charging capabilities that may be key components of any go-forward revenue management plan.

In the first excerpt of this article, we addressed five elements of an evolution to a revenue management architecture that has real time convergent charging (RTCC) as its primary component, rather than as a forward-looking complement to core, offline BSS. Part 1 focused on capabilities that are most likely to be relevant in the near term. These next five elements could be near term priorities for a CSP, but also may be more forward-looking in terms of the overall evolutionary process for RTCC-centric architecture.

6. Real Time Promotions & Notifications
RTCC isn’t just about billing – it’s about selling and improving the customer experience. Any RTCC solution should incorporate the ability to push out real time promotions and notifications relating to potential bill shock events, account dormancy, pending top-ups or automated service add-ons (like another 1GB of data when a customer has exhausted her allotment), and special offers, discounts, and bonuses.

Real-time promotions are moving in new directions. For example, picture a customer – a man in his 20s - who is watching the UFC Championship preliminary bouts on Pay TV. He receives a real-time push to his mobile device saying "buy the live Championship fight now for $24.99 (press here) and watch live on your TV, Mobile, or PC anywhere." This kind of tie-in to Pay TV services is what quad play providers will need to enable in order to cross-promote and cross-sell these increasingly, interrelated services.

7. Dynamically Allocated and Charged Discount Buckets
CSPs can enable new service buckets to be ordered and added on the fly outside of a customer’s monthly subscription. Consider a customer who receives a real-time notification that she has nearly consumed her data allotment for the month, but there are 10 days to go in the billing cycle. She can add another 2GB for $10 – but does it make sense for the data she adds on to expire to 10 days too? This dynamic capability allows the CSP to provide duration for that add-on – say, its own 90-day shelf-life. So, if the customer uses up just 500MB in the next 10 days, she still has 1.5 GB to draw against for data overage for the next few months. Plus, that duration could be extended as a bonus if she takes up other quad play services, purchases other value-adds, or earns a loyalty bonus in the interim for her 3 year anniversary as a customer.

8. Account Balance and Discount Bucket Lifecycle Management
This capability relates to the previous entry on this list. It enables flexible management of the duration or lifecycle of factors like validity periods or grace periods. The key factor is for the BSS solution to be able to manage this concurrently on an unlimited basis. This allows the service provider to introduce all sorts of promotions, bonuses, rewards, credits, discounts, free trials and so forth without being bound by other time limits or the monthly billing cycle. So, promotions that encourage customers to opt-in to a new service within the next 15 days to get free usage for 30 days and then a 15 percent discount for 3 months if they subscribe (or don’t cancel after 30 days) can be rolled out without the timing being dependent on a bill cycle and without problems if a subscriber opts-in on day 6, uses only 12 days of the free period, and then decides to sign up for the subscription proactively.

9. Network Policy Integration
Network policy integration allows the RTCC solution to integrate with a PCRF element in the network, often through the Sy interface. The RTCC solution notifies the PCRF of users’ status and enables it to enforce policy in the network based on charging and billing rules. For example, some CSPs enforce variable speed tiers based on usage. A customer might have access to 10 mbps speeds for their first 5GBs of usage, but is bumped down to 2 mbps if they threaten to exceed that threshold too early in the month to protect them from bill shock.

If we think about this capability in a 3rd party service environment, it could be used to enforce slower speeds for streaming music subscribers who can download music for offline use if they subscribe to a basic package, but increase the download rate if they upgrade their subscription to premium or purchase a time-limited add-on. Currently, there is significant focus across the industry, within many CSPs, suppliers, and standards organizations, to deliver greater integration between RTCC solutions and PCRF network elements to drive these more sophisticated service models.

10. Wholesale and Interconnect Rating
Wholesale and interconnect rating covers a broad scope of capabilities that likely deserve deeper examination. At a high level, these are necessary to enable many new, emerging business models in domains like enterprise-vertical B2B offerings, M2M, and various forms of MVNE, MVNO, and xVNE models. Any type of pure wholesale, multi-party partnership, or ecosystem-oriented offering or business model would benefit from RTCC capabilities designed specifically for wholesale and interconnect. Such specificity is required to support multi-party, end-customer facing services that benefit from the kinds of RTCC capabilities described throughout this article.

Ultimately, the real key to success with a real-time convergent charging solution is the ability to deploy it according to a sensible, pragmatic, and appropriate evolutionary plan. Along the way, new capabilities should be fully integrated with existing revenue management infrastructure which must be maintained and streamlined over time. If RTCC represents the future of where revenue management architecture is headed, then it will not be an ad hoc or add-on capability. It may become the core of any CSP’s revenue management infrastructure and thus will assume more scope, scale, risk, and responsibility over the long haul. Given that perspective, an evolutionary approach that adds tangible value at each step is logical.

Photo by Chris Evans with Creative Common license


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