Recent deals for converged charging systems show how operators are gearing up for anticipated revenue from new enterprise services and business models that will be enabled by 5G standalone networks, such as network slicing.
Converged charging is not new, but using the systems for business services is a recent development that analysts say is driven by the need to monetize 5G SA investments. The solutions not only streamline different charging systems into one, bringing together online and off-line charging, they also give operators the flexibility and agility in revenue management they will need for future enterprise 5G services.
As Justin van der Lande, Research Director at Analysys Mason, points out telcos will need the “ability to offer dynamic charging schemes that support different network quality on a per segment basis; better partner support for multi-party billing; and a mixture of billing schemes that support blended real-time charging triggers and off-line billing,” he says.
Vodafone Business charges towards new 5G models
The latest example is the announcement from Vodafone Business that it is deploying Nokia’s Converged Charging (NCC) software across its European footprint, starting in Italy and the UK with plans to expand to other markets this year. As part of its ambition to grow digital services revenue, the operator said the cloud-native software will make it easier for business customers to use services like dedicated network slices for critical applications and emergency services and will “unlock new commercial models” for its customers, partners, and third-party developers.
Vodafone said it can “take full advantage” of 5G SA and Multi-access Edge Computing because the new system “triggers new pricing models based on quality of service, location, dedicated network slices and specific network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)”.
The operator can also open charging capabilities to customers, thereby laying the foundation for new business models. It said it can offer “businesses of all sizes, public sector organisations and developers access to new markets and revenue streams without them taking on the complexity of rating, assigning, and billing end users.”
The platform also contributes to operational efficiency because it combines three previously separate systems for calculating the cost of services, assigning it to a customer’s account and billing for the service.
“Vodafone will want to ensure that the new services sold directly to businesses are differentiated in the market. Exposing new charging capabilities enables new services and, in addition, allows the business to create their own rating/charging within the Vodafone account [and] enables customers to sell to their customers better,” said van der Lande.
He added: “Longer term, Vodafone will be able to rationalize their billing systems both within their operational companies and between them, [which] will help reduce costs and enable new service offerings to be most easily shared between different operation companies.”
Enterprise services in focus
Other operators have made similar moves to upgrade business service charging recently, van der Lande noted. For example, Virgin Media O2 Business announced in September last year that it is consolidating its revenue management systems onto Netcracker’s platform to improve B2B customer experience. AT&T has deployed Amdocs’ platforms for 5G monetization. Meanwhile, in India, Vodafone Idea recently replaced three legacy charging systems with a single solution from Ericsson.
Early adopters of Nokia’s converged charging system include KDDI in Japan and Sunrise in Switzerland, according to said Rahul Gupta, Principal Analyst, Telecom at GlobalData.
“CSPs are gradually transitioning towards new charging systems. It is possible that in the future, charging systems might evolve and incorporate more advanced features, capabilities, and integrations to support the ever-expanding array of services related to 5G, IoT, AI etc.,” said Gupta.