The global telecom billing market grew to a massive $13.90 billion in 2021 with experts predicting it to expand at a remarkable rate of 9.9% annually until 2030. This growth is fueled by the increasing number of customers using smartphones and the internet. With this billing surge many telcos face a common challenge of finding the perfect solution that fits their complex needs. They have to deal with various pricing models, service levels, and customer types, creating a real puzzle that ordinary off-the-shelf billing solutions struggle to solve.
Each customer has different preferences, from data-hungry users to globetrotting digital nomads and people looking for simple communication. Telcos understand that delivering a personalized and dynamic billing experience is vital for success. But the truth is, there aren't many telecom billing solutions that can seamlessly combine versatility and precision. And things get even more complicated due to changing regulations that require real-time data processing.
At Flyaps, we have over a decade of experience in the telecom field. We've witnessed the struggles our clients had to overcome again and again. From our experience, for some cases it's better to create a billing tool within a custom CRM/ERP system. For others, a separately tailored telecom billing application that smoothly integrates into the existing infrastructure can help better.
In this article, we've decided to share our experience on telecom billing solutions. We'll explore why creating a flawless solution is such a big deal and what "flawless" means when it comes to billing software. Additionally, we'll showcase the challenges our telco clients faced with billing solutions and how we've successfully solved them. Keep reading!
The most popular telecom billing systems: pros and cons of each solution
Let's kick things off by taking a closer look at what's currently available in the market. Some companies offer business intelligence solutions that are customized only for a handful of sectors that share similar needs. But for now, let’s focus on those who have positioned themselves as providers of billing systems crafted with a focus on the telecom industry, although not necessarily exclusively.
Kenan is a tool by Amdocs that helps simplify the management of customer care, ordering, and billing in the telecom sector. It reduces deployment time and risk by closely integrating these functions.
To better display its benefits and flaws, try to imagine a telecom company embarked on improving their billing management. Like others in the industry, they sought a solution to handle diverse B2B and B2C customers, alongside complex revenue sources like voice, video, messaging, content, and internet services.
After research, they chose Amdocs Kenan to simplify operations. Kenan promised to manage interactions, orders, and billing seamlessly, possibly reducing deployment risks and time. The telco saw potential in Kenan for managing B2B offerings and B2C plans.
Kenan's adaptability stood out, allowing customization for various plans, from unlimited usage to unique options. This flexibility ensured accurate billing experiences.
However, there are some implementation challenges to be aware of. Real-time processing and policy control might require additional resources and expertise. Kenan might not be ideal for prepaid systems, risking revenue loss due to a lack of predictive capabilities for prepaid credits.
In February 2022, Amdocs introduced a new solution for the 5G services providers – Freestyle Billing. The solution takes a holistic approach to monetization, addressing the diverse capabilities and use cases that 5G enables, such as network slicing, AR/VR services, and precise monitoring. It introduces a single, universal biller that caters to each customer, whether they are individual consumers or enterprises. This biller offers a preferred monetization model based on the specific service, granting the flexibility to choose various billing and business models to align with customer preferences.
The solution is relatively new, but it has the potential to become as popular as Kenan.
Rev.io is a fully-featured billing platform for telecommunications and IoT services offering secure, reliable, and flexible options for managing customer relationships and billing processes. Rev.io is a good choice for both emerging and established businesses, aiming to help clients innovate and scale their operations while utilizing the top billing solution available. The platform is built on a next-generation hybrid cloud infrastructure to ensure clients can seamlessly scale their resources up or down as needed.
Oracle BRM, or Oracle Communications Billing and Revenue Management, is a versatile monetization solution used by telecom companies. It offers real-time charging, diverse business models, precise revenue collection, and scalability. Key features include handling various services, supporting complex business structures, enabling real-time billing, and offering cloud-native deployment options.
As you can see, there is no universal solution for everyone and even the best players in the game have their flaws. Your goal is to evaluate those flaws as they can be minor for other telcos, but major for your company. Now, we’re going to talk about the most common challenges to watch out for while implementing off-the-shelf billing software.
The key challenges for telecom choosing billing solutions
The world of telecommunications comes with some difficulties that shape how the industry works and affect how telcos choose the best ways to handle billing. So, let's review the most common and critical ones.
In the world of telecommunications, a multitude of software applications is in play, tracking customer details, network performance, analytics, and more. These systems communicate with each other to offer a comprehensive overview. When introducing new tools into this complex network, seamless integration with other solutions, including CRM and BSS, is essential. All systems must work together cohesively since billing is an especially complicated component.
Yet, integrating off-the-shelf systems can be a double-edged sword. While they may smoothly blend with your modern solutions, compatibility issues might arise with your legacy systems. But what if those legacy tools are still working well for you? Investing in modernizing them solely for the purpose of incorporating another vital tool doesn’t make much sense.
To address this problem, telecom companies have an avenue: crafting bespoke billing automation solutions designed to fit their existing infrastructure and tools. This strategic investment avoids unnecessary overhauls while ensuring harmonious operations.
Ready-made billing solutions offer a degree of customization. Telecom companies can even strike deals with their chosen providers to add specific features for an extra cost, going beyond the standard offerings. But the extent of customization options in these solutions is limited by technical restrictions and the financial hurdles faced by telecom companies.
In the realm of telecom, it's quite plausible that off-the-shelf solutions may not fully meet the unique requirements of certain firms. Each company may have its individual approaches to invoicing customers, providing services, and managing invoices. In case the billing software cannot be tailored to meet these specific requirements, telcos may face hurdles in managing their billing procedures easily.
When telcos set their sights on grand horizons, expansion becomes an integral part of their strategic playbook. Their billing requirements become more complicated as they offer their services to more customers and expand their reach. Off-the-shelf solutions work well for small businesses, but they are put to the test as these companies scale. The billing solution must handle more data and transactions smoothly when the business grows.
Poor user experience
Bad user experience in billing solutions can cause a lot of drama and revenue loss. Let's explore this further with an illustrative example.
Imagine a telco that provides advanced communication services to various businesses. However, their billing system has become a major headache for both their internal staff and their corporate clients. The billing system they use is convoluted and confusing. Staff members, including the billing, accounting, and customer service teams, struggle to navigate it. This results in mistakes, slow processing, and frustration. Staff members find themselves spending more time figuring out how the system works than focusing on their primary responsibilities. As a consequence, the efficiency of the company's operations suffers, and errors become more frequent.
To make matters worse, the complexity of the billing system creates misunderstandings with their clients. One of their major clients finds the billing details unclear and inconsistent. This leads to disagreements and disputes over the charges. As a result, payments from the telco's clients are delayed, affecting the company' cash flow.
Complex pricing models
A telecom company might offer different plans for different usage levels – such as basic, intermediate, and premium packages, each with varying features and allowances. Additionally, they might introduce limited-time offers or discounts to entice new customers or retain existing ones.
The challenge here is to make the billing solution capable of managing this complexity. It needs to accurately calculate charges for each customer, taking into account the specific pricing plan they're subscribed to, any applicable discounts they might be eligible for, and any additional services they've availed.
Imagine a customer who has a basic plan with a certain monthly fee. They've added an extra service like international calling or extra data, each with its own cost. On top of that, they might be eligible for a promotional discount for the first three months. The billing solution must be capable of accurately summing up all these components to produce an invoice that reflects the customer's usage and the associated costs. Furthermore, customers can change plans or add services anytime, adding to the complexity. The billing should smoothly adapt to these changes for accurate charges.
In essence, complex pricing models demand a billing solution that is both flexible and robust. It should be capable of accommodating the numerous permutations and combinations of pricing plans, discounts, and promotions that telecom companies offer while still ensuring that customers are charged correctly according to their usage and the services they've chosen.
Theory aside, let's jump right into practical cases.
From vision to reality: showcasing our client's telco billing success stories
Let's delve into how we helped our clients to navigate through the difficulties we talked about earlier and triumph in enhancing their telecom billing processes.
A custom tool to automate financial clearing operations for Nextgen Clearing
Nextgen Clearing stands as a prominent provider of BI solutions and global roaming services, operational in 13 countries. Their prowess in facilitating seamless communication among mobile operators has solidified their role as a key industry player. But as the telecom landscape evolved, the rise of strategic hubs and the agreements associated with them posed a new challenge.
Dealing with individual operators is much easier than with strategic hubs. Hubs consisted of a bunch of operators, so whenever Nextgen sent out a bill, it had to display the overall sum for the entire hub. Additionally, it had to show a detailed list of how much each operator in the hub needed to contribute. Consequently, the invoicing process had to be transformed. The existing financial clearing application, adept at handling invoices for individual clients, struggled with the complexities of hub invoicing. Generating invoices for each operator within a hub and amalgamating them into a single bill became a labor-intensive ordeal.
As the number of partners and operators within hubs continued to grow, automation became imperative. Seeking assistance, Nextgen Clearing turned to Flyaps for a solution.
We developed FC Hub – an application that automates hub invoicing, eliminating challenges such as varied currencies and diverse PDF invoice formats. It seamlessly converts SDR amounts into different currencies and parses PDFs from different clearing companies, combining financial amounts for various affiliates into a single invoice for a hub. FC Hub also integrates perfectly with other systems used by Nextgen's clients, including Oracle Fusion for reporting and Qlik for analytics.
As a result, we created an automated hub invoicing process that unburdened Nextgen Clearing's financial department from manual tasks. The refined process, multiple currency support, PDF parsing, and seamless integration with diverse systems, led to enhanced efficiency, accuracy, and better productivity for both Nextgen Clearing and their valued clients.
A comprehensive telecom billing solution within multifunctional IoT portal for BT Group
British Telecom Group is a multinational telecom giant headquartered in the UK. It is specially known for its IoT connectivity, SIM provisioning, and a resilient network catering to an extensive array of devices. Initially, existing solutions did not align seamlessly with the requirements for efficient SIM card allocation management, real-time traffic monitoring, and precision-driven billing. Specialized software addressing these needs was a must.
In their initial endeavors, the BT Group collaborated with Cisco's Jasper, but the expanding scope of BT's IoT services and an increased customer base demanded a more tailored solution.
So BT turned to none other than Nextgen Clearing – well-known experts in telecom business intelligence solutions. Having a highly successful track record of successfully bringing innovative concepts to life, Nextgen picked Flyaps as their partner. Our team started building a unique platform specifically designed for BT's requirements.
An essential requirement for the system was its ability to quickly handle large amounts of real-time data. However, the project came with a stringent three-month deadline. Undaunted by the challenge, Flyaps adopted a strategic approach to expedite the process.
We started by segmenting development into discrete modules, facilitating rapid completion and preempting unforeseen hurdles. This meticulous strategy yielded the formulation of four pivotal modules, each seamlessly executing distinct functions. These modules encompassed SIM card management, pricing plans, account and billing administration.
The billing module's job was to automatically create invoices for clients, collect data on real-time traffic usage, and bill them accurately by calculating the events.
The introduction of a microservices approach, as proposed by us, ensures the manageability and updatability of these critical features as the demand for IoT inevitably escalates. And as the demand for IoT increases, it inevitably begets increased strain on the billing module.
Thus far, we've already discussed the main problems that telecom companies might run into when dealing with billing solutions. We also figured out how these issues can be fixed with the help of a skilled software development team. Now, you might be wondering: what should businesses search for in a good telecom billing solution? Well, the next paragraph has the answer to that question.
Essential features to look for in telecom billing software
In general, telecommunications billing solutions perform three primary functions: financial management, information management, and operations or service management. When billing and revenue management tasks are combined, other features like fraud management, profitability management, and revenue assurance may also be offered.
- Financial management: It involves payment tracking and processing, aligning payments with service usage, performing tax computation, managing credit allocation, and supervising debt collection.
- Information management: This includes tasks related to customer information, product information, service details, pricing models, billing cycles, triggers, delivery methods, audit settings, and data parameters. Usually, customer data is either integrated with or managed alongside a customer relationship management system (CRM).
- Service management: This involves recording usage data, evaluating usage, setting prices, tariffs, discounts, taxes, and fees on individual customer accounts, generating invoices, distributing invoices, making adjustments, and maintaining customer accounts.
How Flyaps can solve your telecom billing problems
With a decade-long presence in the telecom industry, Flyaps has forged a remarkable path. We’ve helped develop a number of innovative and revolutionary products, which are adopted by more than 100 telecom opcos. Among these industry dominators is Orange Group, a testament to our influence. In this trail of accomplishments, telecom billing solutions hold a special prominence. Let's now explore the reasons why industry giants like BT Group trust us:
Custom cloud-native billing system
Flyaps builds tailored cloud-native telecom billing systems, leveraging cloud technology for scalability and flexibility. This approach reduces the risk of outages, lowers maintenance effort, and speeds up service launches.
Flyaps excels in integrating billing systems with existing infrastructure, even if it involves legacy systems, utilizing APIs and microservices, and enabling real-time data flow across different systems.
Utilizing RPA for billing automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) automates repetitive billing tasks like invoice generation and payment processing. This boosts operational efficiency and reduces errors. As a result, billing processes accelerate, and manual intervention decreases, allowing your team to focus on more strategic activities.
Harnessing AI for data analytics
By analyzing vast billing and usage data within the telecom billing system, predictive analytics can help you identify revenue opportunities, detect anomalies or potential fraud, and optimize pricing strategies based on customer behavior.
Need help with telecom billing? Drop us a line and we’ll find or build the best possible solution for you!