Research Report Charging and Billing for the Digital Economy

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1 Research Report Charging and Billing for the Digital Economy Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

2 Index Introduction 3 1. The Future for Traditional Billing and Charging 4 2. Innovating and Accelerating Time to Market 6 3. Successful Strategies to Build Loyalty and Increase ARPU 8 4. Future Services and Charging Models 9 Services Being Rolled Out 9 Plans for Rich Communication Services (RCS) The Rise of Cloud-based Charging and Billing 11 Conclusion 12 2 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

3 introduction As the digital economy expands with the rise of LTE, operators continuously seek innovation to better serve customers and compete. This is driving ever more sophisticated charging/billing requirements and challenging legacy infrastructures. This research report analyses views and insights on Charging and Billing for the Digital Economy, gathered from over 80 operators worldwide. It reveals: 1. The future for traditional billing and IN charging 2. Top strategies to innovate and accelerate time to market 3. Successful strategies to build loyalty and increase ARPU 4. Services being rolled out and plans for rich communications services (RCS) 5. The future of cloud-based charging and billing Below a summary of the key findings, highlighting what the related percentage of operators surveyed said: 3 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

4 1. The Future for Traditional Billing and IN Charging As data becomes the main focus for many mobile operators, there is an on-going debate about the future of traditional batch based billing for post-paid and IN pre-paid charging infrastructures. This survey has compiled operators views on this, highlighting some of the key challenges they have been facing with IN pre-paid charging platforms as well as how and when they intend to replace these systems. 64% of operators acknowledge that IN charging platforms were initially designed for voice services (See figure 1) and are restrictive to operators at four key levels: data service innovation, time to market, customer experience and cost. Do you agree with the following statements regarding IN pre-paid charging platforms? Strongly Agree Dependency on IN vendors to develop and configure services Agree Neither Agree or Disagree Disagree Initially designed for circuit switched voice services 32% 24% 40% 34% 19% 24% 11% 3% 10% 2% Strongly Disagree High total cost of ownership 13% 47% 27% 13% Complex, time-consuming and costly to charge for data 16% 42% 26% 16% No longer provide service innovation & market differentiation 18% 36% 33% 13% Figure 1 About 60% of operators think that IN charging platforms are complex, time-consuming and costly to charge for data. This goes back to the fact that they were initially designed for circuit switched voice and not ideal for the complex charging requirements that data has introduced. Getting new products and services launched can be an issue and 66% of operators see time to market impacted as they depend on IN vendors to develop and configure new services. With regards to what operators want, 76% want to develop and configure new services with minimum vendor involvement (See figure 6). Furthermore, a number of operators struggle to deliver the level of experience they would like to offer customers; 45% of the respondents find it difficult or very difficult to provide all services to both pre-paid and post-paid customers. This often results in customer frustration and potential churn as some services are restricted depending on the payment type; this also means loss of revenue opportunity for operators. Also 45% find it difficult or very difficult to have a unified view of customers. This then affects operators ability to offer a unified and consistent view of all their services to each customer. This also affects operators ability to deliver an effective customer service and maximize up/cross-sell opportunities. 4 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

5 These restrictions combined with the high total cost of ownership associated with IN charging platforms, highlighted as an issue by 59% of operators, has led some operators to initiate their replacement. Many more are expected to follow year after year, with 89% of the respondents thinking that as LTE is introduced, most operators will replace IN pre-paid charging platforms within the next 4 years (See figure 2). As illustrated in figure 3, 70% of operators say that they will replace IN based charging systems with real-time, online charging systems (OCS). The same goes for billing systems with 87% thinking that most operators will replace billing systems with real-time charging systems within the next 4 years (See figure 4). This survey clearly shows that the future lies with real-time charging and further reveals what capabilities and attributes operators require to innovate and accelerate time to market. As LTE is introduced, when do you think most operators will replace IN pre-paid charging platforms? Within the next two years 46% 3-4 years 5-10 years 11% 10+ years 43% Figure 2 As LTE is introduced, what system do you think most operators will replace IN pre-paid charging platforms with? A real-time / Online charging system Another IN system A convergent billing system Other 70% 5% 25% Figure 3: As LTE is introduced, when do you think most operators will replace billing systems with realtime charging systems? Within the next two years 3-4 years 5-10 years 10+ years 40% 47% 13% Figure 4: 5 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

6 2. Innovating and Accelerating Time to Market One of the key pillars of operators success in a continuously changing and highly competitive market is innovation. Furthermore, the agility to bring innovative offers to the market faster than the competition, capture market opportunities as they arise, and respond to customers needs in a timely manner is crucial for operators to maximize their revenue potential. This survey has highlighted six key capabilities and attributes required to deliver innovative services, according to operators (See figure 5). Flexible, real-time charging and its integration with policy control are at the top of the list with an average of 76% of operators thinking they are either important or very important in enabling innovation. The capability to automatically upsell offers based on real-time intelligence and analytics follows with 69% of the respondents. As an example, a customer with a smartphone trying to access a data service without a data plan could automatically trigger a data bundle offer. Convergence and network independence are also flagged as important attributes for innovative charging by a majority of operators. This provides the flexibility to create bundles across networks, to deliver all services to all customers and to offer customers flexible payment options and more. Last but not least, a recent area of innovation is the extension of policy and charging control (PCC) to the device using a secure interaction gateway between the policy & charging control network elements and an application on the device. This, for instance, enables operators to provide on-device usage visibility to customers via the app. This allows them to set personal controls on spend and to present upsell and loyalty rewards offers on the device all of which, as further illustrated in the next section, also represent key strategies to build loyalty and increase ARPU. Percentage of operators thinking that the capabilities/attributes are important or very important in enabling service innovation Flexible, real-time charging Policy control integrated with charging (PCC) Automated upsell offers based on real-time intelligence & analytics Network independent charging Convergent pre- and post-paid charging 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 79% 65% 63% 61% 69% 73% Extension of PCC to the device Figure 5 6 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

7 The survey has further revealed five key capabilities and attributes required for operators to accelerate time to market (See figure 6). The clear winner here being the capability to create, launch and manage all offers to all customers in a central place (centralized offer catalog), with the vast majority of respondents (79%) rating it as important or very important. It is closely followed by centralised convergent charging which further simplifies launch processes, the ability to configure offers with minimum involvement from vendors, a rapid service deployment environment, and the ease of interoperability which minimizes integration issues and subsequent delays. Percentage of operators who think these capabilities/attributes are important or very important in accelerating time to market 79% Capability to create, launch and manage all offers to all customers in a central place (Centralized offer catalog) 77% Centralized convergent charging Ability to configure offers with minimum involvement from vendors 76% Rapid deployment environment 76% Ease of interoperability 60% 75% 75% 80% 70% Figure 6 7 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

8 3. Successful Strategies to Build Loyalty AND Increase ARPU As competition intensifies and economic conditions force many customers to be more cautious about their spending, operators need to deploy a combination of strategies in order to not only keep their customers but also to stimulate more spend. The survey has highlighted five winning strategies to build customer loyalty and increase ARPU, according to the majority of operators (See figure 7). Enabling customers to purchase and activate services in real time on the device is viewed as the most successful strategy, as rated by 74% of the respondents. This strategy stimulates loyalty by offering customers freedom and flexibility, enabling them to get the services they need anytime and anywhere, right on their devices; it also maximizes the revenue potential for operators by enabling instant purchasing at the very time of need. Loyalty can be further enhanced when full transparency is provided to customers, with real-time cost and usage visibility on the device, as highlighted by 64% of the respondents. Timely context-aware offers sent to the device also appears to be a top strategy, with 68% of operators rating it as most effective. The customer context can include personal information such as usage, service subscribed, location, time, restrictions, application accessed, birthdays, and more. As an example, a smartphone user with no data plan or on a very low usage plan attempts to access Facebook, this could then trigger a data bundle offer that provides unlimited access to Facebook for less than 5 a month. This strategy enables operators to upsell more effectively, bringing to customers the right offer at the most opportune time. 63% of the respondents also think that simply combining usage notifications with relevant offers further increases upselling opportunities for operators. Half of the operators think that upselling add-ons to a base contract directly on the device is a successful or very successful strategy. This strategy allows operators to develop multiple value-based offers in accordance with various customers needs, to bring them to market rapidly and present them to the right customers at the right time; and requires the capabilities and attributes discussed in the previous section. To sum up, the survey suggests that the most successful approach to stimulate loyalty and ARPU is to better engage with customers, in real time, directly on the device. This means presenting them with timely, and relevant add-ons based on their personal context and also via usage alerts. This also means enabling them to purchase and activate the services right on their device and providing full real-time cost and usage visibility. How successful do you think the following strategies would be for operators to build loyalty and increase ARPU? Enabling customers to purchase and activate services in real time on the device Timely context-aware offers sent to the device Combining usage notifications with relevant offers Providing real-time cost and usage visibility on the device Upselling add-ons to a base contract directly on the device 5 (Most Successful) (Least Successful) 16% 7% 3% 26% 48% 5% 6% 23% 24% 42% 29% 3% 3% 21% 44% 23% 11% 2% 30% 34% 3% 16% 32% 10% 39% Figure 7 8 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

9 4. Future Services and Charging Models Services Being Rolled Out As operators continuingly seek to create new revenue streams and attract customers, the rise of realtime charging and its integration with policy control has seen many innovative services and charging models introduced. Figure 8 highlights key use cases that operators are currently offering or planning to offer. It reveals that the most popular use cases are multi-device plans and data passes (e.g. 50MB for 1 day) which more than 90% of the operators are either offering or would like to offer. However, data passes appear to be the most widely offered type of services, already launched by 62% of the operators, whilst only 30% of them are currently offering multi-device plans. The next most popular use cases are Shared data (e.g. Family plans) and Speed tiers which 87% of the operators surveyed have launched or would like to launch. Unsurprisingly, the smallest proportion of operators, 5%, are currently offering Voice over LTE (VoLTE); however, 30% say they are planning to offer this service and have the capability in place to do so whilst the largest proportion 36% wish to offer VoLTE but do not have the capability to do so at the moment. Overall, there is a divide between operators with regards to the introduction of recent services and charging models, the most popular use cases being multi-device plans, data passes, shared data and speed tiers. Flexible, real-time charging is a key enabler of these services and continues to power innovation alongside policy control, as acknowledged by most operators (See figure 5). 0% 29% What services are you currently offering or wish to offer? Currently offering Planned-capability in place Wish to offer but no capability No plan to offer Multi-device plans Data passes (e.g. 50MB for 1 day) Shared data (eg Family plans) (Speed tiers) Time of day pricing Application passes (e.g. Unlimited access to Facebook) Data roaming passes Third party content and applications (e.g. Deezer music streaming) Premium content bundles Voice over LTE (VoLTE) Payment gateway to facilitate In-app charging (e.g. zero rate video triggered from Facebook) Split billing (e.g. home/work) Sponsored data with partners (e.g Free Kindle application usage sponsored by Amazon) 30% 62% 36% 34% 28% 36% 46% 38% 26% 5% 17% 21% 14% 30% 27% 22% 13% 32% 28% 34% 28% 30% 25% 28% 22% 36% 20% 14% 24% 23% 19% 21% 24% 17% 18% 45% 18% 22% 37% 29% 32% 23% 9% 21% 21% 23% 100% 19% 13% 9% 12% 7% Figure 8 9 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

10 Plans for Rich Communication Services (RCS) In the quest to deliver more value to customers and increase revenue opportunities, operators are looking at RCS to leverage their IMS investment early before moving to all IP. Launched by a few operators in the past year, RCS is gaining pace around the world, enabling operators to enrich voice and SMS services with instant messaging, live video and file sharing across any device and on any network. However, whilst the majority of the survey respondents are planning to launch some RCS services, 43% of them intend to leave these services to OTT providers such as Skype, Viber, Whatsapp etc. (See figure 9). In terms of charging and billing platforms, which RCS services do you see becoming the most widely used in the next 3 years? Instant Messaging 42% 50% File Transfer Video calling 37% 40% 43% None - will leave these services to OTT providers like Skype/Viber/Whatsapp etc Other 3% Figure 9 Typicaly launched free of charge initialy, it is expected that operators will charge for these RCS services in the future. With regards to their plans for monetizing RCS, the majority of respondents, 58%, intend to charge for them separately, without counting the data usage against data bundles - by message/file transferred, duration of video for instance (See figure 10). This requires a flexible, real-time charging capability that enables operators to design and mix different charging models and is integrated with policy control. The rest of the operators however intend to simply charge for RCS as any other data usage. Of the RCS services you plan to launch, how will you charge for them? Charged as any other data usage (e.g. by volume from the normal data bundle) Charged separately (data not counted against data bundles, service charged by message/files transferred, duration of video call etc.) Other 58% 8% 34% Figure Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

11 5. The Rise of Cloud-based Charging and Billing Operating charging and billing systems in the cloud will help operators to reduce hardware investments and operating costs, allowing them to only invest as their needs grow. It also enables operators to focus on innovating and creating new revenue streams more rapidly, without having to worry about integration, deployment and management. Cloud technology is growing and when it comes to charging and billing, it seems to have a bright future, with over 83% of operators thinking that it will become widely used in the next three years (See figure 11). However it doesn t mean that on premise systems are expected to disappear, with the largest proportion of respondents, 37%, predicting that they will use a combination of both cloud and on premise systems. It is also interesting to note that the next most widely used approach to charging and billing, according to 29% of respondents, is cloud based systems deployed centrally by group operating companies, spread in multiple regions or subsidiaries. It enables them to benefit from the economy of scale and simplified processes that Cloud technology offers. In terms of charging and billing platforms, what do you see becoming the most widely used in the next 3 years? Combination of cloud based systems and on premise systems Cloud based systems - located in a central location for group operating companies 37% Everything in house - on premise systems Cloud based systems - hosted by the charging/billing platform provider Cloud based systems - hosted by a system integrator Other 8% 9% 29% 17% Figure Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

12 Conclusion This survey suggests that to be successful in the digital era, operators need to replace legacy IN prepaid charging and traditional billing as these systems were designed for traditional voice services. As such, the operators surveyed say that most of these systems are expected to be replaced within the next four years, with real-time charging / OCS being the most popular choice of replacement system. The survey results highlight that to accelerate data service innovation, operators require: y A real-time charging/ocs capability that is flexible and truly convergent y The integration of real-time charging with policy (PCC) y A centralised offer catalog to rapidly create and launch all offers The survey also points out the importance of extending PCC to the device in order to better engage with customers, and successfully build loyalty and increase ARPU through the following strategies: y Enabling customers to purchase and activate services right on the device y Real-time context-aware offers: e.g. customer attempts to access data without a data plan triggers a data bundle offer y Upsell of add-ons to a base contract y Real-time cost and usage visibility on the device Finally, whilst on premise charging and billing systems have so far dominated, cloud-based systems are expected to rise alongside them, enabling operators to reduce infrastructure costs and innovate more rapidly. 12 Copyright Openet Telecom, 2013

13 About OPENET Since the introduction of mobile data services in 1998, Openet has helped service providers capitalize on opportunities and overcome challenges. With competitive pressure accelerating, today s service providers rely on Openet software to evolve business models around networking smartphones, M2M devices, and third party services. Openet s portfolio combines policy and charging control with device and third party interaction to enable innovative charging models, to control operating cost, and to personalize services. More than 80 of the world s largest service providers in 28 countries use Openet s high performance software. For more information, please visit Dublin, IRELAND Tel: Reston, Virginia, USA Tel: Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA Tel: +60 (3) São Paulo, BRAZIL Tel:

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