A Quick & Dirty Look At IP Billing
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BY GREG GALITZINE
As the dog days of summer settle in, a young mans thoughts turn to
Well sort of. You see, in our forward-thinking, next-generation world of Internet
telephony, one of the most crucial and yet, most overlooked elements of the complete
Voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution is billing. In fact, it keeps me up at night. Lets
face it, even if its been said a thousand times, the fact remains that if you
cant bill for a service, you dont get paid; and if you dont get paid,
whats the point of being in business? And that probably keeps some of you up at
As voice and data networks converge, yet another element of difficulty is thrown into
the mix. While the established voice carriers have robust and functional billing
applications (and a centurys worth of experience in billing their subscribers),
next-generation, IP-based service providers still have a ways to catch up on the billing
front. As the industry has moved beyond the initial phases of deregulation, and as
customers have demanded more and more in the way of bundled services, convergent billing
solutions have begun to make more sense for both service providers and the
customers they serve.
Convergent billing solutions, when taken from the perspective that they entail
multiple services provided and contained on a single invoice, offer multiple advantages.
For the customer, the advantages are straightforward. The convenience of a single, unified
bill, a single point of contact relating to matters of customer service, the vast array of
new bundled services, and the ability to receive these services from the provider of
choice are all among the benefits to consumers.
Service providers also realize benefits such as a complete view of the
customer (including demographic information and we all know how much companies love
demographic information), lower cost to acquire new streams of revenue, and perhaps most
importantly, reduced amounts of customer churn.
Another driving force behind convergent billing is the desire on the part of
service providers to create and offer brand-new bundled services with the ability
to bill for them on the fly. Such provisioning is also very attractive to
customers, especially with the added bonus of self-provisioning enabling them to pick and
choose the services they want and need, when they want them or need them.
Such on the fly provisioning is crucial to the competitive service providers who seek
to differentiate themselves by being the first to market with a particular value-add. As
the number of services that a customer subscribes to increases, so conversely does the
potential for that customer to churn away decrease. Its common sense: If as a
customer, I subscribe to a half-dozen useful services at a reasonable price, why would I
go through the hassle of finding a new service provider with the concomitant hassles
associated with that process?
Among the issues faced by todays next-generation service providers, interfacing
with legacy billing systems and indeed legacy networks is right there near the top of the
list. And while they attempt to tie in to the legacy systems, they also need to
future-proof their new applications. Strategies for this type of future proofing must
certainly entail a fair amount of open APIs and hooks so that developers would be able to
integrate with the applications and networks of the next generation.
So whos working on these types of solutions? Who is charged with integrating
tomorrows applications with the networks of yesterday? Following is a look at just a
few of the companies actively involved in defining the future of IP billing.
Rodopi Billing Software recently announced
their Rodopi 4.03 billing/management software for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and
the telecommunications industry. The new version of the product adds a number of new
features such as an integrated customer care module, automated provisioning for Domain
Name Servers (DNS), integrated knowledge database, billing for VoIP, support for prepaid
calling cards, and several other new and improved billing features.
Rodopi Billing Software is a completely Internet-enabled solution. It provides billing,
automated provisioning, customer care, and management support. Rodopi runs on Windows NT
and takes advantage of Microsofts SQL database, making it a scalable solution for
medium and large size ISPs, and telecommunications service providers (RBOCs, ILECs, CLECs,
) who wish to provide Internet telephony and other IP-related services.
The solution features online subscription, billing, bank reconciliation, customer care,
e-mail to customers, online account management, a RADIUS interface, and automated
provisioning on a variety of Unix- and NT-based servers. Version 4.03 also supports open
interfaces for billing, including the XML interface to allow for easy customization,
adoption, and co-existence with legacy systems. For more information, contact Rodopi at
In early 1999, Kenan Systems Corporation was
acquired by Lucent Technologies in a deal valued
at approximately $1.5 billion. The deal gave Lucent access to Kenans technology and
customer base, which features a whos who of communications service providers,
including British Telecom, MCI WorldCom, France Telecom, Cegetel, Optus, AT&T
Worldnet, GTE Interworking, and others.
Kenans Arbor/BP multi-service customer care and billing solution enables service
providers of all shapes and sizes to consolidate service charges for wireline and wireless
telephony, Internet, broadband, and even energy services on one consolidated bill. One of
the greatest benefits of this consolidation is that it allows service providers to
promptly bill for bundled services and for new services that can be deployed as fast as
the service provider can deploy them. As for scalability, Arbor/BP can support as many as
20 million subscribers and bill as many as 1 billion usage events per month. Several other
features offered by Kenan include support for major UNIX servers including Hewlett
Packard, Sun, and Compaq; a robust set of application programmer interfaces (APIs); and an
HTML self-care client for customer self-provisioning. The product also supports Java.
Most recently, Kenan and Telcordia Technologies
, unveiled a cooperative agreement to deliver integrated operations support systems (OSS)
and billing solutions for communications service providers of all sizes. The combined
offer encompasses Telcordias Next Generation Network order management and
provisioning services, and Kenan Systems Arbor/BP product. The alliance integrates
key elements for todays converging communications technologies in a solution
designed to support both circuit- and packet-switched networks. The company can be reached
Another emerging player on the Internet telephony billing scene is Mind CTI, and the company has enjoyed some significant
recent wins in the converging voice and data space. Just weeks ago, Mind declared Ericssons IP Telephony (IPT) solution and
Minds iPhonEX Internet Telephony Billing system product family to be interoperable.
And, as mentioned before, the ability to integrate billing functionality into Internet
telephony platforms is of extreme importance to provisioning and deploying value-added
services. The company has also made some announcements with communications solutions
providers such as ADC Telecommunications, Ascend (now a Lucent company), Cisco, and NetSpeak.
The thread tying together all of these announcements is Minds iPhonEX, a Windows
NT-based billing and customer care system, designed to provide ITSPs, telcos, and other
service providers with a comprehensive billing and analysis solution for Internet
telephony and Internet fax services. iPhonEX features real-time cut-off of calls when call
limit is reached, creation and management of prepaid calling cards, individualized
customer rate tables, and flexible fax charge options by page, duration, or priority (both
real time or store and forward). iPhonEX also provides monitoring of the load on each
gateway and line and keeping track of excessive use, including fraud alarms. For more
information on Mind CTI, call 201-569-6967.
Portal Software is also no stranger to
interoperability and significant alliances in the budding Internet telephony industry.
They recently announced that their Infranet IPT Customer Management and Billing System
fully interoperates with Ciscos AS5300/Voice Gateway and AccessPath-VS3/Voice
Gateway. The VoIP solution, based on Cisco Open Packet Telephony (OPT), is designed to
enable service providers to access new revenue streams from new and enhanced IP-based
Portals Infranet IPT is a scalable platform for real-time service creation and
management of Internet telephony services. The product provides a variety of competitive
features critical to service providers offering prepaid calling and other enhanced
services. These features include real-time authentication, authorization to help detect
fraud, support for multiple currencies and multiple languages, zone-based rating
management, customizable calling card and PIN creation, group calling cards, disposable
cards, replenishable prepaid accounts, IP fax, and dial-up VPN.
Put simply, Infranet unifies the management of core Internet business operations
including the ability to register, track, manage, and bill subscribers, and provides a
platform for Internet telephony service creation and management.
Portal also recently announced that Hewlett-Packard has
selected Portal as a partner for customer management and billing software for its new
Commerce for the Millennium solution, a hosted e-commerce solution that enables service
providers to offer e-services for electronic commerce to small and medium businesses. A
key component in HPs new solution, Portals software will provide merchant
self-provisioning functions that enable service providers to quickly deploy multiple
e-commerce sites and begin generating revenue. Feel free to contact Portal at
There are, of course, a number of other companies providing IP billing solutions,
and in fact we ran a listing
of 27 such companies in last months issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY. I urge the
reader to do their research thoroughly, before committing themselves to any one vendor.
Study the options, note the differences between the solutions, and make sure that the
solution you purchase is a logical fit for your companys needs.
I further urge you to take a look at the accompanying sidebars, entitled Using Session Information to Generate IP Billing and Re-Architecting Inter-Domain Settlements for IP for some insights
into some of the other issues surrounding billing in an IP world. And keep an eye out for
continuing coverage of this increasingly important topic in future issues of this magazine
maybe it will help you sleep better.
Open Port, Sun Collaborate on IP Messaging
Open Port Technology and Sun Microsystems have announced that they are teaming to deliver
IP fax and unified messaging to service providers worldwide. The solution combines Open
Port?s recently announced IP LaunchPad Internet services creation platform, IP LaunchPad
Fax Suite, and IP LaunchPad Voice Suite with Sun-Netscape Alliance messaging server
software and Java technology. The solution runs on Sun's scalable Enterprise servers and
Netra carrier-grade servers powered by the Solaris operating environment for SPARC
No. 540, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Portal Software Announces Infranet FreeServ
Portal Software has announced InfraNet FreeServ, a solution delivering
customer management capabilities to providers of free Internet-based services that do not
require billing functionality. Infranet FreeServ provides the core customer management
features needed to support a free Internet service environment, including the ability to
register customers, collect and trace demographic profile information, and authenticate,
authorize, and trace service usage. With Infranet FreeServ, providers also have the
flexibility to seamlessly upgrade their solution at any time if they decide to offer a
combination of free and fee-based, value-added services.
No. 541, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Vsys, Motorola Provide Carrier-Grade Solutions
Vsys has entered into an OEM agreement with Motorolas Internet and
Networking Group to deliver integrated, advanced voice-over-IP (VoIP) solutions for
emerging and incumbent telecommunications carriers. Vsyss intelligent software
switch solution, partnered with Motorolas advanced packet voice technology, provides
a true carrier-grade platform for introduction of enhanced services and intelligent
applications. This solution is designed to be protocol-agnostic on the network side as
well as at the application interface layer.
No. 542, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Intellicall Features Low-Cost Prepaid Platform
Intellical has announced the new entry-level version of its N-GENIUS Network
Switching Platform. The new N-GENIUS configuration has a base price of $99,000 and is an
option for companies eyeing the prepaid arena. The smaller-scale N-GENIUS provides
complete application functionality for prepaid card services. The platform is scalable
from 72 ports to over 4,000, easily accommodating business growth. The N-GENIUS provides
hot-swappable T1 interfaces, a powerful, real-time rating engine, and uses an integrated
account management system that approves or denies callers transactions after card
verification, avoiding fraud and free calls.
No. 543, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
PulsePoint Intros Next-Gen Messaging
PulsePoint Communications, which was recently acquired by Unisys, announced a
new generation of the PulsePoint Messaging Application, its flagship application running
on the PulsePoint Enhanced Application Platform (EAP). Designed to support SOHO, medium
businesses, and mobile phone customers, the PulsePoint Messaging Application delivers the
full range of features required by business customers. When combined with its recently
announced PulsePoint eap.1000 and PulsePoint eap.2000 platform solutions, the PulsePoint
Messag-ing Application delivers next-gen messaging solutions.
No. 544, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Motorola, Cisco Jointly Purchase Bosch Telecom Unit
Motorola and Cisco have announced an agreement to jointly purchase the fixed
wireless assets of Bosch Telecom. Bosch Telecom is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Robert
Bosch Corporation. In purchasing Bosch Telecom, Cisco and Motorola will create a jointly
owned company called SpectraPoint Wireless, which will focus on delivering high-speed
data, voice, and video capabilities to businesses over a fixed wireless infrastructure
call Local Multipoint Distribution Services (LMDS). LMDS is a last mile technology that
replaces the need for wired phone and cable lines.
No. 545, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Linx Launches Universal Number Service
Linx Communications has announced the availability of its Universal Number
service throughout the New York Metropolitan area, expanding Linxs local reach in
the Northeast. Linx Universal Number provides business professionals with a single, local
phone number that integrates voice, messaging, and fax communication. When a caller dials
a users Universal Number the system rings up to three specified numbers
simultaneously and announces the caller. The user can choose to take the call, send it to
voice mail, or even transfer the call to a colleague.
No. 546, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
TimePlex Targets ESPs
The TimePlex Group has announced that it will market its Network Assurance
offering to carriers and emerging service providers (ESPs) worldwide. The Network
Assurance offering is based on a combination of expertise and technology that enables
service providers to develop their business while TimePlex builds and operates their
networks. The TimePlex Network Assurance offering includes network modeling, design,
deployment, and maintenance; TimePlex SYNCHRONY family of access and gateway products; ATM
core switching platform; multivendor network management operations; and 24-hour
multilingual help desk support.
No. 547, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Open Port Announces IP LaunchPad Voice Suite
Open Port Technology announced the IP LaunchPad Voice Suite for the IP
LaunchPad Internet services creation platform. The suite includes a number of applications
such as voice mail bridging, offering interoperability of leading voice mail systems;
IP-enhanced voice mail, offering the ability to integrate voice mail with other messaging
such as e-mail and fax; and certified voice mail, the e-mail equivalent to phone mail. IP
LaunchPad Voice Suite is a family of voice-over-IP (VoIP) applications that allow service
providers to offer new cost and timesaving services to their subscribers.
No. 548, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Telcordia Provides Integration Services For GTE
GTE has unveiled a carrier-grade, IP-based unified messaging service
available for wholesale to the U.S. service provider market. Telcordia Technologies
(formerly Bellcore) served as the strategic consultant for the GTE offering, integrating
components from eight hardware and software suppliers to create a comprehensive unified
messaging solution. The solution Telcordia helped GTE develop is a scalable,
protocol-driven, standards-based architecture deployed over GTEs own high-speed IP
No. 549, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Lucent Intros Full Circle
Lucent Technologies has announced Lucent Full Circle, a program for software
and Web developers that will unleash the capabilities of broadband networks by making it
easier to quickly develop new services such as personal assistants, multimedia e-commerce,
and broadcast-quality video for service provider networks. Lucent Full Circle encompasses
a range of elements including several software platforms upon which developers will be
able to create new broadband services. It also includes software development training,
marketing support, and testing of new applications
No. 550, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
General Magic Enhances Portico
General Magic has unveiled a new set of features for its Portico virtual
assistant service. The new capabilities include a customizable welcome greeting, which
allows the Portico subscriber to personalize what callers hear when they reach the
subscribers Portico toll- free number; inbound fax receipt, which makes the
subscribers Portico number also serve as a fax number; and selectable caller
screening questions, which allow the Portico subscriber to customize what callers
experience when they first reach Portico. General Magic also disclosed plans for
additional Portico features to be rolled out in the coming months. These enhancements
include phone and e-mail-based notification.
No. 551, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
3Com Intros FoIP Unified Fax-E-Mail
3Com has introduced its carrier-class store-and-forward fax-over-IP (FoIP)
and integrated fax-e-mail messaging capabilities for the 3Com Total Control multiservice
access platform. FoIP with the unified fax-e-mail inbox enables service providers to
deploy IP-based enhanced fax services such as desktop faxing, low-cost fax delivery, fax
outsourcing, fax broadcast, fax clearinghouse, and Web fax. The Total Control FoIP
solution was co-developed by 3Com and LANSource Technologies, using the ITU/IETF T.37
standard for store-and-forward FoIP.
No. 552, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Edutek Uses e-Net In Wireless Voice Over Data Network
e-Net has announced that Edutek Education Solutions has awarded it a contract
with an initial value of approximately $2.1 million to supply the VoIP technology
necessary to create a wireless local area network (WLAN) product that will allow telephone
voice communications in addition to the data that such systems carry. The first market
targeted for the product is local educational systems to which Edutek is a leading
provider of technology. Concord Telecommunications will provide value-added
telecommunications design and installation services as a part of this effort. The initial
order is expected to represent revenues over the next 12 months.
No. 553, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Priority Call Commits To Open Standards For ORYX
Priority Call Management has announced a new open architecture for their ORYX
platform, which will support emerging open standards. Priority Call will use the new
architecture to design services with transparent synergy among legacy Public Switched
Telephone Network (PSTN), Intelligent Network (IN) elements, and New World IP-centric
carrier infrastructures. Priority Calls ORYX platform will communicate with Media
Gateway Controllers, Proxy Server, and Media Gateways to set up, tear down, and manage
voice and data calls in the IP network.
No. 554, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Magellan Intros Mariner
Magellan Network Systems has introduced an enhanced telecom services system
that fully integrates customizable enhanced voice services, telco-class programmable voice
switches, and true real-time billing and fraud control applications. Based on open
standards, the Mariner system will enable CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) and
other new world service providers to develop and deploy a wide variety of
differentiated services over the PSTN, VoIP networks, or hybrid PSTN/IP networks.
No. 555, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Amplify.net Debuts Back Office Software Suite
Amplify.net has announced three new products that enable integration of
front-end bandwidth provisioning with robust back office service management capability.
iSurfSplitter and iSurfRanger.ec will join the companys other flagship product, the
iSurfRanger in the iSurfFamily of end-to-end IP bandwidth service management solutions.
The newly introduced iSurfBOSS is the companys back end software suite.
The iSurfFamily is designed for IP bandwidth service providers, from telecommunications
carriers and competitive local carriers (CLECs), to Internet service providers (ISPs) and
No. 556, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Level 3, broadcast.com Announce Broadband Delivery Agreement
Level 3 Communications and broadcast.com have jointly announced a strategic
five-year agreement that provides broadcast.com access to bandwidth at favorable pricing.
Under the terms of the agreement, broadcast.com will use Level 3s international IP
network to deliver its audio and video content to mass, scalable audiences at reduced
fees. In addition, Level 3 will use broadcast.com as its exclusive provider of turnkey
Internet broadcasting solutions of live and on-demand corporate communications for Level 3
and its customers.
No. 557, www.itmag.com/freeinfo
Information To Generate IP Network Billing
BY ANIL UBEROIi
The IP networking market is changing so fast that it can be difficult to keep up. Not
so long ago, the terms IP network and Internet access were all but synonymous. The typical
ISP customer paid a flat fee of about $20 a month to gain unlimited access to the
Internet. Service was uneven at best, since ISPs offered only best effort
service with no quality of service (QoS) guarantees or service level agreements (SLAs).
This pricing and service model is really only profitable for billing customers who use
low-speed modems for asymmetric applications, such as e-mail, online chat, and downloading
fairly simple Web pages, where the bulk of the transmission is downstream to the user.
Today, use of the Web is exploding, and more and more people are using the Internet for
bandwidth-intensive business applications such as voice over IP (VoIP), video
conferencing, Web hosting, and electronic commerce. These new services are symmetric
bandwidths upstream and downstream are equal and use substantially more
resources than earlier Internet applications. An hour of high-quality,
24-frames-per-second, IP video conferencing, for example, can cost a carrier 100 times
more than an hour of e-mails or Web surfing, and require a far higher level of network
performance. Businesses can not afford to have such applications degraded or interrupted
because the network is congested or the ISPs router has failed.
CHARGING FOR USE AND VALUE
At $20 a month, ISPs can not make a profit on these resource-intensive
applications. Instead, they need to charge customers for actual network use and service
value, based on detailed information about IP sessions. Such a usage-based billing model
is similar to that traditionally employed by carriers, which offer a variety of services,
and bill users for them based on a number of parameters such as time of day, day of week,
and distance and duration of call. Carriers use sophisticated business support systems
(BSS) such as customer care and billing (CCB) to collect usage information from their
network infrastructure and generate itemized phone bills.
If ISPs are to make money on the new bandwidth-intensive IP networking services, they
need to generate an IP equivalent to the itemized phone bill. The problem is, this
requires detailed information about IP sessions, and although data networks generate vast
amounts of information about IP sessions, until recently, it has not been available in
usable format. Indeed, one of the major challenges to creating usage-based bills has been
the lack of standards for IP session data. With no industry-wide consensus on performance
metrics, there is no way for customers to know the level of quality and service they are
receiving. While standards organizations are now trying to develop parameters for service
provisioning, session-based accounting, and network metering, no one standard or group of
standards has emerged as a clear leader.
This situation is now changing, thanks to the emergence of IP metering and mediation
systems that are able to collect and use actual IP session information such as type of
application, time of day, QoS, user identification, and more, from all elements in the
network, regardless of the data format. These systems use IP session information not only
to help generate accurate, usage-based, itemized bills, but also to create innovative,
flexible pricing models, and to quickly develop and offer a broad range of new network
SOURCES OF IP SESSION INFORMATION
IP metering and mediation systems collect IP session information from all network
elements that are involved either in transporting network sessions, or in providing
information about the parameters of the network session. These elements include routers,
switching hubs, firewalls, Web servers, proxies, multicast servers, name and directory
servers, and more, all of which have logs or mechanisms that record the traffic that flows
through them. The systems also collect information from all layers of the network, from
the physical layer to the application layer.
Ideally, an IP metering and mediation system has a seamless two-way interface between
the IP network infrastructure and the CCB system. It not only provides billable data to
the CCB, but also enables the CCB to communicate with the IP network infrastructure.
Carriers and ISPs thus can automate service provisioning by using the IP mediation system
to pass service activation, authentication, and authorization information between the
customer management system and the network elements. This two-way capability also allows
carriers and ISPs to offer pre-payment contracts and differentiated service levels for
QoS, security, and accountability.
The multi-source, multi-layered approach that IP metering and mediation systems take to
gathering IP session information and creating SDRs enables ISPs for the first time to
right price their services based on actual network utilization. This
capability has the power to completely change the economics of the Internet. Suddenly,
ISPs have the economic incentive to invest in creating powerful new services or offer QoS
guarantees, because they know they can charge for them appropriately. And customers are
willing to pay a premium for services when they are backed up by detailed, accurate bills.
Anil Uberoi is vice president of marketing for XACCT Technolo-gies, Inc. XACCT
develops software solutions that enable Network Service Providers (NSPs) to bill for
value-added IP-based applications, profitably. For more information, visit XACCTs
Web site at www.xacct.com.
Inter-domain Settlements For IP
BY PHILIP MUTOONI
Internet traffic continues to grow in dominance within global service provider
networks. Accompanying this growth is the increasing number of data types relying on IP as
the bearer service. Rolling out enhanced IP services such as fax, telephony, video, and
conferencing will continue to require more stringent end-to-end network requirements for
QoS on metrics such as latency and packet loss within one network domain, as well as
across multiple domains. Acknowledging this challenge is the industrys primary
motivation for the next generation of emerging, carrier class, IP-based settlements
In the traditional PSTN environment, the settlement model consists of the formation of
bilateral agreements between carriers that exchange traffic. In this case, when
inter-domain traffic flows occur, accounting records are compared and reconciliation is
done periodically, varying from monthly to quarterly to, in some cases, annually. In the
ISP environment, the settlement model consists of a sender-keep-all model
whereby, traffic is primarily uni-directional, and the upstream service provider
generally the content owner gets to keep the bulk of the revenues. The
reconciliation frequency here is generally on a monthly basis.
Clearly, the PSTN bilateral settlement model could be used in the new packet-switched
world. However, given the inherent multi-service, multi-provider nature of IP-based
communications, the unscalable nature of a one-to-one bilateral approach makes it a
non-pragmatic approach. In a network with N providers, each provider would need to have a
bilateral agreement with every other carrier resulting in (N2N)/2 relations formed
per carrier. Global VoIP carriers are looking at clearinghouse models to solve this
inter-domain billing problem. At a basic level, a clearinghouse reduces the number of
billing relationships from order N2 to N, because ITSPs form bilateral relationships with
the global carrier. In this way, the carrier assumes the burden of negotiating multiple
bilateral agreements with its ITSP partners.
THE iNOW! INITIATIVE: A POINT SOLUTION
One clearinghouse approach is to facilitate settlements in conjunction with
inter-gateway/gatekeeper interoperability. The iNOW! (interoperability NOW!) profile
drives Annex G of the H.323 protocol, and bundles gatekeeper/clearinghouse
interoperability with session-level interoperability. However, as an H.323-based
settlements protocol, iNOW! has significant drawbacks:
- It does not scale beyond one clearinghouse, making true inter-domain billing
- It is tied to H.323, and consequently, limited to settlements on H.323-based services.
With the emergence of the session initiation protocol (SIP) and media gateway control
protocol (MGCP), a scalable solution requires a protocol-independent settlement mechanism.
- It requires gatekeeper-routed call signaling and H.323, v2 fast setup. In a network
without gatekeepers (or gatekeepers that use H.323, v2), inter-domain billing is not
OSP: A STANDARDS-BASED, SCALABLE SOLUTION
Given the inadequacies of the iNOW! initiative, and the absence of a broader
solution to the inter-domain billing problem, the industry has set out to develop a
robust, carrier-class, standards-based settlement architecture: Open Settlement Protocol
(OSP). OSP (Figure 1) is a standard led by ETSI/TIPHONs Working
Group 3 that broadly enables settlements between ITSPs that are members of a
clearinghouse, as well as allows true inter-domain billing for any QoS-based, IP-based
The OSP implementation involves a dedicated settlement server an OSP server
to perform inter-domain authentication, authorization, and reconciliation. And
unlike iNOW!, OSP inherently supports a multi-service, multi-provider environment typical
in an IP-centric world.
At a high level, a call traversing multiple networks will consist of several
network transactions made up of various messaging elements. At its core, OSP uses HTTP,
SSL (or TLS), TCP, and IP for the messaging required in its transactions, which contrasts
with the UDP-based iNOW! implementation. The typical XoIP call (where X is any
QoS-based IP application), once originated, requires authentication, authorization,
rating, and accounting. In OSP, the following key transactions occur when a call is
initiated, prior to its completion:
- Authentication: Once it is determined that the call will be terminated outside the
originating network (from the dialed destination digits), the caller must first be
authenticated to use the terminating networks facilities.
- Authorization: The settlement server needs to ascertain whether the call can be
terminated on a peer network where a settlement relationship has been established. A set
of possible terminating endpoints are then provided by the server, and a token sent to a
specified chosen target terminating endpoint.
- Pricing: Basic call rating information needs to be communicated, and may be established
beforehand through pre-rating. In cases where a guaranteed level of QoS is required, it
can also be negotiated.
- Usage: A record detailing the service is utilized, including relevant session
information like time stamps, endpoint IP addresses, caller ID information, and if
necessary, level of QoS and protocol are sent to the settlement server for reconciliation.
MULTI-SERVICE IP SETTLEMENTS
Aside from VoIP, settlements are required at interconnection points for a wide
range of value-added IP services such as multicast and conferencing. Generally, any XoIP
service requiring a guaranteed level of QoS and electronic commerce in which the
problem revolves around the settlement of content broadly defines the requirement
boundaries of what a necessary and sufficient settlement solution should meet.
In the OSP framework, voice, and indeed any XoIP or e-commerce service, may be viewed
as additional forms of content, which enable the service provider to extend settlements
beyond voice into services such as gaming, and traditional Web content. This inherent
service-neutral settlement approach is the single critical success factor that OSP brings
to the table. OSP represents a significant leap forward to help global IP providers meet
the challenge of offering a scalable and sustainable settlement infrastructure that is
tied to layer 7 operability, rather than layer 3 interoperability.
Philip Mutooni is a product manager for VIP Calling, Inc. VIP Calling provides
reliable, quality, IP telephony service to telecommunication carriers around the globe.
The company has deployed The VIP Calling Network, a network of high-capacity POPs
strategically located across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. For more
information, visit the companys Web site at www.vipcalling.com.