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Round Up
April 2000

 

IP Convergent Billing Platforms

[Go Right To: IP Convergent Billing Platforms Round Up List
                     The In-House Billing Cycle Check List: A 12-Step Program]

The rapid growth of IP-based services offers an amazing revenue opportunity for carriers and service providers provisioning these valuable offerings. The new breed of services also presents a challenge: Next-gen service providers must not only be able to quickly roll out services, but they also need to bill for them in a timely manner with an emphasis on customer management and convenience.

The platforms available in this space go beyond traditional billing and call accounting systems. They offer a mechanism for service providers to scale up their portfolios of offerings while giving their customers real-time access to account information and the ability to choose the services that best fit their needs. And in a market like Internet telephony where change is constant and new termination and level of service agreements are being worked out by the minute, the ability to charge for those minutes without missing a beat is vital. So do your homework and choose a billing platform that works with your existing network infrastructure and can migrate as your service portfolio grows. The solutions outlined below should serve as a good representation of the multitude of offerings in this market, and the 12-step check list from Info Directions also provides a good overview of the billing cycle.
� Laura Guevin


IP Convergent Billing List

XACCTusage NeTrue IPT BackOffice
GlarNet Communications Services Clarent Command Center (CCC)
Saville CBP (Convergent Billing Platform) BillPlex ICP Package
InterCarrier Infranet 6.0
Total-e Version 2.0 Tempest DVG AMAS And Billing
Internet Management System (IMS) NetCountant
CostGuard IAF Horizon
BizBill NARUS Billing Mediation System
Galleon E-Business Systems MIND-iPhonEX Version 4
Invoy Billing Service Bureau
APEX Billing System Communication Exchange
GRIC CSP Telephony Gatekeeper Billing Manager
Telco 2000 SQL ClearIP Clearinghouse Solution
Intelecable Network Strategies
Business Support and Control System (BSCS) RODOPI

XACCTusage
XACCT Technologies, Inc.
2855 Kifer Rd., Ste. 105
Santa Clara, CA 95051
408-654-9900
www.xacct.com

  • This software platform offers a multi-source, multi-layer architecture for extracting usage information from many types of network devices. The information is taken from all layers of the network in real time and synthesized to create billing records called XACCT detail records, similar to the call detail records generated by most switches.
  • These records are used by billing applications for creating service-specific usage bills for IP-based services and applications. Uses include VPN, Voice-over-IP (VoIP), and video-over-IP applications.�28

GlarNet Communications Services
GlarNet Communications Services, Inc.
200 Lanidex Plaza
Parsippany, NJ 07054-2724
973-781-9080
www.glarnet.com

  • These outsourced services enable telecommunications companies to deploy billing and customer care systems in a robust, timely manner. Through Portal Software�s Infranet software solution, IP telephony providers can offer real-time billing and customer care/management systems to their customers.
  • The company also provides online and agent-based technical support and customer care, as well as real-time, Web-based account access for clients and their customers.

Saville CBP (Convergent Billing Platform)
ADC Telecommunications, Inc. (formerly Saville Systems)
P.O. Box 1101
Minneapolis, MN 55440-1101
800-366-3891
www.adc.com

  • This software solution enables telecommunications and energy companies to integrate charges from multiple service providers into one service. It offers customized consumer accounts and verifies credit, enabling easy customer service and the ability to upsell new services. Companies have an automated connection to third-party providers delivering new services, and can confirm service delivery.
  • Additional features include a powerful marketing manager module to enable new products and services to be developed in under an hour, and easy handling of events like processing of call detail records and one-time activation charges. The software also offers a multi-switch interface, flexible rating schemes, and near real-time billing for multiple products and services.

InterCarrier
Savera Systems, Inc.
535 Mountain Ave.
Murray Hill, NJ 07974
888-SAVERA1
www.savera.com

  • This Web-based settlement and management solution is designed for telecom and IP carriers, as well as trading houses, resellers, and service bureaus. It fits the needs of any size network, and lets carriers accurately track and bill for use of each other�s networks.
  • InterCarrier may be used independently or for consolidated reporting, and supports multiple currencies and languages. It can also handle changes in network infrastructure such as rating structures, new services, and management of new agreements. The solution also features a mediation adapter for multiple input record formats, and an enhanced auto loader for maintenance, export, and import of all reference data and price list information through a spreadsheet application.

Total-e Version 2.0
TeleKnowledge, Inc.
One Speen St., Ste. 130
Framingham, MA 01701
508-370-8000
www.teleknowledge.com

  • The latest version of this customer care and billing solution is designed for broadband service and content providers. The product�s flexible billing capabilities enable providers to differentiate their service offerings through innovative pricing models. These models use qualitative and quantitative metrics linked to the value perceptions of the companies� target customers and trading partners.

Internet Management System (IMS)
Belle Systems A/S
Ahlgade 3
DK-4300 Holbaek Denmark
45-59-44-25-00
www.belle.dk

  • This solution enables consolidation of single invoices and convergent billing with traditional network services. It lets providers and end users perform online credit checks and debit and credit card payments, as well as offering integration into dedicated and legacy financial systems.
  • IMS is built on UNIX and Oracle 8 systems, and incorporates inherent failover functionality and distributed RADIUS servers. It has been proven to support more than one million simultaneous users and more than 20 million accounts. Additional features include a CORBA business logic server, port management, a SilverStream GUI interface, and IP address management.

CostGuard
Info Directions, Inc.
833 Phillips Rd.
Victor, NY 14564
888-924-4110
www.infodirections.com

  • The CostGuard family of billing products offers an open system billing and customer care solution on a Windows 95/98/NT platform. The products offer a fixed-fee licensing program, and are integrated with advanced Web-enabled functionality for telecommunication companies that want an immediate return on investment from their billing.
  • The family, along with Info Directions� OnlineRep, is based on a three-tier architecture and uses a core rating and billing engine written in C++ using Win32 API. The rating engine uses the Microsoft SQL Server to process tolls at up to 1,200 transactions per second. It integrates ODBC and DAO database interfaces, and uses SQL server as a database resource manager.

BizBill
Biztrans Technology, Inc.
7432 Alban Station Blvd., Ste. B226
Springfield, VA 22150
703-913-5554
www.biztrans.com

  • Intended for use with the VocalTec Internet Telephony Gateway, this billing software lets ISPs offer Internet telephony services to their POP accounts. It enables billing in a central location, and offers account balance and receivable information, as well as integrated invoicing.
  • The software runs on Windows NT/95, and features an intuitive, icon-based graphic interface. Features include customer account management, invoice and call log management, a payment control log, system administration, and common gateway interface capability. It also supports customizable billing plans, and acts as a server for retrieving call logs from co-located gateways.

Galleon E-Business Systems
Galleon Distributed Technologies, Inc.
13555 SE 36th St., Ste. 300
Bellevue, WA 98006
425-462-8680
www.galleon.com

  • This comprehensive, Java-based, three-tiered distributed computing platform is also an application server that supports a suite of e-business applications. Based on an object-oriented architecture, Galleon offers extensive business transaction processing logic as well as a customer-centric database schema.
  • This open system records customer activity history and profile information while providing a complete audit trail for accounting and billing. The database design also allows for easy addition of information storage tables. Thin client support is also offered, and thin client user interfaces are simple to maintain and deploy.

Invoy
Imagen Technologies, Inc.
174 Fulford-Ganges Rd.
Saltspring, BC Canada V8K 2V6
250-537-1480
www.imagen.net

  • This unique invoicing program allows a live Web page to be appended to any billing invoice to merge customer communications with billing and e-commerce. Invoy is an open source program and custom programming is available for additional development. The program e-mails routine invoices and receipts with windows into news and product pages for an HTML invoice with an optional Web page appended.
  • The program allows users to create an inventory of standard charges, and build HTML invoices by clicking on charges and taxes. Live HTML images and links may be added as part of the invoice body, and discounts and surcharges may be added for up to two different tax levels. XML reports may also be created, and can be used as a method to transfer data to databases and other programs.

APEX Billing System
Apex Voice Communications, Inc.
15250 Ventura Blvd., 3rd Fl.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
818-379-8400
www.apexvoice.com

  • This transaction-based call rating and billing system offers reporting capabilities and flexibility based on an accounting-oriented database. Its modular software design supports IP telephony services as well as local, long-distance, prepaid, cellular, and paging services.
  • The system may be used in a variety of configurations for pre- and post-billing needs. One setup incorporates a Cisco VCO/4K switch, and the billing database uses CDRs from the switch. Another configuration uses the OmniVox Intelligent Switch for call rating in a PC-based setup.

GRIC CSP
GRIC Communications, Inc.
1421 McCarthy Blvd.
Milpitas, CA 95035
408-955-1920
www.gric.com

  • GRIC�s Convergent Services Platform (CSP) allows service providers to deploy and manage Internet services. It handles authentication, authorization, routing, settlement, and provisioning for multiple services, allowing service providers to instantly extend their physical networks by sharing services with members of the GRIC Alliance Network, while getting immediate reimbursement.
  • The CSP can accommodate new software applications for support of additional next-gen services, and the platform makes it easy for service providers to add more users. It is also standards-based, and GRIC offers a variety of services that may be deployed including: GRICphone for IP telephony service, GRICprepaid calling card service, GRICtraveler for global Internet roaming, and GRICtraveler Corporate, a complete remote access solution.

Telco 2000 SQL
Telco Billing Solutions, Inc.
205-B Venice Ave. West
Venice, FL 34285
800-266�3658
www.telco2000.com

  • An overhaul of the Telco 2000 Billing Software package, the new version uses MicrosoftSQL Server 7 to integrate billing for IXC, CLEC, prepaid, and calling card services. The software features full accounting capabilities and integrated taxes, as well as a �customer keeper� for easy access to financial information, call details, transaction history, service call logging and other information, all on one screen.
  • The package also features a centralized database that groups all information, regardless of the number of customers, users, sub-licenses, or locations. It can also optimize SQL database structures, and offers integration to the Web through a browser or thin client for remote access and electronic bill presentment.

Intelecable
DST Innovis, Inc.
11020 Sun Center Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670-6184
800-835-8389
www.dstinnovis.com

  • This solution from DST Innovis offers customer care and billing capability in one package. Intelecable records and generates reports for inbound and outbound account inquiries, and interfaces with the company�s CyberCSR product to allow end-user account access through the operator�s Web site.
  • It offers usage-based billing and a flexible real-time rating system using various units of measurement. Other features include an open architecture with a range of distributed APIs, the option to maintain an individual data center or implement the full-service Platinum Global Data Center from DST, and language versatility.

Business Support and Control System (BSCS)
LHS Group, Inc.
Six Concourse Pkwy., Ste. 2700
Atlanta, GA. 30328
770-280-3100
www.lhsgroup.com

  • This client/server billing and customer care solution is designed for service providers and network operators, and uses point-and-click interfaces, and object-oriented construction of rate plans and service packages. A scalable, open architecture and modular design make it easy to modify and integrate this solution with an existing infrastructure that is adaptable to a wide range of telecommunications markets.
  • Features include account and service activation to support short messaging, over the air activation, fleet management, switch auditing, and dispatch handling. Customer administration features support sales of services and equipment, on-demand bills, complaint tracking, and real-time transaction viewing. Other features include maintenance of subscriber data, adjustment processing, and bill and payment inquiries.

NeTrue IPT BackOffice
NeTrue Communications, Inc.
1400 N. Harbor Blvd., Ste. 601
Fullerton, CA 92835
714-870-0861
www.netrue.com

  • The BackOffice billing system offers real-time call handling, as well as the ability to interface with network access and quality of service (QoS) modules for billing according to service level agreements, call authentication, and the measured QoS for individual calls. The system can support multiple service billing applications, as well as pre- and post-paid billing accounts.
  • Other features provided by the system include real-time account status and billing reconciliation, and historical invoice data. It can also interface with Web-based customer care, and supports multiple customer accounts, rate plans, taxation groups, and currencies.

Clarent Command Center (CCC)
Clarent Corporation
700 Chesapeake Dr.
Redwood City, CA 94063
650-306-7511
www.clarent.com

  • The CCC enables flexible call rating for different inbound and outbound charges, and allows service providers to easily add subscribers and gateways, and to modify rating tables and reconfigure routing tables. Dynamic call routing and Web-based management is also included, and rating can be dependent on parameters like time of day and weekend and holiday rates.

BillPlex ICP Package
Daleen Technologies
1750 Clint Moore Rd.
Boca Raton, FL 33487
561-999-8000
www.daleen.com

  • The Integrated Communications Provider (ICP) Package is a pre-configured software suite for billing and customer management, geared toward convergent service providers. It has been developed to handle packet-based and circuit-switched offerings in LEC and IXC operating environments.
  • The solution is based on an object-oriented, component-based architecture for rapid implementation and service maintenance. It offers support of NT and Unix, as well as cross-platform integration. BillPlex can also offer pre-integrated market packages including the data model and functionality to expedite launching of new services. Other features include integration with operational and business support systems through open industry standard APIs.

Infranet 6.0
Portal Software, Inc.
10200 South De Anza Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
408-572-2000
www.portal.com

  • The latest version of this billing and customer management solution offers a real-time business infrastructure with transactional functionality. It features private branding to allow service providers to offer virtual ISPs multiple services, branding on all customer touch points, and data segmentation.
  • New features include enhanced pricing and simplified, real-time rating models like discounting and volume tiering. Customer care features offer a customizable, Web-enabled solution for customer self care and CSR management, and an enhanced invoicing system offers flexible invoicing formats. Multiple databases are also supported.

Tempest DVG AMAS And Billing
Franklin Telecom
733 Lakefield Rd.
Westlake Village, CA 91361
800-372-6556
www.ftel.com

  • Part of Franklin�s Tempest Data Voice Gateway, the product�s Gatekeeper provides call details for offline billing, as well as the ability to specify rates by destination according to rate groups, based on time and day of the call.
  • The Tempest Billing front-end application offers administrative input through LCR and time zone table entries, and customer service input. Features include reseller account setup; subscriber setup and administration; debit, pre-paid, post-paid, and flat-rate billing; payment history; and new card generation. Other features include detailed bill output with provisions for call details, late charges, discounts, and other customization.

NetCountant
Apogee Networks, Inc.
365 West Passaic St.
Rochelle Park, NJ 07662
201-368-8800
www.apogeenetworks.com

  • This billing system works within a distributed network environment to allow for billing of services on a usage basis. Companies can give users monthly billing information based on their account consumption with NetCountant, using a methodology for implementing metering services used in the telephone, water, and power industries.
  • The system is made up of three components, the billing and management subsystem for handling tariff calculation and reporting functions, the collector subsystem, for gathering utilization data, and the administration and user interfaces. It also features a Java GUI, which can be launched from any Web browser.

IAF Horizon
Solect Technology Group
55 University Ave., Ste. 1500
Toronto, ON Canada M5J 2H7
416-363-7844
www.solect.com

  • IAF Horizon acts as a multi-service IP billing platform, allowing next-gen providers of Internet telephony services to move beyond rate arbitrage models and quickly add new services. The solution enables service providers to plug in network services and create pricing plans for anything that includes multimedia service bundles for packaging voice with applications like unified messaging, distance learning, and conferencing.
  • Features include prepaid calling card services, support for in-session call management, branded IVR messages, call redirect and number blocking, advanced rating capabilities, and calling card management, which includes tracking by channel and bulk card creation.

NARUS Billing Mediation System
NARUS, Inc.
3950 Fabian Way
Palo Alto, CA 94303
650-475-9100
www.narus.com

  • Built on the NARUS Semantic Traffic Analysis (STA) platform, this system allows vendors to deploy and bill for customer-focused services. The STA platform offers real-time usage information for every IP-based service and user session, directly from the network. The data is collected and distributed at line speeds without any impact on network performance.
  • The system supports pre-defined billing plans for VoIP, VPN reporting, streaming media, dialup, and client and server flow. It is compatible with all IP networks, and provides data capture in industry-standard IPDR format through NARUS Analyzer devices. Other features include mediation modules for transforming event information into billing records, a system manager with an intuitive GUI and remote management capability, and an optional archive for long-term storage.

MIND-iPhonEX Version 4
MIND CTI, Inc.
777 Terrace Ave.
Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604
201-288-3900
www.mindcti.com

  • The latest version of MIND�s IP services billing and customer management platform offers convergent, real-time billing. The new version supports billing for rapid deployment of services, and provides the tools to manage a growing subscriber base.
  • The product offers real-time rating, e-commerce billing, IP service management, and content billing capability. It also includes call management and traffic analysis support systems for load monitoring, customer behavior analysis, and maximizing resources.

Billing Service Bureau
Integretel, Inc.
5883 Rue Farrari
San Jose, CA 95138
408-362-4000
www.integretel.com

  • Integretel�s billing service offers three billing platforms and support for an entire back-office infrastructure in a complete customer management solution. Phone bill, direct bill, and EBPP platforms provide features like fraud control, advanced funding, and customer service for inbound consumer inquiries.
  • The service also features online management reporting through Integretel�s NetImpact, which delivers management and accounting reports over IP so clients can track all records billed. It offers a one-stop shop for account creation and management, calculating everything from collections to taxes, to receivables financing and settlement.

Communication Exchange
Telution, LLC
65 E. Wacker Place, Ste. 600
Chicago, IL 60601
312-201-6600
www.telution.com

  • This application suite offers convergent customer care along with order management and billing functionality. Built on Windows NT, the suite uses Microsoft�s Component Object Module and SQL Server 7.0. The product offers customers 24/7 access to their accounts through support of the Web, interactive voice response systems, information kiosks, and call centers.
  • The solution�s architecture follows through a product�s lifecycle, from definition to ordering, billing, and problem resolution. It allows solutions to be assembled from software components, and this increases the time-to-market advantage. The product is created from SolutionKits, which handle functions like account and customer management, task management, and revenue management.

Telephony Gatekeeper Billing Manager
Telephony Experts, Inc.
1900 South Sepulveda Blvd., Ste. 212
Los Angeles, CA 90025
800-838-8642
www.telephonyexperts.com

  • This solution is designed to work with the VocalTec Ensemble architecture, to provide scalability and third-party access for real-time prepaid/postpaid billing solutions. The billing server may be placed anywhere within an IP network, and secured on permission-based levels to bill for services like postpaid termination partnerships, PC-to-phone billing, and prepaid phone cards.
  • The solution features real-time authorization, parent/child accounting setup, fraud filters, and automated batch account generation. Other features include an intuitive interface for rapid deployment, an administrative security model that allows agents to perform account maintenance without full administrative privileges, and the option for Web-based administration.

ClearIP Clearinghouse Solution
TransNexus, LLC
430 Tenth St. NW, Ste. N-204
Atlanta, GA 30318-0500
404-872-4887
www.transnexus.com

  • Offering clearinghouse support for any IP backbone network, ClearIP allows service providers to participate in new revenue opportunities and drive backbone traffic by enabling new applications. The solution can also increase demand for wholesale IP bandwidth, and can help increase a customer base and retention.
  • Provided as an outsourced service, the solution eliminates the need to build in-house clearing and settlement solutions, but can also be licensed so that larger carriers seeking to offer clearinghouse services to retail customers can provide in-house operations.

Network Strategies
Intertech
400 Chesterfield Center
Chesterfield, MO 63017
636-532-5300
www.billingsoftware.com

  • This billing solution offers flexibility and scalability for high-speed data service providers, CLEC/ICPs, and wholesale service providers. It is designed to be a seamless billing system and offers service providers enterprise-wide, supply-chain management capabilities for security, service, and retention of their customer bases.
  • The product may be delivered in a variety of manners, including site license, service bureau, and facilities management, aimed at established and emerging carriers.

RODOPI
Rodopi Software
4660 La Jolla Village Dr., Ste. 880
San Diego, CA 92122
858-558-4932
www.rodopi.com

  • This billing/management software suite is aimed at ISPs, and features bank reconciliation, online subscription capability, customer support, online statements review, and the ability to e-mail customers. It also features automated account setup on NT and a variety of Unix-based servers, a universal billing interface to accept usage information, and is completely Web enabled.
  • RODOPI features real-time authentication for credit cards and allows for a wide selection of plans, billing terms, and promotions. It offers customer support through a help button, and filters and controls to allow only specific information to be entered.

The In-House Billing Cycle Check List: A 12-Step Program

BY JOHN REILLY

The billing cycle: The word �cycle� promotes organic thoughts of an all-encompassing procedure with a beginning, ending, and natural recurrence. Perhaps it elicits a more circular image, where the once distinct beginning and ending points are now blurred; a continuous process. Most likely, however, a twelve-step program could more adequately define the in-house billing process.

In-house billing cycles may not be discrete nor altogether sequential, but the following check list will illustrate that there can be regularity of recurrence among billing cycles; a moment of clarity.

  1. Obtain Call Detail Record (CDR) files from all carriers or switches for the current billing cycle. This involves downloading files from a switch to the in-house billing system, copying from a CD-ROM, or magnetic tape.
  2. If needed, pre-process the data. Pre-processing converts CDR files into a common format that the rating engine can understand. This process often readily occurs without prompting by the user. However, it is sometimes necessary that the user execute this procedure.
  3. CDR files are loaded into the system and rated. A billing system module identifies the service number for each CDR and applies a rate plan from rate tables within the module.
  4. Investigate and correct rejected CDR files to ensure that each call is processed and rated. CDRs can be rejected from the rating process if, for example, a switch allowed the transmission of a customer call that did not have a corresponding rate plan available for assignment.
  5. Detect, delete, or move duplicate CDRs. Upon downloading CDR files from the switch, it is not uncommon for duplicate CDRs to be generated. These duplicates should be identified, removed, and sent back to the carrier in exchange for a credit adjustment. Further, duplicates between cycles should be identified and removed by checking current cycles against previous cycles.
  6. Execute the billing of one cycle or all cycles. Within this process, new invoice numbers and totals are created for each bill. The total cost and the total charge of all usage are calculated. Any non-posted payments and adjustments, recurring and non-recurring charges, discounts and taxes are then applied.
  7. Conduct spot checks for both accuracy and integrity by printing random sample invoices for high profile customers.
  8. Re-bill an individual customer, a select group, or an entire billing cycle as necessary.
  9. Evaluate cycle performance by generating CDR traffic reports. Traffic reports can sort and outline traffic volume and the respective revenue margins realized by various categories such as customer service number, originating location, and terminating location.
  10. If a Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) bills on behalf of the service provider, export all appropriate CDRs to the proper LEC clearinghouse.
  11. There are several forms of invoicing the business or residential customer. Paper invoice reports can be printed either in-house or by an outside print shop. Electronic presentment and payment can be used for online customers. A database of CDRs can be saved to CD-ROM for business customer access, printing of invoice reports, and payment.
  12. Import batch payments and adjustments obtained from bank lock boxes.

John Reilly is the CostGuard product enthusiast at Info Directions. John has generated on-site enthusiasm in the name of billing for over thirty service providers, from start-up resellers to aggressive CLECS and established carriers. For more information visit the Info Directions Web site at www.infodirections.com.







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