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January 2007
Volume 10 / Number 1

Billing and OSS - the Last Barrier to VoIP and IMS

By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis: ( Page 1 || Page 2 || Page 3 || Page 4 || Page 5 || Page 6 || Page 7)


The Genius is in the Details

TARGUSInfo ( is a rapidly-growing provider of caller-name services. Their advanced call reporting technology offers unsuspected revenue opportunities and allows carriers to provide new forms of information, in stark contrast to the lack of information about calls placed or received that was essentially the Achilles’ heel of traditional call reporting solutions. Whereas older circuit-switched systems usually could come up with just a phone number and switch location, providers can now give customers truly enhanced caller detail, including full name and full address, which can serve as the foundation for a new set of ‘sticky’ offerings, including contact books, driving directions, call analytics. This results in new revenue and cost control opportunities for the customer and improved retention for the provider.

Rob Fisher, VP of Strategic Marketing at TARGUSInfo, says, “We started in 1993 and pioneered the development of on-demand intelligence to help companies more productively process customer prospect transactions. With patented technology, we link just about every household and business telephone number in the U.S. with information such as postal addresses, names, and some demographic information. The first principal application was intelligent call routing, so if an inbound caller wanted to be routed to the nearest federal express drop box, we would have that telephone number mapped to the correct geo-location and then route the call to either the nearest drop box or to the nearest store location. We also did that with pizza franchises as well.”

“We’ve expanded beyond intelligent call routing into call center handling,” says Fisher, “such as doing screen pops on a call center rep’s desktop with name and address information. We can help with lead verification and we are now the industry’s fastest-growing caller name provider, for such things as Caller ID services. We have over 400 customer companies, including Cox Communications, Dell, Fed-Ex and Cablevision. We have data centers in San Diego and Rochester, NY.”

“What TARGUSInfo has started to do on the billing front is to take our caller name expertise and transfer that over to some new billing applications,” explains Fisher.

“I got my start 17 years ago working with MCI’s corporate billing group,” says Fisher. “At the time, your typical billing call detail record [CDR] consisted of the time of call, your rating information such as minutes and price per minute, and the number of calls in the switch location. It was pretty basic information. Now, 17 years later, we’re here and people are still dealing with exactly the same information! It’s amazing how far we’ve gone with information in general and with telephony in particular, and yet nobody provides the name or the correct location of the caller. So, our first real application in this area is just to solve that problem. We have a unique caller name repository — I believe we’re the only company that utilizes a centralized database that contains full names instead of just a 15-character string. So, we can provide the actual name of the caller, either on an inbound call detail or even on an outbound call detail as well.”

“Additionally, rather than use the city and state of the switch — which usually isn’t very precise — we can provide the actual location of the caller or called party, assuming there’s an online application, supporting a click-thru to the full address,” says Fisher. “That can be uploaded and can be extended to other applications such as a VoIP-based portal address book, which can then be used for things such as customized caller ID, or that address book could be synchronized with your Outlook address book or your wireless handset address book. The first app is very simple, but it’s something that I haven’t seen anybody focusing on — just being able to identify the name of the calling and called party on your basic bill or your online call log.”

“The benefits are that the end user is just to be able to identify who he made a call to or where he received a call from,” says Fisher. “It makes the call detail less of a mystery and eliminates frustration not being able to identify calls. But as I said, it also enables a user to upload that information to other apps. From the carrier’s standpoint, everybody is trying to keep VoIP from becoming just another commodity, or at least less of a commodity than it is now. VoIP providers certainly don’t want to just enter into a commoditized market. What we do turns the voice services into more of an information service and if they can use our data to upload the information to a VoIP address book, then that makes the basic voice service ‘stickier’ which could in turn reduce churn. It also turns the operator into something that’s more of an information provider than just a voice carrier.”

“If you take the address book,” says Fisher, “in addition to it merely being a repository of information that can be used for Christmas card lists or something like that, the user can also use it on the business side as a customer-updating tool. We’re also looking at the idea of a customized caller name service, so a carrier could, as a call comes in, first check the user’s address book to determine whether they’ve customized the name — they might designate ‘Mom’ rather than the network-based caller name. We can push that not just to the user’s handset, but also something we’re doing now, enabling carriers to present that caller name information on a TV and as soon as you move it over to the TV you’re no longer constrained by the 15-character CNAM [Calling Name delivery data] and you can now provide the name, location, a picture, ringback tones, and all sorts of customized features that more mirror what we’re seeing on the wireless side.

Fisher concludes with, “Having been in this industry so long, another thing that I’m baffled by is that as much as the wireline Internet has transformed the wireline experience, the basic wireline phone is still just a dumb phone that doesn’t really have any of the customized features that a wireless handset has. I think as VoIP providers keep trying to differentiate their service, there’s an opportunity to move to transform the standard phone.”

Because of the size and depth of Zippy’s article, readers can peruse this feature in its entirety below.

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.


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