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VoIP: Challenges & Rewards

By Curt Champion


For the past six years, cable operators and other competitive broadband providers have been in a head-to-head competition with telephone companies battling over high-speed data in order to provide Internet access and advanced digital services. Cable and broadband providers who have been winning the high-speed data war are aggressively rolling out full-scale deployments of new IP-based services, such as VoIP, that strike right at the heart of the telephone companies' PSTN-based business. Traditional telcos have responded by launching initiatives aimed at providing IP-based television service to attack cable's traditional markets. As a result, fixed operators, either traditional cable or wireline telephony-based, are competing more and more across a bundle of "Triple Play" (voice, data, and video) services enabled across their networks. Offering this broad range of bundled services is not only critical in the competition between cable and telephony operators but also a key component for the fight back against cheap rate voice and VoIP single-service providers.

The rewards of winning this battle are considerable, but the challenges can be daunting. The truth is that providing these advanced IP-based services will only grow more complex in the future. Any false step in pricing, billing, packaging, customer/service management and bundling can have a long term effect on the success of an operator's voice offering and overall growth of convergent bundles. Delivering the right set of products and bundles quickly to market and supporting these offerings with efficient customer service is crucial.

Clearly, this places increased importance and emphasis on customer care and billing operations. Today, many operators have difficulty delivering advanced services to market in a timely manner due to their legacy systems. In addition, as many operators introduce new bundles, they typically patch new processes and systems into their existing operational architecture, often relying heavily on manual intervention to accomplish convergence. As a result, they end up with multiple stove-piped BSS/OSS systems, creating an environment of disparate processes, user interfaces, systems interfaces, and systems themselves that create additional problems, rather than solving them. Given the success of bundled service offerings, the scale and complexity of convergent services is sure to grow, further exacerbating the situation.

The Convergys Infinys solution offers comprehensive, convergent BSS software that assists operators in this competitive environment. Infinys uses a modular, pre-integrated approach to providing rating, billing, customer service management, order management, partner management, inventory management, activation management, and mediation management capabilities. This enables operators to implement a comprehensive BSS or to choose a single application and evolve their BSS environment to a convergent environment with minimal risk. The flexibility and true convergence capabilities of Convergys' Infinys software greatly reduce time to market for advanced IP services, such as VoIP, as well as convergent bundled offerings.

In addition, the Infinys CSM application was built with significant knowledge from Convergys' unique experience managing more than 54,000 CSRs handling about 1.7 million interactions per day in 68 contact centers worldwide. The result is an application that provides significant call center efficiency for operators who are finding customer service more important than ever in an increasingly competitive environment. With more than 20 years of experience in billing and customer care, Convergys complements Infinys software with a broad portfolio of professional and consulting services and deep technical and operational expertise.

As a result, many traditional cable, telephony and alternative service providers have selected Convergys to support their business support systems (BSS) and many of their key operational support systems (OSS) requirements as they move to support VoIP and convergent bundles.

An example of this can be seen at Cox Communications. In less than a decade of being a telephone service provider, Cox has gained recognition for its success in expanding into new markets and growing its customer base. With over 1.4 million telephony customers, customers are seeing value in choosing Cox. The key differentiators provided by Cox are price, product bundle and overall system reliability. Specifically, the Cox bundling strategy has been effective in attracting and retaining telephony customers, with 24% of customers in the telephone markets subscribing to all three products (voice, video and data). Additionally, the bundle has provided significant improvement in churn reduction for Cox customers that have two and three products with over a 50% decrease for customer with one versus three services.

Convergys is currently supporting all of Cox's 6+ million customers, across all products and lines of business. Initially, Cox deployed Convergys' ICOMS software the industry-leading convergent voice, video, and high-speed data billing and subscriber management solution for cable and broadband service providers. In 2003, Cox and Convergys expanded its agreement to include Infinys. The advanced capabilities of Infinys will provide Cox the opportunity to broaden its multi-service bundling, pricing, and billing to support the company's rapidly expanding variety of voice, video, data and content.

Curt Champion is vice president of market and product strategy for Convergys Corporation's Information Management Group. For more information visit the company online at

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