Your Billing Simplified: A Framework for Communication Service Providers

May 24, 2024

  • 5G
  • 5G ecosystem
  • 5G Monetization
  • AI
  • Evergent monetization platform

Operational complexities and expenses inherent in digital partner billing can finally be addressed, integrated, and consolidated

Commercial Context

In today's evolving telecommunications landscape, the demand for bundled services involving multiple vendors is steadily expanding. Customers seek flexible, personalized and convenient one-stop-shop packages, pushing communication service providers, or CSPs, to partner with various digital service providers. This creates a complex ecosystem in which seamless integration is essential to meet customer expectations.

However, more services means more individuality in processing needs. The complexities in billing processes for bundled services can present significant challenges. CSPs typically bear the responsibility of billing for vendor products, even though vendors may have their own billing systems. This often leads to operational inefficiencies and customer dissatisfaction. As the industry evolves with technologies such as 5G communication, a robust billing integration framework becomes critical to manage these complexities effectively. 

Our answer: BiMa, or Billing integration for Marketplaces, aims to address such challenges with a standardized solution to streamline billing integration across multiple vendors.

The Solution

BiMa builds on the success of the Billing Hub, a collaborative effort initiated in 2023 as part of the Catalyst program by TM Forum, a global association supporting the digital service provider ecosystem. Evergent entered the project along with Verizon Communications, Telecom Egypt, Botswana Telecom, Etisalat, Infosys, i2i Systems, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). This second phase, BiMa, introduces an enhanced integration framework tailored to support the growing complexities of modern telecommunications. This stage focuses on creating a scalable and flexible billing platform that seamlessly connects CSPs, partners, and marketplaces, enabling a unified billing mechanism that handles diverse pricing models and partner arrangements.

The enhanced framework supports complex billing scenarios such as discounts, bundle offers, and promotional rates. The solution enables unified invoices for products and services generated from multiple providers, delivering a single, consolidated bill to the customer. The modular and event-driven architecture allows real-time data processing and integration, ensuring accurate and timely billing. By leveraging TM Forum Open API assets, the framework standardizes communication protocols and ensures data consistency across the billing hub and various marketplaces. This approach simplifies the integration process, reduces operational complexities, and improves customer satisfaction by providing accurate and transparent billing.

Leveraging TM Forum Assets for Seamless Integration

Besides establishing a robust and standardized foundation, these select TM Forum APIs have enhanced this solution, and driving efficiency and operational fluency to new levels. The team’s continued reliance - sustaining the use started in the initial project phase - on the APIs of TMF678 and TMF688 has allowed the team to refine the CustomerBill data model further, promoting a deeper connection between CustomerBill and AppliedBillingRate. This strategy underscores digital transformation, offering a customer billing experience characterized by greater accuracy and transparency.

Building on the solid foundation established by the initial Billing Hub work, Phase II expands the use of TM Forum assets to support more intricate interactions within the billing ecosystem. The integration framework now includes APIs for registering CSPs and partners within the marketplace, managing agreements, and handling party accounts and partnerships. By utilizing TMF632, TMF669, TMF651, TMF666, and TMF668, the BiMa team ensures seamless registration and account management processes, facilitating smooth onboarding and operational consistency across the platform.

Moreover, the framework incorporates TMF620 to streamline product and bundle onboarding for both CSPs and partners. This involves initiating export jobs for product and bundle data, ensuring accurate and efficient integration into the marketplace. The inclusion of TMF666, used to create and modify billing accounts, further enhances the system's capability to manage complex billing scenarios and maintain data integrity across multiple entities.

By embedding these TM Forum APIs, the Billing Hub Catalyst Phase II delivers a future-ready solution adept at addressing current billing complexities with unmatched proficiency. This expanded integration not only bridges gaps in existing billing processes but also provides a scalable and flexible architecture that supports the evolving needs of the telecommunications industry, ensuring a seamless and efficient billing experience for all stakeholders.

Applications and Wider Value

Significant progress has been made in automating onboarding, order management, and fulfillment processes through standardized APIs between CSPs and their partners. These advancements have allowed CSPs to offer partner products as value-added services and bundled packages. However, until now, no comprehensive solution has addressed the complexities of billing integration across partners and CSPs.

Billing integration has traditionally been viewed as a complex challenge, prompting CSPs to manage billing on behalf of their partners. This approach has resulted in several issues, including limitations in product offerings, increased operational complexities, data synchronization challenges, and a suboptimal customer experience. As the telecommunications industry evolves with the emergence of 5G and other technologies, the need for efficient billing integration becomes increasingly critical.

The Billing Hub Catalyst Phase II introduces a standardized, seamless billing integration framework designed to tackle these challenges. This framework supports the integration of bills across multiple CSPs and partners, providing the following capabilities in the telecom industry:

  • Rapid onboarding of partners and partner products for CSPs
  • Optimal bundled solutions and value-added services delivery for customers, with the best possible pricing models based on customer needs
  • Improved customer experience by managing the partner products sold by a CSP
  • Improved billing accuracy for enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Facilitation of the latest pricing models by partners, resulting in more customer value per investment
  • Enablement of powerful marketplaces for multiple CSP and partner collaborations to deliver flexible customer solutions

By providing these capabilities, this BiMa phase not only enhances the customer experience, but also improves operational efficiency and reduces costs. The project's effectiveness will be measured by tracking reductions in billing errors, with a target of at least 30%. It will also measure the time saved when onboarding new partners and partner products with complex pricing models, aiming for reductions of 20% and 50%, respectively. Additionally, this collaborative framework aims to lower the operational costs of billing processes by 20%.

Ultimately, this framework will contribute to enhanced customer retention and profitability, positioning CSPs better to meet today’s constantly evolving telecommunications industry demands.

Learn more about this joint effort and follow along with the Evergent team and our partners on this ongoing journey at our TM Forum Catalyst project page.

And for those planning to attend the TM Forum’s DTW - Ignite event in Copenhagen, make plans to meet with the Evergent team while in town.