Telco billing systems have done a great job for mobile operators, some for as long as twenty years or more. But tomorrow’s Telcos need to jump over a different set of fences, and the old billing workhorses are already struggling. As the industry prepares for 5G and a very different communications landscape, Telcos need more than just billing 2.0.
For consumers, and for many businesses that have emerged over the last decade, e-commerce has been a great thing. Customers value the speed, convenience and value it has brought compared to frustrating experiences in call centers and shopping malls. Businesses have found that an online presence is a lot less costly than physical stores and more flexible too — accommodating a customer base that’s doubling every month is a lot easier on the web than through traditional outlets.
Digital commerce has offered new businesses a rare double whammy — a more profitable business model and an experience that their customers actually prefer.
For forward-looking Telcos, however, digital commerce isn’t just about a smarter way of doing the same old stuff. It marks a decisive move away from their traditional subscription-based billing model to one that’s more reflective of how people are consuming services, and what choices they expect to be able to make.
Today’s consumers don’t want to be pigeonholed into an expedient segment — “high spend contract” or “low value prepay,” say, with limited offers and bundles to match. They want to balance and adjust their spending depending on their current need for more (or fewer) voice minutes, texts, gigs of data, roaming allowances, content subscriptions and so on.
Digital consumers — which is to say, most consumers — expect to be able to make such choices in other markets, such as retail, or on-demand entertainment. So why should communications services be different?
One clear reason lies in the demands that digital commerce places on its supporting IT infrastructure, particularly in terms of performance and agility.
The billing systems at the heart of most legacy IT stacks are rooted in a time when telephony was a utility service. There was no requirement for real-time performance, other than to meter simple pre-paid calling minutes and texts. Services were few and relatively static, comprising largely the number of lines or SIMs and various categories of calls, with little need for agility.
Billing existed to provide functional support in a rapidly expanding market, where demand was high and the customer experience was a low priority. What sophistication billing did have (supporting complex geographic call tariffs, for example) has become increasingly redundant with the rise of free calling and all-inclusive packages.
In short, billing systems were designed for the age of the subscriber, not the consumer, and the priorities that were relevant over twenty years ago still run through their essential DNA today.
A digital commerce platform is different because it’s designed to meet the demands of an online business in today’s digital era. For a Telco, of course, it still needs to support telephony rating, but this is now far less demanding. Its real strengths need to be in meeting the dynamic requirements of digital commerce, with features that will certainly include:
In summary, a digital commerce platform will provide the agility, performance and digital-first smarts that any operator will require to grab the opportunities offered by tomorrow’s 5G networks and to meet the challenges presented by both digital-native competitors and quickly-transforming fellow incumbents. A traditional billing system, for all its historic value, can only act as a block on that progress.
Ready to dive deeper?
How do digital commerce platforms differ from traditional billing and how critical are they to the success of tomorrow’s Telco? Read the discussion paper Are Digital Commerce Solutions Really Just Billing 2.0?
For more ideas on digital strategy, see MATRIXX and 451 Research’s paper Fast Tracking Telcos to Digital Transformation.
Want more information about how leading digital service providers such as Telstra, Vodafone and Yoodo are using MATRIXX solutions to underpin their digital transformation? Visit http://www.matrixx.com/customers/.