Billing Isn’t Dead, And That Isn’t Billing As I Know It

Tony Poulos recently wrote an article on the TM Forum entitled Bye-bye Billing, Goodbye – it had an implicit subtitle of “billing as we now know it is doomed”. This is a variation on the “x is dead, long live x” theme – a rhetorical device I admit to not being particularly fond of. Tony’s writing on billing, however,  is always worth reading, and is often thought provoking – in this case his article has both provoked some thoughts and a bit of a rant from me.

The billing situation that Tony describes is not billing as I know it. Not every operator puts prepaid billing (based on Intelligent Network equipment) under the control of network teams with post-paid billing under the control of billing teams. Indeed the distinction between prepaid and postpaid  billing has been collapsing for many years now, with hybrid models popular in most developed countries and many developing ones. In fact my experience is that billing is often split by service rather than split across the prepaid/postpaid divide. In these cases mobile billing is controlled by mobile product management, broadband billing by broadband product management and fixed voice by fixed voice product management.

Tony imagines a scenario where the old billing world is dead and we have a new converged one where all customers and services are billed off a single real-time charging platform. This is what most of us in the telecommunications billing area have been aiming at for the last 10 years! Billing won’t be dead when we get there, nor will it be completely different, it will just be easier, cheaper, more agile and more effective – if we do it right.

The key message of Tony’s that I do agree with, and can’t emphasise enough, is that if we just re-create the old business processes on new platforms we will not have convergence and we will not deliver the business benefits that convergence promises. This is a theme I have discussed at length elsewhere.

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