Telecom providers must deploy cutting-edge billing software solutions to get ahead of the ever-growing telecommunication industry competition. With Telecoms investing heavily in 5G deployment and thinking about 5G monetization, the billing system will play a crucial role in the modern digitalized era.
Table of contents
- What is Telecom Billing?
- What do Telecoms use billing software for?
- Types of billing models in Telecoms
- Features of a Telecom Billing Software solutions
- Telecom Billing Software functions
- Quote-to-Cash (QTC) automated process
- What to Look for in Telecom Billing Software
- Tridens Monetization Telecom Billing software solution
What is Telecom Billing?
Telecom billing is a process deployed by Communication Service Providers (CSP). It’s an end-to-end Quote-to-Cash (QTC) process.
Even though the sale starts with sales and marketing activities, the billing process begins with the configuration of products and services that suit the client and their pricing.
This is the basis for the quote, which is generally seen as the first QTC step.
From then on, the telecom billing process involves everything, from contract creation to payment collections and analyses.
The essential element differentiating the telecom billing process and software from other billing systems is the complexity and data volume of collecting consumption or usage information in real time and turning them into billable units.
Communications Service Providers aim to automate telecom billing as much as possible using state-of-the-art cloud-based software solutions.
However, with 5G technology in deployment and 6G already on the horizon, what is state-of-the-art today may already be obsolete tomorrow.
Therefore, telecoms focus on setting up scalable and flexible cloud-ready operations support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS) architectures that will stand the test of time.
What do Telecoms use billing software for?
To better understand what billing software is used for in telecommunications, let’s look at some of the most common use cases.
The basis for almost all actions in telecom billing is usage based billing, which charges users according to their actual use.
Most telecom subscriptions use the principle of overage pricing. It means that the customer’s selected plan includes a certain amount of minutes of calls, SMS, and mobile data transfer per month. If the customer exceeds the included quantity, he is charged extra according to the overage charge stated in the contract.
Even if the user has an “unlimited” subscription plan, his usage will be recorded and charged at all times and presented in the invoice.
To improve your understanding of telecom billing solutions, let’s review some real-life applications where the use of a billing system can be applied.
The most basic form of telecommunications service is voice calls. Voice calls include classical phone calls over a landline, a mobile network, or a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service.
The telecom billing system will charge and bill the user according to his usage and contract.
Many said SMS or short message services are outdated, but they are still popular today. Like voice calls, SMS are charged per usage.
Both services were the backbone of the telecommunication industry but are now in slow decline compared to the following use case – internet and mobile data services.
Internet and mobile services
Life, as we know it today, is not possible without the internet. Be it on a fixed or wireless connection or mobile broadband.
As mentioned, voice calls and text messages are declining while data usage is rising.
Our society is changing its behavior patterns and how we communicate. Why call someone when you can send an instant message, a picture, or post on his social media account?
According to research by Statista, mobile data traffic worldwide has grown from 28 exabytes in 2018 to 62 exabytes per month in 2022, with no sign of slowing down.
The same goes for data transfer over all Internet access technologies (fixed or mobile).
However, someone must rate, charge and bill all these exabytes of data; you guessed right, it’s the telecom billing software!
TV Services and On-Demand services
Almost every internet and mobile service provider offers clients at least one On-demand service, most commonly IP TV.
Telecoms Customers subscribed to internet and TV subscriptions can choose from different packages with different broadband speeds and channel options. They can purchase add-ons and one-time products.
Customers can also purchase pay-per-view media and entertainment content like movies or music.
In addition, many offer video and music streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Spotify, Deezer, or Apple Music.
With On-demand services, the billing gets even more complex. Some services can be part of the subscription package, while others are genuinely charged on a usage-based basis.
In the end, the telecom must combine all these charges into one bill with the help of convergent charging, something we will discuss in detail later.
With 5G, IoT services are an ample potential monetization opportunity. With more IoT devices emerging, they will all need one thing: connectivity.
While Telecoms will probably not offer IoT services themself, they will provide and charge for the necessary equipment and data traffic required for them to work. This connectivity will either be offered as a subscription or billed according to device data usage.
The first things that come to mind are smart appliances and home security, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. With 5G technology IoT will truly come to life.
With 5G network slicing technology, Telecoms will have much more options to differentiate service offers. However, it will also increase the complexity of charging that the telecom billing software must handle.
Increased 5G deployment
5G technology will soon be the leading technology for data transfer, at least on mobile.
According to forecasts from Statista, by 2025, South Korea will have the highest share of 5G mobile connections among the leading markets. 5G will account for 73 percent of total mobile connections in the country.
Japan and the United States are slightly behind, with a 68 percent share each. Germany will be third with 58 percent.
Overall, South Korea is expected to have the highest 5G adoption rate, but the country with the highest total number of 5G connections will almost certainly be China.
Types of billing models in Telecoms
Different customers and services require different billing types. Therefore, Communications Service Providers (CSP) must include all these types in their offers.
There are several different billing types that telecoms use. Let’s look at some of the most common ones.
Prepaid billing model
We deal with prepaid billing if the user must pay in advance and can use the services only when his balance checks out.
The billing system deducts the customer’s credit during prepaid service usage in real-time. During usage, the user will get warnings when his credit is getting low, and once the credit is used, the service is stopped immediately.
Postpaid billing model
Customers commonly use a service over the month and pay for it monthly. While a monthly billing cycle is a common standard, it can be set to any duration. In fact, a lot of subscription services have a yearly billing cycle.
At the end of each billing cycle, the billing system generates a consolidated invoice with all his charges and due date. Then the customer pays for the services he used. Paying for services after using them is the definition of postpaid billing.
The postpaid billing model is the preferred choice for many subscriptions and is often connected to an automated recurring billing process.
Pay-per-use billing model
The principle of the pay-per-use (PPU) or pay-as-you-go (PAYG) billing model is quite simple. It’s a usage-based model where customers only pay for services or quantities they actually used.
Another version of the PPU billing model is the pay-now model, where the customer is immediately charged for what he uses. This model requires the user to input his preferred payment method into the system and authorize the provider to charge it for the payment. The payment method can be a credit card or a payment platform like PayPal.
Features of a Telecom Billing Software solutions
Telecom billing software is a crucial part of any telecom company’s infrastructure.
It will automate the processes and make things easy for the customers. Moreover, it will also help reduce the number of manual processes.
The software must also offer scalability and integration capability, allowing for better customer service.
Telecom billing system must also include Interconnect and roaming billing functions and convergent charging and billing to deliver single and transparent invoices.
We also advise including a self-service portal, allowing customers to log in and manage their accounts. This better service will also help to improve customer satisfaction and make your business more profitable.
Flexibility and Scalability
There is no question about it, any Communications Service Provider should have an efficient telecom billing system. Your telecom billing software solution must be flexible and scalable and should not limit potential growth.
With more and more services emerging, especially with 5G technology, the telecoms business will expand.
Telcos must deploy next-generation platform-agnostic telecom billing management solutions to prepare for growth.
They are, in essence, end-to-end enterprise billing solutions that include a suite of business tools adapted to the specifics of the industry.
Telecom billing software is used for several everyday use cases, including managing pre-pay and post-pay services, rating and billing, subscription management, credit control, and dispute management.
However, it can also monetize services and automate complex billing and invoicing operations. They also process inter-carrier settlements and facilitate B2B negotiations between telecom carriers.
Lastly, billing solutions help reduce operational costs and give telecom firms a competitive edge.
Any software, especially one for telecom billing, should also integrate easily with other business systems.
Using software integration tools, companies can unify data and streamline operations. In addition to reducing errors, integrations can also increase efficiency and productivity.
Integrations can help an organization with payments, taxation, customer relationship, and integrated management and automatization of main business processes.
Software integration can be complex and time-consuming. But a thorough analysis can help companies determine which systems they need to integrate and how.
Using an integration tool can also help telcos migrate data from legacy systems. By combining data in one central location – a cloud, they can streamline data collection and synchronize data sources.
The integration process can also be streamlined using modern APIs to facilitate data exchange between applications.
For example, Tridens Telecom billing software is powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), and it supports seamless integration with any third-party application through REST APIs.
REST API integrations with third-party systems enable providers to combine and integrate different business solutions to cater to all specific needs. Some examples of API integrations are:
- Integration of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software
- Integrations with other ERP (Enterprise resource planning) and accounting systems
- Integration of Payment Processing platforms
- Integration with third-party network elements
Using the Telecom billing software, CSPs can configure their customers’ prices, tariff plans, and credit classes based on various factors.
This allows operators to adjust the pricing if a particular product’s cost increases or decreases.
The pricing can also be configured in advance, which allows operators to advise on the charges for an event before it takes place.
Customers can be assigned a credit class based on their income and credit history. The account will be blocked if the customer’s credit limit is breached. A credit class is also used to calculate a customer’s monthly usage charges. Various credit classes can be defined, which include on-net, off-net, peak, and off-peak charges.
There is also the option to charge customers in advance for certain services, such as international calls.
A billing system should also be able to configure and maintain rating events and partial events. This will enable the operator to determine whether a customer is over the rating time threshold.
This will protect the Communications Service Providers from losing revenue. The system can also allow a third-party interface to be used by the third-party collecting payments. A rating engine can also be used to check the rating time thresholds.
A billing system should allow unlimited use of the services to ensure customers can access the services they need.
Customer self-service portal
Telecommunication customers have changed, and they expect solutions that meet their needs. Customers expect a fast, hassle-free customer service experience. They also want control over their business relationship.
Customers prefer to handle issues themselves, or they may want to work through an app or contact center. In any case, they expect to have access to all account information.
A self-service portal helps to improve user experience and customer satisfaction!
But recommending a self-care portal comes with a warning. It must be done right!
If it’s confusing to use or full of bugs, it will frustrate the user even more than waiting for a free operator on the helpline. So don’t launch it without extensive testing and design it with UX experts.
Aside from improving customer satisfaction, a self-service portal also reduces the number of support tickets and agents required to handle issues. It also helps to increase brand loyalty.
It is essential for CSPs’ to provide a telecom self-service portal that covers all aspects of the customer experience and includes a desktop version and a mobile app.
The portal should be easy to navigate and allow users to access their accounts and view the status of their services and sales quotes. Users can also manage their phone options and voice mailboxes or change passwords.
Most importantly, customers can upgrade services, add new services, or de-provision unused services.
In addition to reducing the number of support tickets and agents, an effective self-service solution also reduces support costs. It eliminates phone wait times and prevents monotony from repetitive questions.
It allows customers to solve issues themselves, which can prevent disengagement.
A telecom self-service portal should also include a customer service module that allows users to report issues when they cannot solve them online and helps agents resolve customer issues.
In addition to a telecom self-service portal, a telecom service provider can also install chatbots. It’s an important step to help customers handle issues without involving agents.
Not only will it improve customer satisfaction, but it will also allow telecom service providers to increase their service levels and help reduce call center wait times.
Convergent charging and billing feature
One of the most critical functions of a telecom billing system is the ability to perform convergent billing. Let’s explain it as easily as possible!
The term convergent charging and billing describes a billing system feature that combines all the bills into a single transparent invoice.
So no matter if prepaid or postpaid, subscription or pay-per-use, the client will always get one invoice stating what he was billed for in this billing cycle.
Interconnect and Roaming billing
The terms interconnect and roaming billing relate to billing between telecoms for services a customer uses in another network.
We all know that we need to pay additional roaming charges in another country, but less of what goes behind this transaction. Depending on the contract, some of these charges may appear in the customers’ invoices.
Telecom Billing Software functions
The essential functions of a Telecom Billing and Revenue Management (BRM) platform include the following:
- Diverse business model support
- Business to customer (B2C), business to business (B2B), family hierarchies,…
- Innovative pricing
- Subscriptions, one-time purchases, custom services, flexible tariffs, tiered pricing,…
- Real-time balance management
- AAA – Authentication, Authorization, Accounting
- Detailed charging
- Rating versatility, discounting, taxation, charge sharing
- Billing and Invoicing
- Diverse billing cycles and invoice delivery
- Prepaid, postpaid, pay-as-you-go models
- Disputes, refunds, and adjustments
- Financial management
- General ledgers, charts of accounts, payment collection, dunning
- Revenue assurance and real-time analytics
- Revenue accounting, statistics, marketing graphs, cross-referencing
Quote-to-Cash (QTC) automated process
Modern Telecom billing software automates every step of the Quote-to-Cash process, from selecting and configuring the product or service to generating invoices and collecting payments.
Automating these processes reduces errors, shortens the cycle time for each step, lowers the costs, and increases efficiency by allowing telcos to focus on two things that matter most:
Selling the product and service and providing an excellent user experience!
The steps in QTC process can be divided into six steps:
QTC step 1 – Select and Configure
The first step in the QTC process is to present the potential customer with various offered products or services. The customer starts by selecting the products from a product catalog where he can also configure the product according to his wishes.
More than ever, telecom customers today require personalized data service configuration, promotional plans, and trade-in arrangements. They also want a personalized combination of devices and financing terms.
By automating the configuration part of the process with the telecom billing system, the selection and configuration is standardized and made easier for the customer and company to process.
QTC step 2 – Price and Quote
With Step 1 automatization, it is easy to automate the next step, which is pricing and quoting. A fully automated QTC process allows the generation of a quote in a matter of minutes.
Instead of many hours manually preparing custom quotes for each customer, the entire process is automated and streamlined.
This helps to free up the sales staff’s time and can drastically reduce human errors.
Automating the pricing and quoting processes enables businesses to understand their customers’ needs better and find cross-selling opportunities.
More importantly, it will help telecoms to configure complex products without overstressing the sales department.
QTC step 3 – Propose and Contract
From the quote, the telecom billing software automatically generates the proposals. The proposal is sent to the customer, and after he accepts it, he gets the contract. All, of course, automated.
Again, telecom personnel needs no involvement if all is done right, significantly reducing time and possible errors.
QTC step 4 – Order and Renew
After signing the contract, the order is placed and automatically placed into the system. The automated billing system also handles recurring payment management and the process of renewing subscription-based products.
QTC step 5 – Bill and Collect
The automated telecom billing software will generate invoices from templates and send them to customers.
It will also create revenue and customer payment records that track transactional data, allow third-party payment gateways and start automated dunning processes if needed.
All this automatization of QTC will speed up payments and improve cash flow.
QTC step 6 – Analyze and Forecast
For any business, it is crucial for all departments to operate with real-time data that improves forecasting, generates budget forecasts, and helps a company make informed decisions.
Modern telecom billing software will improve data visibility by providing pre-configured dashboards. These dashboards provide KPIs for order management, finance, customer service, and lead generation.
They can also help you uncover successful pricing strategies and identify upsell opportunities, customer churn, and renewals.
The Quote-to-Cash automation function of telecom billing software is a powerful tool that allows companies to streamline their business processes, improve customer satisfaction, and increase profitability.
With QTC’s front-to-back automation, telecom providers can keep pace with complicated billing and reach profitability faster.
What to Look for in Telecom Billing Software
There is a wide range of vendors today which offer telecom billing services.
Firstly, it is imperative that you critically analyze all telecom billing software before making your choice.
It is crucial to carry out requirement gathering and feasibility studies to ensure that the system meets your organizational needs.
You’ll also want to have a detailed demonstration of the product. This will allow you to learn all the solution’s features and determine whether it will deliver in real-world situations.
Here are some factors you should consider.
Is the system scalable as a whole? What about billing software scalability?
Is it easy enough to add or configure new modules and functionalities?
Vertical and horizontal scalability is essential for the system to meet your business dynamics and the latest industry regulations. Modularization is vital in avoiding unnecessarily long configuration and improvement times.
Telecom billing software solutions should include real-time and session-based charging, flexible pricing, and multiple payment options.
These features help telecom carriers improve the user experience and shorten time-to-market.
Can the system be integrated with third-party software?
Good API coverage allows you to integrate it with different CRMs, Enterprise resource planners (ERP), gateways, and other solutions you might already be using.
What about user experience? Is the system easy to learn and use?
It should have a small learning curve and should be self-explanatory. Also, you’ll want to ensure that it has some clever CRM features that can help you build strong customer relationships.
Look for well-built user interfaces which are self-explanatory and intuitive. Your customers and employees love it when the user interface is easy to use and learn.
Don’t forget to consider pricing options, as well. Is the system available as SaaS or as a one-time license fee?
Good telecom billing solutions should be flexible in pricing and consider deployment options.
Another critical feature to look for in a telecom billing system is cyber security. The system must provide the highest possible resilience against all security threats.
Is the system cloud-based, installed on-premise, or a hybrid?
Most cloud-based systems are sold as a service and come with continuous updates. Cloud-based systems are easily scalable and usually offer better pricing than hybrid or on-premise installments.
Tridens Monetization Telecom Billing software solution
The Tridens Monetization telecom billing software solution is a well-proven top-of-the-market Charging, Billing and Revenue management platform for the Communication industry.
It was developed with and for Communications Service Providers when they were looking to replace their out-of-date billing systems that limited their growth.
Tridens Monetization BSS is cloud-based and offered as Software as a Service (Saas). It is horizontally and vertically scalable, ensuring high-performance processing on a scalable architecture powered by Amazon Web Services.
The billing system is easy to integrate with CRMs or other third-party applications due to its well-implemented REST API.
It comes with a payment gateway component, allowing you to connect to different payment providers, such as Braintree, Wirecard, Paypal, Stripe, or Authorize.Net.
The tax gateway component allows you to use third-party providers for tax calculation, such as Avalara or Suretax.
It can be integrated with various ERPs and CRMs like SAP, Netsuite, or Salesforce.
As a billing and rating system, Tridens Monetization offers in-depth pricing design, customer and subscription management, and real-time rating.
You can set up complex multi-level hierarchies, advanced usage-based pricing, and several discounting and sharing options.
Additionally, all these features are available through a very intuitive user interface.
Contact us if you’re looking for a modern billing system capable of handling all of the challenges a modern telecom market and 5G deployment brings. Tridens Monetization might be just what you need.
Want to get more information about our solutions? Leave a comment below or Schedule a Demo!