In the rapidly evolving telecommunications industry, efficient and flexible billing systems are vital for revenue management and customer satisfaction. In this article, we will explore various billing models used by service providers, namely MNOs, shedding light on their benefits and how they optimize financial operations.
Billing in the context of telecoms includes a range of processes related to financial transactions and customer invoicing. The process includes the collection and processing of call detail records (CDRs) to calculate charges based on rate plans and tariffs, invoice generation, payments processing, revenue accuracy (unpaid or overdue bills, reconcile financial record, reporting) and integration with CRM and other systems.
Whether you're an industry professional seeking to enhance your understanding or a telecom customer curious about the behind-the-scenes processes, this guide will provide valuable insights into the diverse billing options available in the world of telecommunications.
What is Retail Billing?
Retail billing is the process of invoicing individual consumers for services such as mobile phone plans, internet subscriptions, and pay-per-view content. Basically, it looks at individual consumer’s resources and services usage to produce an invoice. This typically involves creating an itemised bill for each customer that includes the price of each service used, any applicable taxes, and any discounts or promotions. Retail billing is common in the telecom industry as it allows telecom providers to bill individual consumers for their usage on a recurring basis.
In the telecom industry, retail billing and wholesale billing are used to invoice customers for different types of services. Retail focuses on the subscribers and wholesale on corporate clients (more details on wholesale billing below). The main difference between retail billing and wholesale billing in the telecom industry is the type of customer being invoiced and the services being provided.
Different types of Retail Billing
In the telecom industry, there are different flavours of retail billing that telecom providers can offer to their customers. Here are some common examples:
1. Prepaid Billing
This is a type of retail billing where customers pay for services in advance by purchasing prepaid plans or topping up their accounts with a specific amount of credit. Customers can then use the credit to make calls, send texts, or use data until their balance is depleted.
2. Postpaid Billing
This is a type of retail billing where customers are billed for services after they have been used. Customers typically sign a contract that outlines the terms of the service and agrees to pay a monthly bill based on their usage.
3. Pay-As-You-Go Billing
This is a flexible retail billing option where customers only pay for the services they use, without having to sign a contract or commit to a specific plan. Customers can choose to pay per call, per text, or per data usage, and the charges are deducted from their account balance.
5. Hybrid Billing
This is a combination of prepaid and postpaid billing, where customers are required to make an initial payment upfront to activate their service, and then billed on a monthly basis for additional usage.
These different flavours of retail billing allow telecom providers to offer a variety of billing options to their customers based on their needs and preferences. By providing flexible billing options, telecom providers can attract and retain more customers, while also generating additional revenue streams.
What is real-time Billing/Charging?
Real-time billing, but actually real-time charging (RTC) in telecom is a billing method that enables telecom providers to charge customers for their usage in real-time or near-real-time. This means that customers are charged for their usage as it happens, rather than being billed at the end of the billing cycle based on an estimate of their usage.
Real-time charging is typically used for prepaid mobile services, where customers pay for services in advance and their usage is deducted from their account balance in real-time. For example, if a customer makes a call, sends a text message, or uses data, the cost of that usage is deducted from their account balance immediately.
Real-time charging is also used for postpaid services, where customers are billed for their usage at the end of each billing cycle. With real-time charging, customers can monitor their usage and expenditure in real-time through a self-service portal or mobile app, which helps them manage their usage and avoid unexpected charges.
Real-time charging is becoming increasingly important in the telecom industry as customers demand more flexible and personalised billing options. Real-time charging enables telecom providers to offer innovative pricing plans and promotions, such as personalised data plans, real-time discounts, and value-added services, which can help attract and retain customers.
What is Convergent Billing?
Convergent charging is a billing system used in the telecom industry that enables telecom providers to charge customers for multiple services on a single invoice or bill. In other words, it allows telecom providers to combine multiple services, such as mobile, fixed-line, internet, and TV, into a single billing account.
The term "convergent" refers to the convergence of different types of services onto a single platform, which enables customers to access all their services through a single account and a single user interface.
Convergent charging enables telecom providers to offer bundled services, such as multi-play packages that combine voice, data, and TV services, or quad-play packages that combine voice, data, TV, and fixed-line services. Bundled services typically come with a discounted price or other incentives, which can help attract and retain customers.
Convergent charging also enables telecom providers to offer personalised billing and pricing plans based on each customer's usage and preferences. For example, a customer who uses more data than voice services can be offered a data-centric pricing plan that provides more data allowances at a lower cost.
Overall, convergent charging helps telecom providers streamline their billing processes, reduce operational costs, and provide more flexible and personalised billing options to their customers.
Real Time Billing for Retail Operators – Key Benefits
Convergent billing and real-time billing are crucial for modern telecom operators for several reasons:
1. Simplified Billing
With convergent billing, telecom operators can simplify the billing process for customers by offering a single bill that covers all the services they use. This not only makes it easier for customers to manage their bills, but it also reduces the operational costs for the telecom operators.
2. Increased Customer Satisfaction
Real-time billing enables telecom operators to provide customers with real-time updates on their usage and billing, which helps to increase customer satisfaction. Customers can monitor their usage in real-time, and avoid unexpected bills, which leads to a better overall customer experience.
3. Personalised Pricing
Both convergent billing and real-time billing enable telecom operators to offer more personalised pricing plans. By using real-time data on customer usage patterns, operators can offer customers personalised pricing plans that better suit their usage habits, which can lead to increased customer loyalty.
4. Improved Revenue
Convergent billing and real-time billing enable telecom operators to create new revenue streams by offering value-added services, such as premium content or bundled services. This can help to improve the overall revenue for the operator.
5. Competitive Advantage
Convergent billing and real-time billing are becoming increasingly common in the telecom industry. By adopting these technologies, operators can stay competitive, attract and retain customers, and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
In summary, convergent billing and real-time billing are crucial for modern telecom operators as they enable them to provide a more streamlined, personalised, and competitive billing experience to their customers.
What is Wholesale Billing?
Wholesale billing is the process of invoicing other telecom providers or resellers for the use of network infrastructure, such as leased lines or bulk voice and data services. This typically involves negotiating prices and terms with each provider or reseller individually, and then creating a single invoice that covers all of the services provided. Wholesale billing is common in the telecom industry as it allows telecom providers to monetise their network infrastructure and generate additional revenue streams from other businesses.
Different Types of Wholesales Billing
In telecom, wholesale billing refers to the billing of services provided to other telecom companies, which are then resold to end customers. The following are the different types of wholesale billing in telecom:
1. Interconnect Billing
This type of billing is used when two telecom operators exchange voice or data traffic with each other. Interconnect billing ensures that each operator is paid for the services they provide, based on the agreed-upon rates.
2. Roaming Billing
This type of billing is used when a mobile customer travels to another country and uses their mobile phone on a network provided by a foreign telecom operator. Roaming billing ensures that the home operator is reimbursed by the visited operator for the services provided to the roaming customer.
3. International Wholesale Voice
This type of billing is used when one operator provides voice termination services to another operator. International wholesale voice billing ensures that the operator providing the termination services is paid for the traffic they terminate on behalf of the other operator.
4. Content Billing
This type of billing is used when one operator provides access to premium content to another operator, which is then offered to the end customers. Content billing ensures that the operator providing the content is paid for the content they provide.
5. Data Services Billing
This type of billing is used when one operator provides data services, such as internet access, to another operator, which is then offered to the end customers. Data services billing ensures that the operator providing the data services is paid for the data traffic they provide.
Wholesale Billing for MNOs – Key Benefits
Overall, wholesale billing is an important revenue stream for telecom operators, as it enables them to monetise their network infrastructure by providing services to other operators. Proper implementation of wholesale billing ensures that the operators are paid for the services they provide, securing revenue and providing an accurate financial outlook of the network at any given moment. That helps operations to maintain a competitive edge in the telecom market, enter in new segments and expand their reach through a network of partners who rely on their connectivity, namely MVNOs, IoT Providers, resellers or technological partners.
What is multi-tenant MVNE Billing?
A multi-tenanted MVNE (Mobile Virtual Network Enabler) billing solution is designed to enable MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) to offer their customers a full range of telecom services, including voice, data, and messaging, without having to invest in their own network infrastructure. The processes are automated to increase efficiency and accuracy.
Overall, a multi-tenanted MVNE billing solution is essential for MVNOs looking to enter the telecom market, as it provides them with the flexibility, scalability, and revenue assurance they need to succeed in a competitive and rapidly evolving industry. MVNE billing is responsible for billing of sub-brands, MVNE, MVNOs and end customers (B2B2C), and enables to charge based on either agreement, usage or revenue share.
Multi-Tenant MVNE Billing – Key Benefits
The following are the key features and benefits of a multi-tenanted MVNE billing solution:
A multi-tenanted MVNE billing solution should be scalable, allowing MVNOs to add new customers and services quickly and easily, without affecting the performance or stability of the platform.
The solution should be flexible and customisable, allowing each MVNO to define their own pricing plans, billing cycles, and customer self-service portals, and to customise their branding and user interfaces.
3. Real-time Billing
The solution should provide real-time billing, enabling MVNOs to monitor customer usage in real-time, and provide customers with accurate and up-to-date billing information.
4. Revenue Assurance
The solution should provide comprehensive revenue assurance features, including fraud management, revenue reconciliation, and dispute resolution, ensuring that MVNOs are paid for the services they provide.
5. Multi-currency Support
The solution should support multiple currencies, enabling MVNOs to offer their services in different countries and to bill customers in their local currencies.
6. Reporting and Analytics
The solution should provide detailed reporting and analytics capabilities, enabling MVNOs to monitor their business performance and identify areas for improvement.
What about combining all types of billing (Retail, Wholesale and MVNE)?
Combining multi-tenanted retail, wholesale, and MVNE billing into one solution can provide several benefits for a Mobile Network Operator (MNO):
1. Reduced Complexity
With a single integrated billing solution, MNOs can simplify their billing and revenue management processes, reducing the complexity of their operations.
2. Cost Savings
By consolidating their billing systems into one solution, MNOs can reduce the cost of maintaining multiple systems and benefit from economies of scale.
3. Improved Customer Experience
An integrated billing solution can enable MNOs to provide a seamless customer experience, with consistent billing across all services.
4. Greater Flexibility
An integrated billing solution can provide MNOs with greater flexibility to offer customised pricing plans and packages, tailored to individual customer needs.
5. Enhanced Revenue Assurance
An integrated billing solution can improve revenue assurance and reduce the risk of revenue leakage by providing comprehensive fraud detection and prevention capabilities.
6. Improved Reporting and Analytics
An integrated billing solution can provide MNOs with better reporting and analytics capabilities, enabling them to monitor performance and make data-driven decisions to improve business outcomes.
7. Streamlined Operations
An integrated billing solution can streamline operations, with a single interface for managing billing, revenue, and customer service.
8. Increased Revenue Opportunities
An integrated billing solution can enable MNOs to explore new revenue streams, such as offering services to other operators or enabling third-party billing and settlement.
In summary, combining multi-tenanted retail, wholesale, and MVNE billing into one solution can provide MNOs with a range of benefits, including reduced complexity, cost savings, improved customer experience, greater flexibility, enhanced revenue assurance, improved reporting and analytics, streamlined operations, and increased revenue opportunities.
Not many vendors can provide an All in ONE multi-tenanted billing platform that can serve all needs for retail, wholesale and MVNE billing at the same time. If you’re interested in knowing more, please get in touch with us using the contact form or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.