What is a Real-Time Charging System?
Throughout the business world, when it comes to billing a client for work or services there is often a delay between the time the services are rendered and an invoice drawn up to when the payment is collected. These delays however leave gaps open, in which mistakes or errors with the charging and collection of payment can be made. Operators who rely on latent CDRs (call detail records) may suffer from revenue leakage. These mistakes or delays in the charging functionality often prove to be extremely costly to Telecommunications providers. A real-time charging system can however ensure that every transaction made by a subscriber is logged and enacted upon in real-time.
A real-time charging system works, as the name suggests, in real-time. It is able to rate and charge for any type of event immediately. Identifying what services a subscriber has used and for how long they used them. It can quickly calculate how much is owed and allocating the charge accordingly.
What Does This Mean For Telecoms?
Telecoms using real-time charging are afforded extra reassurances that the revenue they generate within a month will all be accurate and accounted for. This is due to the fact payment is taken at the time of services rendered. This not only offers them an extra layer of protection, but they are also able to get a better and more accurate idea of financing and cash flow. Having a more accurate picture means they can make investments or reallocate funds within and outside the business quickly and with more confidence. For operators with partner and MVNOs ecosystems, real time charging allows to have a complete picture of the revenue throughout the hierarchy.
A real-time system offers telecoms the opportunity to instantly process and analysis the data coming from a customer's account. This allows telecoms, and their customers, to have an accurate overview of what service they have used, when and a breakdown of costs. You can also create an accurate picture of how customers are using their plans and how you can adjust your offering to better suit them. Your customers are also able to quickly see any costs they might not know they are incurring and query them instantly before they spiral. An online charging system is also able to capture SIM card information, location and handset characteristics.
A comprehensive real-time charging system can be deployed to allow telecoms to provide incentives for customers to join or remain with their services. Recent examples of this have included, paying back end users for unused data or minutes at the end of each month, or rewarding those who pay their bills on time with extra data or other rewards. The groups functionality (also known as family plans) is also made possible by the real time charging functionality.
5G and IoT
The real time charging allows telecoms to explore new business models led by the development of 5G, including 5G network slicing. Real time is also optimal to adapt to the rapidly evolving digital market and to Internet of Things providers. With real time, SIMs for IoT devices can have its traffic rated and charged in real time increasing efficiency through operations. Faulty SIMs can be detected and provisioned quickly.
The accuracy of a real-time charging system can have a hugely beneficial impact on a customer service team. For one the fact that consumers now have an accurate and real-time picture of their bill and remaining allowance, creates a reduction in the number of incoming complaints a team would have to field from customers who have an issue with their bill. This time saved from not having to deal with these complaints can be invaluable when put back into more cost-effective tasks. When a customer service agent does have to deal with a bill complaint they can handle it more effectively thanks to real-time charging. As the system provides a comprehensive look at recent charges, with no delays, they can quickly and effectively highlight any areas of complaint and deal with them effectively.
What It Means For Customers
For customers, there are also a number of advantages to being with a provider using a real-time charging system.
By reducing the time between billing and taking payment a real-time charging system, reduces the chance of mistakes being made and therefore increases the accuracy of a customer's bill. An accurate and quick billing process is also good for building trust between a consumer and their provider, giving them the confidence to stick with them in the longer term.
Limit Spending and Bill Shock
With real-time charging consumers can set their own spending limits, either in their own minds or an actual physical limit. By setting these limits customers can be confident they will only use the service within their budget. With an accurate and real-time overview of their bill, customers can also avoid “bill shock” where they receive bills for a much higher rate than they were expecting. Real time charging allows customers to have full visibility and control over the allowance, so they can see how many data, minutes and texts they have left. If needed, customers can buy an add-on to top up their plan.
Fundamentally for a consumer, real-time charging allows them to enjoy more control over their spending. They are able to see what they will be expected to pay in real-time and can set and enforce their own spending limits. As we move through 2022 into 2023 and the cost of living increases for many, this control will be beneficial for many.
With Lifecycle’s Online Charging Solution, providers can enjoy an accurate, real time usage metering, where all transactions within the system are linked and accurately processed. The provider can also enforce credit limits by automatically controlling network access and producing accurate records to ensure correct billing at the first time of asking. Those who have deployed our OCS stand ready to increase revenue with the monetisation of 5G and other digital opportunities to maximise their growth.