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Resolving inter operator billing issues of a Telecom giant

Resolving inter operator billing issues of a Telecom giant

A very successful call...

With a customer base of more than 65 million, the client is among the world’s 10 largest telecommunications companies. The client provides a comprehensive range of telecom services in India, including Wireline, CDMA Mobile, GSM Mobile, Internet, Broadband, Carrier service, MPLS-VPN, VSAT, VoIP services and IN Services.

With several service providers operating in the Indian telecom space, the client has an interconnect agreement with various operators to do its settlement of the billing dues with other operators. The system was highly fragmented, resulting in delays and wastage of resources. To maintain its gargantuan spread and steady growth, the client needed an able technical partner to build its Inter-Operator Billing and Accounting Solution.

HCL’s engagement with the client started with a contract for implementing and maintaining the interconnect billing system for the entire western region of India. It also worked on a mediation tool, reporting tool and exhaustive networking.

The environment

The client exists in an increasingly multi-operator, multi-services telecom environment. With different operators needing to interface with each other’s traffic, it was vital to create a centralized system to process the interconnect usage details for all calls and get a single view of the traffic and billing.

Of disruptions and disconnects...

The challenge lay in understanding the entire interconnect billing scenario. It was a completely new domain for HCL, and understanding the existing configuration methodology being used by the client and migrating them to the new system were difficult indeed.

The task involved integrating multiple applications and making them communicate with the client’s network. It also involved adapting the new system to the changes in the Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC), which changes every year. Furthermore, the client wanted the network rollout in a short span of time and effective reduction in the operating costs.

The challenges were escalated by the fact that initially the client had not clearly outlined its requirements. Even during the duration of the project the parameters were redesigned many times, which required to go back to square one and redo the project. Clearly, the challenges were many, and the solutions were required fast.

Can I have the call history?

HCL performed a thorough study of the client’s requirements and provided a comprehensive solutions approach. Since performance and data integrity were highly critical, a secured and high-performance architecture was proposed to cater to the client’s needs.

Considering the fact that the IUC configuration changes quite often, a user-friendly easily configurable screen was suggested with a scope of expansion for future changes. All through the engagement, HCL had to tackle various challenges successively which demanded quick responses and adaptability.

Taking multiple calls...

It was started off by implementing three independent sub-systems, namely collection, mediation, billing and accounting. As the name suggests, the collection system collects call details and then transfers them to the mediation system for processing.

A state-of-the-art convergent billing solution was used for the mediation system that offers highly configurable and scalable architecture for any transaction business.

From the beginning of the engagement in August 2004 to December 2004, HCL went ahead with the implementation. Then, till May 2005, HCL worked on parallel running of all applications.

June 2005 saw a database crash. It was at the same time that real-time bills had to be generated. HCL went on an overdrive, worked overtime and contained the disaster partially within two weeks.

In the subsequent months HCL had to face an uphill struggle in retrieving lost data, creating the new system and generating new bills, all within very tight timelines.

Finally, in December 2005, HCL and the client held a total system audit to assess the ongoing problems and pinpoint the origin of continuing problems. The audit was highly successful, and numerous grey areas in the technology were tackled.

At the time when the partnership with the client began, IUC-3 was in practice. Whereas, by December 2005, when the whole system was stabilized, IUC-4 had been released. Thus, apart from redesigning the system to work according to the new charges, HCL had to work on retaining IUC-3 for future requirements.

Another problem that plagues the system was the client sending in the data, slightly behind time. The delay, however small, would upset the whole billing schedule and put HCL in a tight spot to generate the bills within a specific timeframe. A single instance of delay would result in a cascading effect where the billing of subsequent months would also be delayed.

Eventually, a process had been worked out with the client, according to which timely receipt of the data from the client was ensured.

Yet another challenge tested HCL’s strengths. The telecom industry’s dynamic state forced the client to bring out ad-hoc circulars every now and then. Therefore, even if a project was 80% completed, the arrival of an ad-hoc circular specifying new rates and conditions would force HCL to redo the project from scratch. This would often happen at the fag end of the project timeline, and would force the team to go on an overdrive. Obviously, the sudden surge of data would be too much for the hardware to handle, and hence the team would put in extra hours to beat the deadline.

Walking the talk

It was a case of clear demonstration of quick ramp-ups and learnings. The dedication and service attitude of the team ensured that the client’s business never suffered. Considering the fact that the business involves large amounts of money on a daily basis, accuracy, a must-have, was recognized and taken care of.

HCL is now delivering billing functionality through the Application Service Provisioning model. It manages the network and invoicing for billing while the service provider concentrates on customer relationships.

There has been significant reduction in the client operating costs by at least 40%.

I’ll call you again...

HCL plans to work on automating the various processes involved in the project to reduce dependency on manual labor. The engagement’s success has resulted in managing retail billing for North and Western regions of India. The engagement is now ready for the next challenge – of managing retail billing for the Northern/ Western regions of India.

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