This section describes OSS Telecom Technology's different products, including CARIBOU, MEDUSA, PAN, and the new products in production such as the SMSC and the IN Pre-Paid Calling Card platform. This section also gives an overview of the product road maps for the various products and includes some of the highlights which make the products unique from and more advanced than similar competing products.
3.1 Service Description
Below is a description of OSS Telecom Technology's different products, including CARIBOU, MEDUSA, PAN, and the new products in production such as the SMSC and the IN Pre-Paid Calling Card platform. This section also gives an overview of the product road maps for the various products and includes some of the highlights which make these products unique from and more advanced than similar competing products.
Description of CARIBOU
The basic billing system consists of the following modules:
- Traffic Processing
- Bill Generation
- Accounts & Payment
- Systems Administration
- Customer Care and Administration
- Specific Value-Added Features
I. Traffic Processing
- Pricing: CDRs received through tape or from the mediation system are validated and then taken up for pricing using the tariff package, tariff plan, rate structure, rate calendar, discounts structure. There are four types of pricing - FLAT, VOLUME, STEP, and SEGMENTED.
- Reject Maintenance: CDRs with missing information are listed with reject value codes for manual processing.
- Traffic Posting: After pricing, the records are posted to the corresponding subscriber account that is used during bill generation.
II. Bill Generation
Bill generation can be of three types--ad-hoc billing, warm (hot) billing, and cycle wise billing. The system can take care of multiple billing cycles and multiple billing groups.
- Pre-bill processing: This process is mainly used for calculating the recurring amount of each bill cycle.
- Final bill generation: This process starts after pre-bill processing and it calculates the total bill and its corresponding discounts for every subscriber. Other than total bill calculation, it takes care of VOLUME PRICING, FLAT discount, and VOLUME discount.
- Bill Posting: Records are posted to their corresponding subscriber's account after bill generation.
- Bill Printing: Printing can be distributed over various printers in the network. In addition, printing can be selective depending on the account and subscriber number.
III. Accounts & Payment
- Online Payment: Payment can be done over the counter, which is online.
- Off-line Payment: Payment can be collected manually and it can be entered into the system collectively (in batch).
- Payment Adjustment: Adjustments can be made against accounts in case of both online and off-line payment.
- Refund: System is capable of providing refunds to its customers.
- Bill Follow-up: In case of late payment, bill follow-up is necessary. The system is capable of generating reminders in the occurrence of a late payment.
IV. Systems Administration
- User Administration: This takes care of user management and their privileges.
- Number Inventory: Manages all subscriber's and service's number inventory.
- Subscriber Activation/Deactivation: This activity is performed through MEDUSA's service provisioning system.
- Bill Correction/Write-off: This is a supervisory function where any bill correction and write-off is taken care of.
- Master Information: All the static information is managed through this module. Usually all system parameters are maintained here.
- High Toll Alert: System is capable of generating a high toll alert report that can help to identify fraud.
A. Packages: This system can support the following four types of packages:
- Primary Package: This package is mainly for basic services. It contains four types of plans: one-time, deposit, recurring, and service usage time.
- Value-Added Package: This package is designed for all value-added services like call forwarding, call waiting, busy transfer, STD, ISD etc. It contains four types of plans: one-time, deposit, recurring, and service usage.
- Free Service Package: This package is designed for free minutes or units of calls only. A particular package can be attached to the customer or a specific free service can be provided.
- Discount Package: This package is designed for discount only. A particular discount package can be attached to the customer. Discount can be two types - Flat and volume.
B. Marketing Plans: Each package is attached to various plans. There are five different plans:
- One-time Charge Plan: This plan is used for one-time charges only.
- Deposit Charge Plan: This plan is used for deposit charges only
- Recurring Charge Plan: This plan is used for recurring charges only.
- Service Charge Plan: This plan is used for service charge only.
- Long Distance (National and International) Charge Plan: This plan is used for any national and international long distance call charge.
C. Rate Structures: Support for various types of rate codes and corresponding rate details.
D. Rate Calendar:
- Daily Rate Calendar: A rate calendar may be generated separately for each day of the week.
- Holiday Rate Calendar: This rate calendar is used for holidays only.
- Ad hoc Discount Calendar: This rate calendar is used for ad hoc discount.
VI. Customer Care and Administration
CARIBOU provides a single window, single view for the Customer Care Agent (CCA) to address any activity or query pertaining to subscribers that he/she is responsible. A customer calling online has to go no further to address any issue related to the service. The CCA even has access to bill images and CDR history through that single window.
A. Subscriber Registration: Registration is a quick and easy process, which may be performed both on-line as well as off-line (batch). Different marketing plans are offered to a customer such as: choice of bill date, number selection choice, and other related start-of-service options. Of course, the package allows for changes in options as many times as is required.
B. Customer Inquiry:
- Service (primary & value-added services)
- Package related information
- Tariff related information
- Bill related information
- Bill Amount
- Pending/Adjustment amount
- Credit limits information
C. Customer Complaint: CARIBOU recognizes the fact that the grade of service of telecom service network draws parameters from all possible service point. To address, track and contain/minimize faults/complaints, the system provides for a sophisticated management and tracking of technical and commercial faults/complaints.
D. Complaint Tracking: Recording a complaint is not sufficient. More often than not, a customer will follow-up on the complaint to inquire about the completion status. The system allows complaints to be recorded along with updating of the action initiated, thus enabling status tracking. Various reports can be generated on complaints and actions taken. Complaint aging reports can also be generated for MIS and evaluation of the quality of service of the network.
E. Customer Feedback: Collection of customer feedback is essential in any service. The feedback is analyzed and action is taken to improve the quality of service.
F. Emergency Service: A directory service for emergency and utility numbers and other details is provided in CARIBOU for better customer care for the network.
Description of MEDUSA
The activities handled by MEDUSA are:
- Acquisition of data from network element.
- Validation of the data, translation into intermediate form suitable for delivery and storage of the data.
- Delivery of the processed data to other applications according to a predefined format.
The system can provide various services for configuration, control, and management of the Network Elements including:
- Activation of a subscriber.
- Deactivation of a subscriber.
- Denial of service to a subscriber.
- Resumption of service to the subscriber.
- Addition of value-added services, like three-party conference and call forwarding, to the subscriber.
MEDUSA coordinates and controls the actions of the various NEs to which it connects, thus obviating the need to configure each concerned entity individually.
3.2 Competitive Comparison
Specific Value-Added Features
The OSS Telecom Technology billing system is functionally rich and modular. It supports basic services and several value-added services. Some of the special features of CARIBOU are:
- High Toll Alert: Monitor credit limits and different thresholds and generate action alarms. This feature can be configured to trigger more often to reduce network operator exposure.
- Warm Billing: Ability to generate bills on demand.
- Friends & Families: Qualifying a group of numbers for individual subscribers enabling special discounts when calling those numbers.
- Churn Analysis: Analysis of calling patterns, demographic details, and behavior of usage to predict and prevent subscriber exodus.
- Trend Analysis: Statistical analysis of usage patterns and correlation to demographic parameters to assist marketing.
- Fraud Management: Analysis of customer database and monitoring of online calls to detect and prevent possible fraud and limit network exposure.
- Loyalty Programs: Bonus programs and credit earning schemes enabling customer retention. Partnership with airlines and other such organizations in exchange of data.
- Point of Sales (POS): Sales outlets and dealer/agent/retail outlets to manage sales of services in a commodity fashion.
Today's changing scenario of fierce competition forces telecom operators to offer multiple services. The use of information technology to effectively manage telecom operations is thus becoming a key differentiation in the drive to get a share of the market. The role of IT is not limited to "piece-meal" automation. What an operator looks for is seamless integration of his information needs and the ability to provide innovative customer services.
At the core of a telecom operator's business is revenue billing for the service(s) that it provides. Timely and accurate billing are preconditions for a smooth operation. At the same time, an operator is largely dependent on the billing system to provide the flexibility in marketing plans that subscribers desire. Customer care is another area which is crucial to operations, and, as a result, billing solutions available in the market need to be judged on the basis of timeliness, accuracy, flexibility, and customer care administration.
OSS Telecom Technology has a well-defined process of quality assurance, which is followed and monitored rigidly. The group reports to the CEO and President, directly.
OSS Telecom Technology has initiated the process of ISO 9000 certification for its systems and procedures. The systems will be certified for our Taiwan operations. All OSS Telecom Technology engineering is being performed out of its Taiwan development center, therefore OSS Telecom Technology will initially apply for certification of those operations. With the help of external consultants, OSS Telecom Technology has completed most of its projected milestones. It is expected that OSS Telecom Technology's Taiwan operations will achieve ISO 9000 certification by June, 2001.
3.4 Future Services
IN Pre-Paid/Calling Card Platform
The Calling Card/Pre-Paid system shall be broadly categorized into two subsections.
- Service Management - for call processing
- Business Management - for system administration, customer care, and value card management
Some features for calls controlled through this platform are as follows:
- Call Setup
- Call Tracking
- Call Termination
- Credit Update
- CDR Generation
- Call Rating
Some of the functions of the Calling Card platform are mentioned below.
The system has an optional dealer management module as a part of value card management.
Customer Care and Administration
The customer care portion of the product shall be flexible to incorporate the following functions, as well as the future needs of the service provider. It shall be such that the overhead on the customer care expenditures shall be kept at a minimum.
- Add/modify/delete subscriber data
- Add/modify/delete packages
- Add/modify/delete tariff tables of various other operators
Operator Assistance: Subscribers shall directly talk to the operator for any complaints, queries, and recharging.
Value Card Management
- Value Card Generation
- Value Card Inventory
- Value Card Usage
- Value Card Expiration
DTMF support or through operator assistance
The administrator shall maintain the forbidden numbers list in the database so that the system checks these numbers while confirming the call setup. The customer care module will provide support to add or delete the forbidden numbers.
The system administrator shall view the details of the CDR by accessing them from the database. The customer care module will provide support for this feature.
Credit Usage Reports: The system shall generate credit usage reports for the subscribers using the CDRs.
The system shall have a system administrator to execute the following:
- Authentication of users: The system allows the users to access various features by checking the authentication of the person logged in.
- Backups: The system will support backups of data, like CDR and value cards, when the database becomes significantly large.
Consumer Ease of Use Features
- Minimum MOC before allowing MTC (for wireless implementation)
- First call treatment
Product Road Map
This section intentionally does not depict an explicit road map for Pre-Paid IN. The features incorporated in Pre-Paid IN for CARIBOU will be driven by customer care, billing, and tariffs.
The OSS Telecom Technology Pre-Paid IN/Calling Card platform is conceived to be a market leader for the following reasons:
- IN node-based technology
- Value for money
- Enhanced customer care for pre-paid subscribers
- Quick response time
- Capacity limited to number of lines in the switch
3.4.1 Mini-Short Messaging Service Center
SMSC (OSS Telecom Technology's Mini-Short Messaging Service Center)
Description of the SMSC Platform
OSS Telecom Technology has two deployments of the same product. In one approach SMSC kernel and the G/I WMSC functionality are bundled into a single entity running on one platform, whereas the conventional architecture maintains various distributed SMSC kernels connected to a G/I WMSC through a TCP/IP network. This will help the customers who would want the entire solution in one box and do not want the solution to contain separately managed entities.
The distributed SMSC kernel is mainly used for connecting SMEs that need to handle massive throughput. It is also helpful when there is a need for having SMSCs to be geographically separated.
Providing a configurable SME interface: This can configure itself from an SME protocol specification file. This file is SME vendor specific. The underlying protocol for message delivery could be either TCP/IP or X.25.
The SMSC is capable of generating the interface required to connect to different SMSCs. This will make the SMSC capable of connecting to all major existing interfaces like EMI from CMG, SEMA, etc. Most importantly, it will help SME vendors define an appropriate interface for their application that is compatible with SMSC.
Configuring the SS7 card components through the SMSC user interface. Through user interface, it is able to configure more than one kind of hardware but insulates the hardware idiosyncrasies from the user. The user will always to presented with the same abstract view of the SS7 network through the interface.
Features of the SMSC Platform:
- Supporting message concatenation
- Supporting message replacement
- Provide two different architectures for deployment
- Providing a configurable SME interface
- Configuring the SS7 card components through the SMSC user interface
- Providing diagnostic and troubleshooting sessions with managed object
- Making the SMSC available on other platforms
- Making the SMSC capable of generating its own CDRs
- Rapid implementation of VASP over SMS possible, e.g. Stock Watch, email notification and retrieval, other content provisioning interfacing the Internet, etc.
OSS Telecom Technology's SMSC proves to be the best in its class because of the following features:
- Available on NT and UNIX
- Distributed computing enabling implementation on multiple machines
- Open interface for any RDBMS
- Value for money
- APIs for rapid deployment of value-added applications
3.4.2 Performance Appraisal of Networks (PAN)
PAN: Performance Appraisal of Networks (Telecom Network Performance Monitoring System)
Description of PAN
PAN offers a robust and flexible menu-driven reporting facility. Its reporting module provides both routine and customized reports. The user can specify the following for generating summary reports:
- The date of the report to be generated
- The network counters to be used for the reports
- The sort criteria (e.g. by descending utilization, etc. - highest first)
- Threshold values to select the data (e.g. more than three Erlangs traffic)
Reports on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, on key statistics, help the network operator to consistently monitor under- or over-utilization of network resources, call pattern distribution, quality of service, etc.
- Three-dimensional graphs
- Call-key Statistics Module
- Channel Usage Analysis Module
- Network Profitability Ratio Analysis Module
- Comparative Ratio Analysis Module
- Rank of the Network
- A map of the network hierarchy
- Fault management
- ODBC-JDBC Bridge
- OMC-Switch Interface
- BSS Subsystem Planning Module
- Stores network performance for 6 to 12 months
- Reduces data storage load on the telecom network's OMCs
- Displays multiple graphs for comparisons of various behaviors of network components
- Can be integrated with multi-vendor switch and radio equipment
- Flexible querying and display facility
- Provides indication of revenue earned and revenue lost
- Ease of use - minimum or no training required for MIS use
- Client-server architecture based on JAVA
PAN rides on new technology to take advantage of and keep ahead of competition. There are very few similar products in this class. PAN is better than Metrica and similar products for the following reasons:
- Runs on JAVA and is hardware independent
- More value for less money
- Internet enabled and accessible
- User customizable query builder