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Role of Billing in the Age of OTT

Novel billing strategies in response to needs and challenges faced by Telecom operators in the age of OTT's

We are seeing operators adopting a wide range of billing strategies to dodge the bullets raining at them from the OTTs. Some are being defensive, blocking them or charging for OTT applications. Others are taking the offensive and launching their own brands of OTT services. The majority, however, are choosing the middle ground, buying equity in OTT businesses, providing service and commercial platforms, or reselling OTT services/content.

In general, operators are developing new billing models across the board.  Consumer level operators are adopting a ‘Lego based pricing model', where service and content elements (be they content or services from OTTs that operators are including in their portfolio or from the operators themselves) are offered for customers to pick and choose in order to build their own packages. In the enterprise/wholesale market most OTTs are new ventures with limited capital resources, and therefore struggle to build their own capabilities, especially billing. Some operators are looking into opening up their state of the art, scalable billing and customer care platforms to OTTs and charging them on a per customer per month, or percentage of revenue basis.

Operators are also offering ‘Carrier Billing' or ‘In-App Billing' as well as the traditional prepaid billing and post-paid billing models. As such customers who buy content through their apps can have charges added to their monthly bills or deducted from their pre-pay balance with their telecom service provider. This removes the need for consumers to continuously provide credit or debit card details and prevents anxiety about security, as operators tend to have a trusted relationship with most customers that can be leveraged by OTTs. In addition, prepay and post pay capabilities are being enhanced with newer technologies, such as policy control, real-time charging, integrated customer care and context aware marketing to sell customers what they need when they need it most, without infringing on privacy.

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Mohammed Sha is the Director of Product Marketing at AsiaInfo-Linkage, the supplier of the world's most advanced software solutions and IT services to the telecommunications industry.