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Convergent Billing: Looked before the Leap?

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

For quite some time, BSNL has been pursuing the strategy of offering all

services under one umbrella. But of late, the realization dawned upon the

state-run basic services giant that offering all services under one roof without

an integrated billing system was fraught with the imminent danger of losing out

to new players in the market. Also, BSNL needs to plug in the huge revenue

leakage every year. According to VK Mahendra of BSNL, "The revenue leakage

is to the tune of about Rs 3,000 crore. It is not a one-year figure but

cumulative, and this is going to take a very dangerous trend in the

multi-operator environment. We have to plug it."

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Given this background, BSNL invited expressions of interest (EoIs) for a call

detail record (CDR) based billing system, in June 2002. By announcing the names

of the 15 short-listed companies, BSNL has shown that it means business. (See

VOICE&DATA August 2002 issue for details of the project.)

VK

Mahendra




is the man spearheading the project

BSNL’s project to convert all meter-based billing to CDR-based billing has

been touted as the single largest initiative anywhere in the world. The company

has plans to connect a projected 60 million lines in five years. Later, plans

are there to integrate all types of services under the CDR system, including

wireless and Internet services. Currently, BSNL has about 40 million lines.

Explaining the need for such a project, Mahendra said, "We realized that

the system that we had was very old and needed changes, though from

time-to-time, due to internal restructuring, we have adopted changes." It

may be noted that in the last seven years, BSNL has changed its billing system

thrice. Parallelly, BSNL has been trying to integrate the billing

infrastructure.

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In Round 1, BSNL is

considering...

Accenture India
Electronic Data Solution (India)
IBM Global Service India
ITI
HCL Infosystems
HCL Perot Systems
GTL
L&T Infosystems
Mahindra British Telecom
Motorola India
Satyam Computers Services
Tata Infotech
TCS
United Telecoms
Wipro Infotec

Mahendra is the man spearheading the entire project. He says, "We were

conscious of customers’ increasing demands. Customer care is also very

important." It was felt by the management of BSNL that the system that it

had was not enough to cope up with the increase in the competition. Mahendra

spells out frankly, "Being a monopoly company, we had certain inherent

drawbacks. No marketing organization was existing and when the marketing word

was talked about, we had only one concept of marketing that is reduction in

tariff."

Many apprehensions have been raised regarding the implementation. Some

experts say that BSNL does not have any blueprint in place and is yet to work

out the network architecture before going for such a massive project. That was

evident when during the EoI conference, several questions posed by the

prospective vendors could not be answered satisfactorily.

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An ideal billing system for BSNL, according to Arun Agarwal of Comptel, would

be one that caters to multiple services, is scalable so as to handle large base,

and is open to integration with numerous network elements and applications. As

far as the complexity of the project is concerned, there are several viewpoints.

BSNL’s idea of having six billing centers has raised certain

implementation-related issues. Micheal Kersten, managing director, Protek, makes

a realistic evaluation of the process.

"BSNL’s project is certainly the largest ever attempted by an

incumbent anywhere in the world, but the operator has done well to have decided

to do it in phases. This makes the project more viable. The timely

implementation is achievable but it will not be easy." Considering the

complexity of network infrastructure and systems integration in deploying an

effective OSS, BSNL’s task won’t be easy. But one should be hopeful of its

successful completion (though no time frame has been mentioned anywhere), given

the new competitive environment and the urge to acquire more.

Sudesh Prasad

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