This post is by Robert Morrison, Director, Product Management, CSG Internationa
On my last trip to Brazil I was surprised when my taxi driver fired up Waze to beat the Sao Paulo traffic and I immediately downloaded it to do the same for me in London’s heavy congestion. He proved to me that consumers there have developed an unquenchable thirst—like they have in every country—for fast mobile data speeds and services. CSPs in Brazil are working hard to satisfy that demand by rolling out 4G data services over LTE networks. And frankly they seem a long way ahead of the mobile data service that I experience at home. On a recent two-hour train journey across the UK from the capital to Bristol—a major population centre—the best my provider could do was GPRS and iffy 3G at the stations. GPRS is not very helpful with today’s bandwidth-hungry apps using pictures and video. Believe me, having to constantly refresh apps can result in very sore thumbs!
I have travelled the world visiting operators on all continents, discussing the challenges LTE places on their operations. I have seen first-hand how the rapid pace of network evolution and aggressive consumer take-up of 4G services is creating an overwhelming stream of charging data that is threatening to swamp mobile operator’s charging systems, and expose them to revenue leakage for these new services.
As real-time charging systems become increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer volumes of data charging events being generated on next-gen networks, CSPs are buying excessive online charging (OCS) capacity to ensure there’s enough to meet demand—and often at a huge price tag for high-end hardware and extra software licenses. Alternatively, some CSPs cut out these costs, but let the end users suffer when charging request volumes exceed online charging capacity—basically letting the network tear down my video half way through if the OCS is overloaded.
Many CSPs I have talked to want a greater degree of intelligence between the network and charging systems. A number of them are looking to a new breed of active mediation to address these challenges. They see it as a way to meet the scalability and integration challenges of LTE, whilst addressing a wide range of use cases beyond protocol conversions performed by the online mediation systems of a decade ago.
One such use case is Charging Offload. When real-time online charging systems are flooded with authorization requests causing them to fail, operators are using active mediation to account and bill for usage, whilst allowing customers to continue using their services. This permits access to users—without impacting customer experience—and avoids the excessive finger-tapping. By buffering real-time charging requests and re-streaming them later for charging, active mediation ensures no revenue is lost due to OCS failure. This is a clear case of “intelligent charging” in my view and something CSPs should explore to ease the burden on their existing systems as they rollout LTE services. Watch “Smooth sailing for LTE Services”:
The LTE Latin America conference is taking place on the 28th-30th April 2014, at the Windsor Barra Hotel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Click here to download a brochure for the event.