Customer service and satisfaction is an important requirement in every industry, primarily telecommunications where the whole industry is striving for customer engagement. To ensure customer needs are served, several entities have entered the fray. These are MNO, MVNO, MVNE, and MVNA.
The most powerful advantage shared by every virtual mobile operator is the ability to customize the way they charge for services to suit evolving consumer trends.
Accurate metering of usage in real-time is essential in most telecom markets today, and it is particularly important for prepaid services models. An online charging system (OCS) can be considered to be the backbone of the telecom architecture, wherein the function allows a service provider to charge a user for services in real time.
The OCS controls the subscriber’s account balance, charging transaction control, rating, and correlation. The service provider or network operator can use the OCS to enforce credit limits and authorize resources on a per-transaction basis.
In general, there are offline and online charging mechanisms. Off-line charging means that a charge for the service is incurred after a service session or service event has occurred.
On the other hand, online charging means that charging occurs during a service session or right after a service event concludes. Importantly, online charging may refer to prepaid as well as postpaid.
In the latter case, online charging allows consumers to set charge limits when they want (e.g. roaming in foreign countries).
An online charging system is a key component of telecom architecture. It entails the integration of the billing and rating function of telecommunication services along with the account balance management function.
For a layman, it is a system that has the ability to bill and rate every telecom service in real time. It is an advancement of the predecessor Offline Charging System (OFCS) and Intelligent Network (IN), as it can be used for prepaid as well as postpaid services.
An Online Charging System Boosts Customer Loyalty and Increases Revenue
The purpose of a business is to generate revenue. Businesses that are not driven are going to crumble and fail before they even take off. Therefore, the charging system that businesses offer is crucial.
One of the most efficient, flexible, practical, and consumer-friendly options that businesses can go for is an online charging system. Besides several other critical benefits, an online charging system allows for real-time practicality. The key question, however, remains if OCS is needed for the success of businesses.
Meanwhile, telecom networks commonly utilize what is known as Intelligent Network prepaid solutions. Intrinsically, this system does not lack anything and provides several benefits in its own right.
Nonetheless, OCS is almost mandatory due to the real-time experience that most traditional charging systems don’t offer. This is where the tide begins, to turn to truly assess if OCS can be adopted.
Real-time Charging is it
Real-time charging is beneficial for telecom providers, but also has two-fold benefits for their customers. It comes down to the fact that telecom providers will be able to charge for services while they are being rendered, and not after they are provided.
Simply put, it is naïve to believe that all customers will make payments in a timely and trustworthy manner to be complete when needed. In addition to the added stress, the model can lead to revenue loss over an extended period of time. This points out how integrating with OCS results in the elimination of the potential inconvenience.
On the other hand, a real-time experience can make the lives of consumers much simpler. The advantages of accessing accounts, charges, etc. in this manner can lead to fewer pitfalls and improved overall satisfaction.
From a technical standpoint, switching to OCS can also provide the luxury to support more tax plans and more service bundles. Beyond added control, it can improve the overall satisfaction level of consumers.
So, Can Businesses Thrive Without OCS?
The buzzword is ‘thrive’ as the advantages of OCS are too enormous to be ignored. It is not that businesses would not be successful with a traditional charging system, but it would be a disservice to businesses and their customers without integrating online charging.
A step further would be to contemplate adopting convergent charging. This can be reckoned as the ‘best of both worlds’ to offer both online and offline charging.
Working of OCS in a Billing System and OCS Features
To understand how OCS works, it is needed to know about Call Data Record (CDR). Every telecom occurrence, whether it is event-based or session based, is recorded as CDR.
The OCS charges and rates CDR, after which the billing system applies necessary taxation, discounts, deductions etc.
Finally, the invoice is generated and sent to the subscribers. The entire process which was complex in the past has been considerably simplified with OCS.
Below are some key features of OCS that make the whole billing process simple:
- Billing of all services at a single point allows the generation of itemized invoices with every charge clearly mentioned
- Precise implementation of credit limits via real-time tariff of service
- Maintenance of customer records in the database
- Access and authentication of services