As conditions in the telecom industry have changed over the last few years, financial performance has been cast under the proverbial microscope and telecom carriers are keenly looking to niche solutions to ensure every penny is accounted for.
Last month, Toronto-based Syndesis, a provider of network discovery products, announced it hooked a Tier One carrier with its service-to-bill revenue assurance solution, which the company said reconciles complex network information in multi-vendor networks.
Based on the Syndesis NetDiscover tool, which uploads information directly from the back office network, the solution uses a series of modelling techniques to create an accurate representation of services running in a service provider network.
The solution provides detailed reports to enable service providers to fix situations such as over- and under-billing or revenue leakage, in addition to offering quality of service (QoS) reconciliation, whereby service providers can pinpoint where customers may be getting higher levels of service than they have paid for.
According to Syndesis, it was during a series of routine uploads for Bell Canada that the company found facilities that were carrying scores of traffic, which were not being billed for.
Ginny Dybenko, vice-president of marketing and partnerships, said this kind of revenue leakage includes situations where a customer orders a mid-level service and, due to lack of capacity on the network modules used to run that service, the customer receives a high-level service at the same price as the mid-level offering.
“Our system is able to not only deliver back that there is a service there, but also what service level is being offered to the customer,” Dybenko explained. “Then the billing system can correlate that with what the customer is being charged for.”
The main challenge for carriers in terms of revenue assurance has been the dispersed nature of the operating support systems (OSS), according to Steven Cooper, assistant vice-president of product management for Syndesis. Because the OSS systems, inventory and billing systems are so out of sync with each other, Cooper said operational processes become impacted.
While over- and under-billing are top operational problems, another less-talked-about issue is service fallout or service failure.
“If (a carrier’s) OSS systems are so out of sync with the network…it becomes a huge operational cost because when you don’t really know what is in your network or…how much capacity is available for use, [carriers] end up to over-engineering their networks.”
According to Brownlee Thomas, an analyst covering the telecom space with Forrester Research in Montreal, service providers are only going to save money with tools like this if they have inefficiencies within their networks – something most carriers are not willing to admit, she said. However, she added that these tools can serve as a way for customers to monitor their own information, such as application performance and service level agreements.
“It is never a carrier’s intent to make money off billing mistakes,” Thomas said. “This is a way for them to avoid disputes and automate processes.”
According to Lawrence Surtees, director of telecom research with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, five per cent of telecom revenue is either erroneously counted or not counted at all.
“The Canadian telecom space had a total revenue of $32 billion last year,” Surtees said. “Pull up a calculator and do the math. Even a one per cent margin of error is a whopping amount of money.”
Surtees said that while there are some astute newcomers like Syndesis that are offering new software packages to rectify these discrepancies, he noted that the concept of revenue assurance is comparable to the quest for the Holy Grail.
“In that ideal world, telecom providers would have all their systems integrated and meshing nicely…,” he said. “Until that day comes, the back office is still going to be fraught with complexity and I think there will be, in the short term, growing interest and need for these assurance packages until they are integrated into that back office network.”
The Syndesis offering is available now. For more info visit www.syndesis.com.