A mediation platform between the softswitch and the billing system is essential for an efficient voice-over-IP—or for that matter any-application-over-IP—service offering, according to a Comcast executive who spoke during the recent Billing & OSS World conference in Philadelphia. Amy Stipandic, a Comcast senior director, flanked by vendors Nanda Kumar, CEO of Suntec Business Solutions and Uday Bhaskar, senior manager of Capgemini U.S., presented a case study—“Best in Class Implementation of IP Mediation”—for a middle layer platform between billing and the switch to deliver both customer service assurance and operator revenue assurance. “Without this in the middle, you’re definitely going to have customer-impacting issues,” Stipandic said. From circuit switch to IP Comcast developed the mediation platform to improve the efficiency of operational support systems (OSS) elements for its circuit switched telephone networks it acquired with AT&T Broadband. The MSO is now considering how to migrate the platform into a wider IP services space, starting with voice-over-IP but extending to any IP application that might be delivered by either the operator or a third party. From the customer service perspective, she said, the mediation platform facilitates quicker provisioning and provides a look into the transactional process, whether those transactions will result in a bill or not. For both the customer and the service provider, it assures that customers are billed correctly for the services they use. In circuit switched telephony, she said, “usage came off the switch and went right into the billing systems” forcing Comcast to perform “clean-up and care” to correct billing inaccuracies. “In comparison (with the mediation layer) we’re managing the information that comes from that system and managing it prior to releasing to the billing cycle,” she said. “It could include any sort of transaction layer that Comcast or any other provider is offering.” The information enhances revenue assurance because the operator can “look at your call records to see what was happening in those calls and from a third party perspective be able to reconcile your originating and termination,” she said. “You have all that in one space and you’re not going to your billing systems and not going to third party billing systems.” Fraud prevention is another benefit, she said, “because we can correlate the records to say where we’re at risk. It’s provided us an avenue into transactions and an avenue into call types.” Immature apps One reason Comcast wants to migrate the mediation platform into the IP space is because IP technology “is immature; it’s unreliable,” she said. “I can provide instances where if we didn’t have this mediation platform in the middle, we would be billing records that we should never have billed.” Nevertheless, IP is the future and its flexibility will continue to foment a wealth of new “immature” applications. A mediation platform will keep things straight as they’re provisioned and before they’re attached to the customer bill, she said. “Comcast had to find a solution to support the traditional circuit switched business; however, strategically where we’re going is with an application that has the flexibility to be able to handle transactions and not just usage elements,” she said. – Jim Barthold

The Daily



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