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Fixed telephony roaming: a boost for VAS-Services for the Swiss telecom market

By e-globe technologies AG

The deregulated telecom industry generates a set of interactions between competitors in terms of processes and money flows. The Swiss telecom industry solved the question of inter-company process integration with a smart and worldwide unique solution with a very high security and reliability. The success story was reproduced twice within 2 years after the initial setup for number portability by reusing the same principles and methods for value added services and for ADSL. We are therefore confident that we have found some basic principles which are highly valueable and generally reusable in any kind of integration project.

In 1999 the Swiss telecom industry was forced by the regulatory authority to implement number portability for both mobile and fixed telephony. The competitors therefore formed an open working group to manage this project and accepted that the inter-company processes have to be handled by a web-based integration platform fulfilling the following requirements:

  1. Neutrality: The platform has to be neutral and independent of all competitors
  2. Flexibility: of interaction: It must be possible to interact with the platform manually via Web browser as well as automatically by machine-to-machine interactions.
  3. Security:The transactions have to be highly secure.
  4. Traceability: The solution has to provide logging and history mechanisms which allow to check every single transaction for several years in full detail and at any time.
  5. Responsibility: The solution has to provide transaction mechanisms which are organized in a way that the responsibility for a transaction is always in the full responsibility of the acting party.
  6. Availability: The solution has to be available 7x24x365

Most of the principles are obvious. However it is of crucial importance to comment on Flexibility and Responsibility:

Flexibility: As the competitors had extremely different business expectations, business models and size, some companies required full automation and integration in their own system worlds whereas others expected only few transactions, which end up with the requirement for manual interactions.

Responsibility: As number portability is a bilateral business between two competitors it is extremely important to guarantee that the transaction mechanisms had to be designed in a way where the transaction responsibility is always clear.

These principles based a specification for the number porting process in Switzerland and resulted in an integration platform called TSP INet-Server. The start of operation was a full success. From day one onwards the telecom service providers (TSP) of Switzerland started to port thousands of numbers per day without any technical problems. The measured availability of the TSP INet-Server of the last three years is 99.98%, which is an average total outage per year of less than 4 hours! Additionally there is no single documented case of process failure within the last three years and some providers fully automated the process thus massively reducing internal costs.

The TSP INet-Server
The TSP INet-Server is an Internet platform with non-proprietary components, which allows the TSPs to interact with each other on time-based processes.

The TSP-INet-Server

  • is a centralised Database with routing information regarding all ported numbers
  • is a time-based process engine which manages any kind of inter-company processes between telecom operators
  • broadcasts the routing information of all ported telephone numbers to all connected TSP’s
  • allows to interact with minimal manual involvement therefore driving down process-costs
  • allows fully secure and encrypted process and data flow
  • keeps track of every step through the porting process and monitors the timeline including sending reminders to the acting parties.

The strength of the described solution is its enormous flexibility with regard to the processes.

Literally any kind of process may be easily implemented.

Success story: Individual number allocation for value added services numbers

Encouraged by the operational success of the ONP project the Swiss telecom industry started two further and much more complex projects in the year 2000 by reusing the same methods and technology: Individual number allocation (INA) and ADSL.

INA impacted all TSPs in Switzerland. The focus of INA was:

  1. Guarantee a fair market for VAS-numbers for all service subscribers. Therefore the regulatory authority decided to individually allocate VAS-numbers to each customer, which then can freely choose the operator.
  2. All TSPs in Switzerland have to open their networks for traffic to VAS-numbers.

The consequence has been three-folded: The INA-number management processes had to be defined, the routing principles for calls to INA numbers in the Swiss telecom network had to be fixed and the billing data exchange for both wholesale and retail shares had to be designed.

For INA tariffing and billing the Swiss telecom industry agreed on a very open tariff profile framework. Tariff profiles may be invented by every TSP in Switzerland at any time and are immediately published on the TSP INet-Server. Since the start of production at September 1st 2001 a boost of new tariff profiles for VAS was generated. Today, a set of 730 time based tariff profiles are thus available ranging from free-phone and shared to premium rate tariffs and an extension to event-based and data-based tariff profiles is now on the way to be implemented.

The INA project was done within 12 months from start of the first idea until start of production without one single day of delay! This fact is astonishing taking into account that the project team was formed by more than 10 competitors of the Swiss telecom market and that the goal of the project was the full and automated integration of complex inter-company processes including a totally new and worldwide unique inter-company billing mechanism over the web: fixed telephony roaming! In addition to this a whole framework for commonly agreed tariff profiles had been developed. The success shows that the interaction model showed to be rock-solid and extremely stable in terms of business rules.

Boosting new value added services with defined modules
Around the TSP INet-Server a suite of applications and modules has been developed by e-globe technologies thus allowing a TSP to easily automate the described business and processes. e-globe technologies was strongly involved in the INA project and was mandated by the Swiss telecom working group to lead the general specification and the project implementation, tests and rollout. e-globe technologies AG is an IT solution provider with an engineering team of very experienced specialists in process integration and –optimisation as well as interconnection business and –billing. It has developed service platforms and products in short time which have a high degree of scalability, reliability and cost effectiveness and which are unparalleled in performance in the field of ONP and INA in Switzerland.

The figure below shows several levels of interaction between the internal system world of a TSP and the TSP INet-Server platform. The main modules to automate the business processes are

  1. Rating engine for rating of any type of complex tariff profiles.
  2. INA Manager for automated process interaction and integration between the TSP and the Web platform.
  3. ONP Manager for full automation and integration of ONP
  4. CDR handler for exchanging rated CDRs between TSPs.

All modules are pure java-applications, which are fully platform independent and usable in Unix, Linux and Windows environments.

With these applications it is possible for a TSP to easily step into the value added services business and to expand the business model for both fixed and mobile telephony. Additionally the very general setup of the tariff profile framework in the rating application allows a boost for new tariffing structures, which is a prerequisite in the rising of the new mobile data business. The experienced results and success encourage us to publish the achieved results as we see the possibility for a massive extension of the results in comparable fields.

The “real” IT world: a real example from Telco industry. How to interact and process orders in a complex world.

Summary and future steps
The presentation of the achieved results can be summarized as follows:

The Swiss telecom market is one of the most competitive in terms of the number of telecom companies. Nevertheless it is possible in such an environment to find solutions between competitors due to a good balance between the activities of the regulatory authority on the one side and the independent telcos of Switzerland on the other. We see three dimensions for this success:

  1. A common agreement between all parties on the project-methods and an agreement for a common inter-company processes platform.
  2. Clear principles for the platform design and proofed non-proprietary technology with clear transaction responsibility
  3. A very powerful tariff profile framework which allows to expand the value added services business very fast and with a high degree of freedom.

At the moment we see several future steps. The unbundling of the local loop and location number portability is expected to happen in the near future in Switzerland with the same approach. Other fields are the unresolved questions coming along with Wireless LAN roaming between different operators and the strong need for a wide set of tariff profiles in the area of mobile data business. With the non-proprietary setup of the Swiss telecom industry a big step towards more flexible models is done. As a last example we would like to mention that an opening of the market for the international use of value added services could immediately take place on the base of the achieved results. The principle of fixed telephony roaming would be massive value added to international telco-business.

Terms

  • Operator Number portability:
  • Operator Number portability is the change of provider for operating of a telephone number (any Type: Fixed or mobile, Value added or DDI Numbers).
  • Individual Number allocation (INA):
  • Individual number allocation is the process of allocating, implementing and operating Value added Services numbers (INA numbers) in the Swiss telecommunications networks. Since September 1st 2001 the regulatory authority individually allocates INA-numbers to customers which then decide at which provider the INA-number will be operated. The goal was a transparent and fair market for the value added services number business.
  • TSP:
  • Telecom service provider.

For more information, please contact:
Felix Merz: felix.merz@e-globe-technologies.com



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