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Home | New Service Delivery | TM Forum, Tony Poulos, Billing Reality
  Tony Poulos, TM Forum
  Tony Poulos, TM Forum

Billing Reality

InterComms talks to Tony Poulos of the TM Forum

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Tony Poulos has been involved with software development and systems integration in travel and telecommunications for over 20 years. He was involved in the development of convergent billing system in the early nineties in Australia and from there he worked in a business development role with Unisys’ Telecommunications Practice in Europe. He was co-founder of Copernicus Global Billing Services, a London based, web-enabled, managed service provider for outsourced billing and payments collection. He established RA vendor, Connexn Technologies, Inc. in Asia in 2004 and then worked for a time with Lavastorm, another leading revenue assurance vendor.

Tony has become an international authority on telecoms Business Support Systems (BSS) with strong knowledge in billing, revenue assurance, managed services, adjunct/ consolidated billing, payments, NFC and mobile content delivery. He is a renowned speaker and chairman of telecoms conferences around the world.

He is a regular contributor to industry publications worldwide, was a Contributing Analyst for IDC and was Editor, Asia Pacific for Telecom TV. Tony served as an executive of the Global Billing Association for five years prior to its merger with the TM Forum. He now heads up the Revenue Management Sector of the TM Forum and acts as Anchor for The Telecom Channel.

Q: With cloud technology entering the marketplace and the benefits in product distribution etc. for the Telco’s, how does this affect their billing systems?
A: Every new product or service a telco releases has some impact on their billing systems. Cloud computing introduces some interesting new parameters that may need to be accounted for depending on how the telco wishes to bill for cloud services and whether the existing billing systems can cope with the new parameters. If not, modifications to the existing billing systems or an adjunct billing system may need to be introduced to ensure all revenues are accounted for.

Q: The economic downturn has affected the operator’s revenues, have you see a strengthening in the billing arena?
A: The jury is out on whether the economic downturn had a detrimental effect on operator revenues. In the high-growth emerging markets it was quite the opposite. In the more mature, developed or saturated markets a flattening of revenues was the order. Telecommunications has now become a commodity, like utilities, that people seem unable to do without. However, increased competition and growth in data traffic, often billed at flat rate, all-you-can-eat packages has caused operators to look at lowering costs to maintain profitability and ensure that all services are correctly billed and accounted for. In this regard, there is definitely an increase in awareness for revenue assurance practices to be implemented or upgraded and for upgrading of billing systems to cope with higher traffic, newer, more diverse services.

Q: The TMF are at the forefront of trying to get the operators to look at revenue leakage, is this improving or are the blinkers still on?
A: The blinkers are definitely off and have been for some time. Revenue Assurance (RA) practices are expanding rapidly worldwide and it is one of our most popular and fastest growing areas of interest for members. I would even go as far as saying that 100% of operators have some sort of internal RA practice ranging from simple spot audits right through to RA practices that monitor every service in real time and many have RA departments that are the final sign-off for every new service and only after they are convinced the service can be billed for accurately. Any leakage or recovery affects the bottom line as all costs are already accounted for.

Q: Where can the TMF aid operators in looking at the problems they face?
A: The TM Forum Revenue Assurance Program’s purpose is the creation and maintenance of an extensible framework and methodology for finding and eliminating revenue leakage and includes the following:

  • TR131 Revenue Assurance Overview Explains what revenue assurance is, its scope and the reasons why it is needed
  • GB941 Revenue Assurance Guide Book Gives practical advice on how to tackle the challenges of revenue assurance
  • GB941A Revenue Assurance KPI Metrics Workbook
  • GB941B Revenue Assurance Maturity Model Defines a scheme to standardize the subjective judgement of the maturity of the revenue assurance level in a service provider
  • GB941C RFx Guidelines Defines guidelines to assist Service Providers with issuing RFx’s for Revenue Assurance Solutions

In addition, we conduct annual Billing and Revenue assurance Performance Benchmarking Studies that are free to members.

Q: What is the new buzz word in this area and what do you see as key in the next 12 months?
I’m not quite sure RA and buzz words necessarily go well together but there is significant community activity around the areas of ‘cost assurance’ (maximizing asset utilization), ‘proactive’ RA (no longer just reactive), ‘dynamic analytics’ (trend analysis on the fly, as in fraud), coverage scoring (scorecards for RA).

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