Real-time Charging for Telecom Services
Prepaid charging for network services has come to be a mandatory requirement for all mobile telecoms services in many of the world’s geographies. It is no longer a basic, utilitarian service for the impoverished segments of the market. New services are often taken up more widely in the prepaid segment than in the contract subscription segments. “Prepaid” is now widely recognised as a payment mechanism choice rather than a service type. Nevertheless, the ability to authorise a call, message or session (e.g. video) in real-time, to rate and meter the usage and terminate the call or session if required makes specific and exacting demands on the charging infrastructure.
In recognition of the importance of real-time charging, the 3GPP now refers to on-line and off-line charging rather than pre and post-paid charging. The 3GPP Charging architecture and principles specification (TS 32.240) – defines a functional separation between the charging trigger function (also commonly referred to as a Prepaid Front-end or PPFE) of a network and the charging function for online charging. These two functions have traditionally been implemented together in GSM networks as a “prepaid IN”. This is illustrated below:
The split charging architecture allows telecom services to be developed independently of the charging system, yet allows them to cooperate with the OCS so that they are charged appropriately and in real-time.
The architectural split also means that, in place of the limited rating that is available on traditional prepaid SCP systems, fully-functional real-time rating systems from the 'Real-time charging vendors' can be considered to implement a consistent charging regime across the entire customer base. This allows the service provider to operate different business models and to take a much more comprehensive holistic view of the service provider-customer relationship.