» Openet policy, billing tools aim to make pricing a product
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Openet policy, billing tools aim to make pricing a product
By Rich Karpinski

May 21, 2008 2:42 PM

Vendor Openet this week debuted two new OSS/BSS products to help service providers move to more dynamic pricing models, opening the doors to new service offerings that take advantage of network capabilities like quality of service and real-time service delivery.

The new FusionWorks Policy Manager and FusionWorks Balance Manager can work alone or in tandem to help carriers deliver more “transactional” services, said Mike Manzo, Openet’s chief marketing officer. New, higher-margin services enabled by the combination include fine-grained parental controls, spending limits, credit controls and tiered pricing models based on real-time enforcement of policy rules in the network, Manzo said.

“This is all about taking a dumb pipe and turning it into an intelligent pipe,” Manzo said. “Carriers need to be able to dynamically control who gets access to the network and how network resources are allocated in dynamic fashion.”

Such product strategies – and the network infrastructure elements that enable them – are crucial if service providers are to combat declining voice ARPUs and to augment more competitive, lower-margin markets like video services, Manzo said. This new path not only requires new network capabilities but changes in how telcos are structured and how they think strategically about new services, he said.

“Historically, mediation and charging has been on the IT side of the house, closer to the back-office systems,” Manzo said. “What we’re seeing, and work in IMS [IP Multimedia Subsystem] is closely tied to this as well, is for new intelligent capabilities to become more mainstream and more strategic to the carrier. They are integrating more transactional elements into their new service platforms.”

FusionWorks Policy Manager is focused on enabling service providers to deliver personalized services based on subscriber preferences by deploying service- and subscriber-aware policy rules. Once those rules are defined, the platform dynamically applies those rules to respond to changing network and subscriber status.

FusionWorks Balance Manager, meanwhile, provides carriers with more flexibility in how they bill customers for these new, more dynamic services. Balance Manager supports hybrid pre- and post-paid accounts, manages account balances in real-time, organizes subscriber hierarchies and enforces spending limits. In essence, how a user pays becomes an integral part of the service offering.

Openet is headed down a path to enabling all sorts of transactional service and pricing models to be deployed by carriers; up shortly from the vendor will be new platforms that bring another key transactional service – advertising – into the pricing mix for operators, Manzo said.

While service providers today are often criticized for managing traffic on their networks – for instance by limiting P2P traffic or capping high-consumption users – the real opportunity is for them to build new services around such QoS capabilities, said Openet’s Manzo.

It is difficult to “take away” something from customers that is already out of the bottle – that explains, for instance, the strong criticism of the use of data packet inspection (DPI) boxes to manage P2P traffic.

But as carriers introduce newer, high-bandwidth offerings – such as IPTV, fiber-to-the-home and broadband wireless data – the time is right to use capabilities like network policy enforcement and dynamic rating and billing to change how service providers deliver and get paid for their services, Manzo said.

“The right time to introduce these new kinds of services might be when a new, disruptive technology is deployed,” he said. “Then you are giving the customer something at the same time you are taking something away [for instance, no-limit broadband downloads]. They can use it as an opportunity to change the way the game is played.”

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