Online Charging Systems (OCS) operations: Considerations for improving agility and efficiency

June 15th, 2018 by · Leave a Comment

This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Prodapt

As per Gartner report titled “The Gartner scenario for Communications Service Providers: Routes to the future,” digital/adjacent market services like Pay TV, VOD, M2M communications, and data-only connections will be contributing towards revenue growth
of digital service providers (DSPs). Therefore, it’s important that DSPs launch these services quickly and cost-efficiently to stay competitive in the market place.

An Online Charging System (OCS) enables CSPs/DSPs to implement real-time, convergent, and flexible charging for digital services, thus streamlining a regular cash-flow to pursue additional growth opportunities.

Benefits of OCS:

  1. Various charging methods – Content-based, volume-based & time-based, the real-time service control
  2. Service type - Voice, data, messaging, video, and content
  3. Network technologies - Fixed, wireless, and broadband
  4. Payment methods – Prepaid, postpaid and hybrid

Though there is an increased demand for OCS, DSPs are still finding it difficult to operate it efficiently and leverage its full potential. This article focuses on providing insightful solutions to typical operational challenges posed by OCS.

Challenges in Operating OCS and their Solutions

Challenge 1: Real-time operational challenges

  • OCS being a critical/real-time function requires a proactive and immediate issue resolution. But lack of real-time visibility into OCS platform keeps it vulnerable and prone to SLA breaches
  • Insufficient traditional trouble ticketing approach
  • Insufficient traditional communication/alert mechanism

Solution:

  • Introduce real-time operations dashboard for monitoring the OCS system health across different applications/interfaces/nodes and automate the alerts
  • Implement a feature of automated ticket creation to notify the concerned teams at the earliest possible, in case of issues. This feature, along with strong triaging tools, helps in doing root cause analysis and isolate issues related to OCS and network.
  • Use collaborative tools like WhatsApp and other messenger tools to keep the monitoring & communications real time

 

Challenge 2: High cost incurred for support - Complete dependency on the product vendor for implementation, support & professional services becomes very expensive and time consuming.

Solution:

  • L1/L2 support should be done by in-house operations team or external operations partner (with OCS expertise)
  • Only L3 support to be availed from the product vendor

 

Challenge 3: Revenue reporting inconsistencies across departments - Inconsistent revenue reports across departments (e.g. Finance and Product management) will lead to wrong evaluation of total revenue. To standardize this, reconciliation of CDRs is required, which the OCS default configuration cannot provide.

Solution: Reconciliation tool - Automated scripts to analyze and process the utilization data on voice, SMS and data across subscriber accounts split into different buckets (e-wallets). The output provides a summarized view and ‘distributed services by subscriber’ view to zero in on the missing monetary value.

 

Challenge 4: Revenue from promotions unaccounted - Revenue collected from promotional offers by third party vendors do not reflect in the reports generated by BI tools. This results in miscalculation of the financial health of the organization.

Solution:

  • An automated script that can perform a full account reconciliation by collecting revenue-related data from main account and dedicated accounts (promotional offers)
  • The script categorizes data under primary revenue and promotional revenue while reconciling across mediation and OCS and provide it to the BI tool at regular intervals

 

Challenge 5: Passive subscriber MSISDNs not getting decommissioned - Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number (MSISDNs) of passive subscribers remain in the dormant state for too long due to synchronization delays. This leads to old numbers not getting re-provisioned. E.g. After crossing the passive state, an MSISDN is released from OCS. But it doesn’t get decommissioned from CRM and HLR, keeping it unavailable for re-provisioning.

Solution: Subscriber-state synch tool – It synchronizes the passive subscriber MSISDNs across HLR, CRM, and OCS. In this way, the lifecycle state of every subscriber is intact across systems and MSISDNs of deactivated subscribers comes to the allotment pool faster.

 

Challenge 6: Uneven load sharing - Lack of optimum utilization of resources will result in uneven load sharing and traffic distribution across OCS servers/nodes. E.g. 90% of recharge requests hit one node while only 10% reaches another node.

Solution: Load monitoring tool

  • Automated scripts to monitor load sharing across OCS nodes on an hourly basis
  • Upon reaching the maximum threshold, it reports the status to stakeholders/vendors to initiate corrective measures
  • Conducting performance review meetings at regular intervals, covering key aspects of performance design, traffic engineering, latency and throughput optimization

Key Takeaways

  • By bringing the L1/L2 support of OCS to in-house team or outsourcing to operations partner, OPEX can be brought down by 60%
  • OCS operations need to be real-time. Implementing an operations dashboard with a real-time data feed from OCS can improve visibility into the operational performance of OCS and reduce revenue-loss causing incidents by 80%
  • Implementing automated ticket creation, collaboration and triaging tools can help in isolating issues between OCS and network 95% of the times

 

Authors:

  • Mothish Kamalakkannan – Senior Project Manager, Prodapt
  • Vivek Ramaswamy – Senior Presales Consultant, Prodapt
  • Sarvagya Nayak - Business Analyst, Prodapt
Categories: Industry Viewpoint · Managed Services

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