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How We Help : Systems : Network Elements

Message Processing: Message processing is an integral part of the billing system. Message processing is where Call Detail Records are taken into the system from your own switches, plus any other external sources, which include roaming records from other carriers, or reseller files. Message processing performs preliminary edits on each field in a record, according to the predefined parameters, which you establish. Message processing will convert all types of records into an internal record format, which your billing system can store and manage. Message processing flags errors in the records, creates reports so that you can follow records through the entire process, and forwards messages that have passed edits onto the next stage of the billing process, which is rating.

Order Entry: Order entry controls all input into your Customer Care and Billing System, and therefore, is a key to creating proper invoices for your subscribers. Order entry involves setting up the screens and tables that customer service personnel will utilize for input of subscriber information. Different systems operate in a variety of different ways utilizing edits for data that are either driven by system tables or hard coded within a program.

Data Storage/Reporting: Along with order entry, data entered into a system, either by an operator or another computer must be stored and archived. Data storage is critical for any organization in order to facilitate proper reporting of current and past data. There are a variety of data storage solutions available, anything from an ASCII file to a data warehouse. The size, variety and reporting needs of your organization will dictate which is the best-fit solution. Reporting utilizes the data stored to generate either predefined reports, utilizing existing programs or creation of customized reports based on user requirements.

Rating: Once Message Processing has been accomplished the next step within most systems is the rating process. The rating process may round the call from its initial duration and assign a dollar value to each call record that is passed from message processing. Rating may also look at either internal/external tables or programs to assign toll charges; free calls or local calling structures based on what is contained within each call detail record.

Billing Calculation: The billing calculation process is the core of any billing system. The billing process takes all the call record information, and merges it with the customer information that was entered during order entry. Billing will then look at the system tables, and definitions, which have been pre-defined.

Once all the information has been consolidated, some of the possible billing functions may apply free minutes to customers based on their specific rate plan, apply promotions, discounts, special toll rating structures, calculate any recurring and non recurring charges, prorate amounts based on set criteria, round calls based on specific rate plans, calculate taxes, and arrange all these elements into an invoice. The billing process may also be responsible for updating subscriber account balances and creating billing reports.

Tax Calculation: The tax calculation process is actually a sub-set of the billing process. Tax calculation looks at each Charge that has been created by billing. Tax calculation looks at specific tables to determine tax liability status, taxable items, tax percentages, and jurisdictions. Through a complicated set of rules, the tax is calculated and added to a subscriber invoice.

Invoice Fulfillment: Invoice fulfillment is the process that takes the invoice image from billing and prints the actual invoice for delivery to your customer. The invoices may be paper, tape, diskette, CD-ROM or some other media. This process can be done at your location or outsourced to a variety of fulfillment vendors.

Audits and Controls: Audits and controls take place throughout the entire billing process. Audits and controls can be reports, or electronic monitoring. Audits and controls insure the integrity of your billing process. They are critical to insure that no usage, customer data or revenue is lost. Audits and controls may have pre-defined thresholds, which make it possible to monitor your billing process only on an exception basis.

Roaming and Clearing: Roaming and clearing are used to exchange call record information and funds with your roaming partners. Setting up of roaming and clearing within an organization involves all departments from accounting to revenue assurance. Most carriers today exchange information using some type of industry clearinghouse such as GTEIS, EDS or MACH. Roaming and clearing involve all types of systems sending or receiving information on a predefined frequency, in predefined formats. Record editing will also occur on all incoming and outgoing information.

Address Validation: Address validation software works in concert with your billing and customer care system, and is used for insuring that subscriber data is accurate. This can be used as part of the credit checking process, to control fraud or as part of the invoicing process to control returned mail. Address validation software keeps your postage in check by using accurate addresses and codes, to help in the presorting process. A variety of address validation software is available which can be used with any system.

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