Exploring the Key Differences Between BCE and TAP—Proving Out Why Mobile Network Operators Should Adopt the New GSMA Standard

In the rapidly evolving world of telecommunications, industry standards and protocols play a critical role in ensuring smooth and efficient operations for mobile network operators (MNOs) —especially when it comes to managing aspects of wholesale roaming, including the clearing and settlement of data and financial transactions between partners.

Where billing and charging processes are concerned specifically, two important frameworks are commonly used: the relatively new GSMA Billing & Charging Evolution (BCE) standard, and the more antiquated, Transferred Account Procedures (TAP). Analyzing the primary differences between these two approaches, their significance in the industry, how they contribute to seamless financial operations, and the avenues each present for growth, are all key considerations MNOs must take into account when determining their future plans and product roadmaps for 2024 and beyond.

GSMA Billing & Charging Evolution (BCE)

Designed with the future in mind, BCE introduces a new level of flexibility to charging and settlement models, while reducing the need to send traffic data records daily and implementing new methods to handle wholesale charging. It presents a more robust framework that encompasses a new set of guidelines, specifications, and best practices for billing and charging processes within the ecosystem and focuses on streamlining and improving the end-to-end process of generating and settling invoices between MNOs, service providers, and customers.

The key features of GSMA BCE include:

  1. Standardized Interfaces: BCE defines standardized interfaces and protocols, allowing interoperability between various components of the billing and charging infrastructure. This ensures consistent data exchange and reduces complexities in integrating different systems.
  2. Consolidated Billing: BCE enables the consolidation of multiple services or charges into a single invoice for end customers. This simplifies the billing process, improves transparency, and enhances the customer experience.
  3. Real-time Charging: BCE supports real-time charging capabilities, allowing immediate cost updates and enabling customers to manage their usage and expenses in real-time. This facilitates greater control and helps prevent bill shock.
  4. Roaming Settlement: BCE includes mechanisms for roaming settlement, enabling accurate and timely reconciliation of charges between MNOs for the services consumed by roaming customers.

Transferred Account Procedures (TAP)

Transferred Account Procedures (TAP) is a billing settlement system used specifically for the inter-operator settlement of wholesale charges. That is to say, TAP is mostly transaction-based from a single source (take, a Visited Public Mobile Network, for example), as it primarily focuses on the financial aspects of settling charges between MNOs, while ensuring the accurate calculation and settlement of charges for services provided to wholesale customers or partner operators.

Key features of TAP include:

  1. Call Data Record (CDR) Exchange: TAP facilitates the exchange of Call Data Records, which contain detailed information about calls, data sessions, or other services provided by one operator to another. These records form the basis for calculating the charges and settling payments.
  2. Clearinghouse Agent: TAP involves the participation of a clearinghouse, which acts as a trusted intermediary between MNOs. The clearinghouse validates the CDRs, calculates the charges based on agreed rates, and manages the financial settlement process.
  3. Revenue Assurance: TAP focuses on ensuring revenue assurance for MNOs by reducing revenue leakage and discrepancies. The process involves thorough verification of CDRs, monitoring of data integrity, and reconciliation of charges.
  4. Dispute Resolution: In case of discrepancies or disputes between MNOs, TAP provides a framework for resolving issues through negotiation and arbitration. This helps maintain healthy business relationships and ensures fair settlement of charges.

Differences and Similarities

While both GSMA BCE and TAP are important frameworks for billing and charging, they serve different purposes and cater to different aspects of the ecosystem.

BCE focuses on the end-to-end billing process, including consolidation, real-time charging, and roaming settlement, with an emphasis on customer experience. On the other hand, TAP is primarily concerned with inter-operator settlement, revenue assurance, and dispute resolution, ensuring fair and accurate financial transactions between MNOs.

BCE, however, does carry over some the same features of TAP, including the use of Transferred Account Data Interchange Group (TADIG) codes and clearing agents. Payment processes also remain the same (direct/netting), with no impact either on current fraud processes. Both also use the GSMA standardized exchange rate tool.

Even so, there are differences, and the decision for MNOs to either make the transition to BCE, or merely stay with TAP for a little while longer, will ultimately be dictated by their near- and long-term business plans, and customer needs.

For example, massive shifts in the industry have caused TAP to become obsolete, even though we are seeing (and will continue to see) a gradual transition from TAP to BCE. This change will simply not happen overnight. Those shifts include the development of new technologies such as 5G, IoT, and MIoT, as well as the emergence of online charging systems using real-time packet data, wholesale discount agreements among MNOs outside of TAP, and the desire for more visibility of roaming traffic by serving and served networks.

To compensate for what TAP lacks as a result of these seismic changes in the industry, BCE presents a new approach that presents multiple advantages to operators.

First, it is a tailor-made solution that can be adopted by all MNOs to reconcile records faster, using one homogenous file format. MNOs are also able to settle without rigid file exchange or settlement windows. BCE also presents end-to-end process support for current and new charging models, as well as a standardized reconciliation process, thanks to previously-agreed upon intervals facilitated by bi-lateral agreements.

Choose a Practical and Feasible Approach

Despite all the complexities associated with monetizing wholesale roaming, BCE is not difficult to implement. Standards are currently in place to be used and are available for implementation across a global scale, as some MNOs have already brought BCE from awareness to adoption. Through implementation, onboarding, and testing, Syniverse is ready to help you assess your readiness factors and make the transition from TAP to BCE today.

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( Sr. Technical Product Manager )

With a strong international business background in the ‘Financial’ and ‘Telecommunications’ industries Jon is a leader and motivator of cross functional teams across multiple locations including the United Kingdom, India, and the United States. As a senior product manager at Syniverse, Jon manages clearing and settlement services designed to help mobile operators manage their roaming operations from data collection through clearing to cash settlement. Prior to Syniverse Jon was director FC product management managing products that helped operator customers with roaming, interconnect, messaging, and direct billing solutions.



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