Of all the areas in the mobile industry undergoing rapid change today, clearing and settlement is an area in an extreme state of transformation, and Syniverse has been moving right along with it. New technologies like 5G and the internet of things (IoT) are adding more connectivity and complexity to clearing and settlement processes. At the same time, the ability to seamlessly and securely clear any type of transaction that requires validation is becoming increasingly crucial, as well as the ability to provide an audit trail.
These are a few reasons why the GSMA has launched an initiative to redefine the standards for billing and charging for roaming. Among other changes, this initiative is developing a new standard called Billing and Charging Evolution (BCE) that will initially be used in parallel with TAP (Transferred Account Procedure) – the standard that GSM operators have been using to exchange roaming billing information for over 20 years – but will eventually replace it.
Syniverse has been closely involved in helping mobile operators prepare for this transformation, and as one of our latest steps, we recently held a webinar, “Are you ready to monetize 5G and Mobile IoT roaming?,” to explain some of the new changes that the BCE standard will bring to roaming billing and charging.
At the webinar, my colleague Anna Gussmann and I were able to discuss these changes in detail, since Syniverse chairs the GSMA’s Billing and Charging Evolution group that is now fine-tuning the standards. Below are some of the major points we communicated that are related to common questions that we continue to receive as BCE has gained momentum. Let’s have a look.
Why do mobile operators need to change the way they do business with roaming?
Clearing and settlement with TAP has been an instrumental enabler for the success of global roaming. When it was developed, TAP was designed to address current challenges in retail and wholesale billing at that time. However, with the emergence of today’s new technologies and business models, the TAP standard increasingly has not been able to fully support these latest innovations for sustainable and efficient monetization of next-generation services. As a result, the need to use TAP for retail billing has been diminishing, and the GSMA has identified the need for a simplified and flexible solution to clear and settle wholesale roaming and other services. This has led to the BCE standard, formalized in May of this year.
How is the GSMA’s BCE standard particularly suited to provide an upgrade for roaming billing?
The BCE standard was designed by industry representatives and technology experts contending with several new clearing and settlement challenges in being able to monetize new roaming services simply and efficiently. The standard was developed to specifically address some of these limitations in TAP that had become barriers to growth. Moreover, BCE was designed with a flexible foundation for the future that allows it to be used for other telecom clearing and settlement processes, such as interoperability related to wholesale voice and interworking services.
What’s the timeline for the implementation of Billing and Charging Evolution, and will it co-exist with TAP for a while?
BCE is an approved standard now. However, because it’s implemented by bilateral agreement only, there is no minimum implementation time. This means that at any time now an operator could be contacted by its roaming partners with requests to begin using the BCE process. As a result, since most countries have more than one mobile operator, operators that aren’t prepared to integrate BCE risk having their roaming partners’ business shift to a national competitor.
Will it be mandatory for operators to implement BCE with all current and future roaming partners?
The GSMA only sets guidelines for operators to implement clearing and settlement using BCE. The actual standards used between operators in a particular roaming relationship are agreed to on a bilateral basis by the specific operators. For this reason, any bilateral agreement between parties will prevail over GSMA standards. However, operators should keep in mind two key points about implementing BCE:
- TAP will not be able to provide long-term commercially sustainable support for the mobile IoT, as for many other future services, such as aggregated access-based charging models.
- Non-standard implementations and processes will lead to disparate formats and inefficiencies, which will result in extra cost and labor.
How will blockchain play a role in the new clearing and settlement processes for roaming?
BCE can be implemented without blockchain, but at Syniverse, we continue to set the bar high and believe that mere compliance with a standard like BCE is not enough. As the industry sets new standards, it’s important to seize the opportunity to integrate new technologies that align with objectives of simplicity, efficiency and scale. Blockchain is enabling these additional benefits and allowing people and organizations to share information with each other with a new degree of trust and transparency.
We hope you find the insights above useful. As mobile traffic continues to explode and new technologies like 5G and the IoT revolutionize mobile services, clearing and settlement will also be revolutionized and open a number of new capabilities and opportunities for the future. We’re excited about what lies in the future for blockchain, and we’re positioned to play a central role in this exciting future. We look forward to building on our “Are you ready to monetize 5G and Mobile IoT roaming?” webinar with future sessions, and hope you’ll stay tuned for updates on future webinars right here on the Syniverse Blog.
As Senior Director of Product Management, Douwe van der Heij uncovers new opportunities and develops new business and technology solutions for mobile operators, technology companies and other businesses. This includes the inception of new products through concept development to commercial deployment. Douwe brings over 18 years in managing solution portfolios for the wireless industry, which have included senior roles at KPN and T-Mobile. He joined Syniverse in 2009.