Telcos' IT infrastructure unprepared for 3G

Traditional IT ideals of building a system to meet current requirements was a fundamental cause of One.Tel's fatalbilling system blunders and threatens to stymie other telcos in their move to new generation systems.

According to David Hislop, vice president, consulting service for ADC, supplier of billing systems to telcos:

"There have been rumours that One.Tel's billing system was largely at fault for its demise.

"They were proud of their integrated billing system and the fact that they built it themselves. However, buildingyour own billing system usually means that you create a system that meets known requirements.

"But the classic thing is that when the system is built, you end up with conflicting requirements for the system."

Hislop said having a billing system that is not flexible enough extends into the operating phase of the businesscycle to the point that you can not introduce new services and bill customers quickly enough, thereby not havingenough cashflow to maintain your business model.

Geoff Johnson, research area director, enterprise network strategies for Gartner Asia Pacific, agrees thateverything revolves around the billing system and that One.Tel's system did not handle the growth of the company(CW, June 11 p1).

With the advent of data package-based services (GPRS (general packet radio services), EDGE (enhanced data GSMenvironment) and 3G (third-generation wireless)), Hislop said many carriers are in danger of following One.Tel'spath to destruction due to an "unawareness" within the industry of the huge differences between GSM and nextgeneration billing systems.

Hislop said the move to data packet-based communications means billing systems will have to become revenuemanagement systems.

"The billing systems need to be very flexible as service providers will need to keep track of their serviceofferings from different partners ? and be able to know real-time the value of services, and be able to tellcustomers real-time the value of each service."

The unpredictability of the way traditional billing systems will cope with the range of 3G-like service - to beavailable shortly - will mean most service providers will initially offer relatively simple and low-value services,Hislop said. He believes there will be a reticence among carriers to provide high-revenue services, such aswireless access, to corporate networks until billing systems prove themselves capable.

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