Setting a new standard for billing: FCS

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Five of the country’s top billing vendors have today agreed to commit to sending call data records (CDRs) in a consistent standardised file format, under the umbrella of FCS.

Five of the UK’s largest independent billing vendors have got together to design and agree one single standard for CDRs. Aurora Kendrick James, Dataflow, eBillz, PRD Technologies and Union Street between them provide the billing platforms for a large proportion of the channel’s resellers. And all have now agreed in principle to offer their customers the choice to output wholesale CDRs in a consistent format from next year, using a standard which will be administered for the whole industry under the umbrella of FCS.

Over the years the UK telecoms market has matured and we now have a myriad of wholesale service providers to the telecoms channel. The lack of any standards for CDRs has resulted in every supplier providing billing data in their own unique format. With more and more new entrants to the market (for example hosted and SIP providers), there are literally hundreds of inconsistent CDR formats in existence.

This creates a big headache for Communication Provides (CPs) who need to receive and process these billing CDR files. Each new service requires them to interpret the data, and modify their billing platform to support the new CDRs. The specifications of many of these CDR files are not properly documented and open to different interpretation. This can result in hassle and time delays and even billing errors.

Having to write and re-write input processes to allow billing systems to receive CDR files in different formats from each different carrier slows down product development. It makes the process of adding new wholesale suppliers more long-winded and more costly than it needs to be. It’s also a drain on development resources, since the work has to be individually duplicated by each individual billing provider.

Without doubt, the industry has been crying out for a standard for CDRs for a long time. Once the new standard is rolled out, any wholesale provider who adopts it will find it much easier for customers (CPs) to do business with them as the CDRs will immediately be compatible (importable) by most of the major billing platforms. Over time CPs will have to make little or no modification to their billing platforms in order to receive CDRs in the standard format.

“This is an exciting step forward for the industry,” says FCS Chief Executive Chris Pateman. “The group has been working on this process for nearly a year: different companies have different requirements, and it was crucial that any standard format should not limit individual players’ flexibility or tie them into unacceptable cost or performance constraints.

“The result is a standard which will suit customers’ needs, both today and in the future. But in a technically simple format that anyone can use without compromising the normal commercial freedom of individual billing vendors to develop their own operating platforms and compete with one another for business. New entrants to the market will have the choice of becoming licensees of the common standard via FCS or paying the development costs to modify existing billing platforms to accommodate their bespoke CDR files.

The launch version of the standard (Version 1.4) was signed off at the Convergence Summit South exhibition at Sandown Park on October 3. The industry should expect to start seeing it being implemented in the first quarter of 2013.

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