Regardless of whether you are a contract or pay-as-you-go customer; how often you use your mobile phone, the ways you use it or even when you use it, your mobile network operator will know exactly what you have been doing on their network, and how much you will need to be billed for.
The mobile network industry is worth several billion pounds in the United Kingdom, and more so with the world’s network operators combined.
So, How Does My Network Operator Know What To Charge Me?
Mobile network operators use a process known as convergent charging. This process gathers information on the various things you do with your mobile phone on its network and organises them into a format that can then be interpreted by the company to create your invoices.
Another term that the mobile network industry use when describing such billing processes is called telecom mediation. In a nutshell, telecom mediation refers to the way in which each type of information is converted before the data is passed onto a convergent charging (i.e. billing) system.
With me so far? No? OK, here’s an analogy for you. Let’s say that your business is organising a high-profile presentation between a number of key account customers and yourself in order to demonstrate some cool new products that you guys have just developed (in the hopes that they will place some juicy orders with you afterwards).
Some of these customers are based in countries around the world, and although some customers speak fluent English, not all of them do. How do you overcome this language barrier?
Well, apart from attempting to flap your hands around as if you were playing a game of Charades, what you could do is hire some professional translators to do a voice-over for your presentations and help translate between you and your customers afterwards.
In this case, you could think of the translator as the “telecom mediation” aspect of your network operator’s billing system.
Thinking about the information or data that network operators need to keep in order to bill you correctly and retain a history of your invoices and payments, this can amount to quite a large amount of data, especially when you consider that mobile network operators can have potentially millions of customers.
Telecom mediation processes are needed to convert all of the different types of information held into a usable format. The types of information that are required include:
- Call history – dates, times, destination numbers, call durations;
- SMS (text message history) – dates, times, destination numbers, message lengths;
- Data usage – dates, times, bandwidth used.
You might think that pulling this information in from a database is a relatively straightforward affair, but to complicate things, everyone will be on some kind of calling plan or “tariff”.
The convergent charging system I mentioned earlier has to calculate what discounts to apply to each and every one of those itemised charges, as well as when it is to bill the customer, and the payment method the customer will be using (some network operators charge extra for non Direct Debit payments, for example).