Digital Evolution of Telecom Requires Upgrade to Legacy Billing Systems

by Jeff Wiener on January 29, 2016

billFor years telecom operators have looked at their legacy systems, their out-of-date infrastructure, and their painfully antiquated processes and thought that with just a little polish and some minor tweaks, that such relics of a bygone era could be stretched just a little further. In fact, telcos have long been content to refine the way they’ve always done things, taking a Band-Aid approach to fixing and improving things, with little appetite for all out change…until now that is.

Faced with the inevitability of the digital revolution, telcos are attempting to quickly play catch-up, and as tech analyst Tony Poulos writes, “There is constant discussion as to whether or not to upgrade, add on, farm out or start again with systems that have to support huge numbers of customers.”

But for telcos to truly embrace the digital revolution the first thing they’ll have to do is find a way to recreate their legacy billing processes for the digital age, foregoing the traditional once-a-month cycle and creating new, more dynamic ways for customers to interact with telcos the way they want to, and pay the way they want to.

The problem for telcos is where to go with billing, for as we’ve seen fairly regularly over the past several years, patchwork systems and legacy infrastructure have created an environment unprepared for modern usage of telecommunications. “Bill shock,” wrongful billing and other billing issues have become common place, evidence again that the structures in place are simply unprepared for the dynamic, instant connection reality of the digital world.

Of course the primary barrier standing in the way of overhauling legacy billing is that, well, new things are scary. For several years now telcos have attempted to address the coming digital revolution on a micro scale, patching holes in the old way of doing things as they appear, hoping to prolong the inevitable demise of the entire foundation for as long as possible. Thankfully that perspective is starting to change.

For as much as there is the desire to hold on to the old way of doing things, telcos are simultaneously discovering the cost savings of leaving the old way of billing behind. When the entire telecom industry finally looks at the way billing is done, what they’re going to see is inefficiency, redundancy, and ineffectiveness, and you can bet few companies will want to continue to invest in the old way of doing things when they realize that a newer, cheaper way of billing in the digital age might be available.

Not that I have the answer for what telecom billing in the digital age should look like, only that it will need to cater to the new breed of digital consumer like everything else. In order to truly transition into a digital industry telcos will need to find ways to make billing easy, instant, and on-demand, creating dynamic billing processes that are more in tune with how people consume data; ones that avoid the pitfalls associated with applying legacy systems to modern problems.

While telcos search for a solution to legacy billing, the one glimmer of hope is that now, unlike any other time in the history of telecommunications it would seem, telcos are willing to change, excited about change, and aware that change is the only way they can move forward into the digital age.

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