By April Taylor
The telecommunications industry has long been burdened by outdated back-office systems, making it challenging to automate cost reconciliation and financial assurance processes. The outdated systems have led to overlooked claims, time-consuming disputes, accrual mishaps, and revenue blockages. The reactive approach of layering fixes onto existing processes and systems hampers growth, and the operational issues continue to impact the bottom line.
It is no secret that the telecom industry’s current ordering, billing, and dispute systems must be changed to become more efficient. These inefficiencies result from legacy systems built to invoice and service Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) based services.
Additionally, the software community that developed the billing practices and procedures for the TDM network was focused on data elements that correlated to the technology at that time; for example, switched access, special access, and private line services—this is now an antiquated approach.
In simpler terms, new 4th Generation carrier technologies do not fit into the same legacy telecom ordering environments and billing frameworks. However, carriers continue to attempt to include these new technologies in systems that are not designed to accommodate them. In addition, Ethernet and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products, which have contractual pricing, are mainly unregulated, adding further complexity.
Due to a lack of regulation, carriers and their products vary widely in pricing and billing practices. Product naming conventions frequently change, taxes, surcharges, and fees jump between tariff and contract considerations, and services can be ordered under different governing contracts, adding complexity, confusion and cost. These inefficiencies can be greatly reduced by using smart bilaterals and omnilaterals.
The Blockchain Advantage
Blockchain technology offers a solution for the telecom industry to shed the inefficiencies of legacy OSS/BSS systems. By incorporating the functional layers of blockchain architecture, carriers can alleviate present-day operational issues and pave the way for a successful future. In addition, carriers who embrace blockchain technology will have a first-mover advantage and can strategically depart from a reactive mode and move into a proactive method to address change and complexity—two constants in the industry.
- Blockchain technology allows managing distributed databases or ledgers through a network of participant-approved nodes. These nodes can be used by carriers to efficiently handle and validate orders in real-time, improving order accuracy, mean time to revenue, and client experience. Using blockchain to validate applied rates upon order confirmation via smart contracts prevents errors and disputes that can lead to increased costs and accruals.
- Blockchain technology dramatically improves the enforcement of service-level agreements. Its ability to automate tracking performance metrics, monitoring commitments, and issuing claims can lead to significant cost savings for Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers.
- Blockchain technology can also simplify systems and staff training needs by eliminating the need for Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) and Electronic Data Interchanges (EDI). This reduction in systems leads to fewer demands on staff as today’s manual tasks across provisioning, customer care, and accounting are eliminated or reduced. Additionally, using immutable data in blockchain ensures that order and payment processing can be done without human intervention.
- Security concerns are significantly reduced with blockchain. Gone are the days of orders being processed online via vulnerable methods. With blockchain, all transactions are secure, encrypted, and tamper-proof, providing both carriers and customers peace of mind.
The Blockchain Solution
The first step to implementing a blockchain solution is inventorying the network and establishing performance and rate benchmarks. Carriers can then implement an ordering solution that centralizes Access Service Request (ASR) and Local Service Request (LSR) activity, a single pane of glass with visibility across wholesale suppliers. By combining benchmarks and a centralized ordering system, carriers can connect order activity with immutable smart contracts to govern the process and:
- Create a technology-based framework to attain operational efficiencies, mitigate dispute/accrual issues, and validate/rate the carrier’s embedded base.
- Utilize rating logic created to rate and validate orders in near real-time to mitigate billing and accrual issues and to optimize orders proactively.
- Demonstrate operational efficiencies gained.
The Final Word
In conclusion, the telecom industry faces significant challenges due to outdated and inefficient back-office systems. In addition, the lack of automation and regulation in billing and ordering processes leads to overlooked claims, disputes, and revenue blockages.
However, by embracing blockchain technology, carriers can alleviate these operational issues and pave the way for a prosperous future. Blockchain allows for real-time order validation, error correction, and automated service-level agreement enforcement, resulting in significant annual savings and an improved experience for internal and external stakeholders. Additionally, legacy systems such as GUI and EDI can be eliminated, and staff demands can be reduced as orders are transacted via blockchain. Furthermore, the immutable nature of blockchain ensures secure and efficient order and payment processing. In short, blockchain is a transformative technology that can help the telecom industry shed its inefficiencies and move towards a more efficient and profitable future.
April Taylor serves as the Senior Vice President of Blockchain for Sage Management and has over 20 years of telecom experience. As SVP of Blockchain, Ms. Taylor has helped clients create an accurate rated inventory, execute real-time rated ordering, develop smart contracts for blockchain, and implement optimal pricing resulting in over $4 billion in realized savings. She is a subject matter expert on telecommunications ordering, billing, network inventory, contracts, and blockchain subjects.
Ms. Taylor double majored in Finance and Accounting at Virginia Tech and started her career as a Systems Analyst for the Department of Defense. During her time at Sage, she has held Telecom Financial Analyst and Director of Blockchain positions, where she successfully identified and negotiated over $250M in telecommunications disputes across all global products and services as well as implemented blockchain solutions for global telecommunications carriers.