The telecoms billing software market is vast and complex. And, despite the consolidation that has occurred in the sector in recent years, the market still holds many opportunities. Not least, for vendors that can offer more flexible software enabling operators to consolidate a diverse range of services onto one bill.
That would certainly seem to be the case with telecoms billing mediation software vendor Openet Telecom. Although it was only founded in July 1999, the Dublin, Ireland-based company already claims revenues of €10 million in the year to the end of June 2001 – a phenomenal rate of growth.
Furthermore, it also secured a further €22.5 million of funding in November 2001, a time when many other start-ups struggled to raise a fraction of that amount. Customers include AT&T Wireless and Esat, which is owned by telecoms giant BT.
Openet's flagship product is the FusionWorks mediation platform. Mediation involves correlating billing data from a variety of sources, such as routers and telephone switches, and preparing it for billing. FusionWorks does not handle the billing element itself, but Openet has partnerships with billing software vendors such as Portal Software, Convergys-owned Geneva Technology and TeleKnowledge to provide this function.
Mediation is arguably the most important element of the billing process, says CEO Barry Murphy, because if it is not done well, customers may not be accurately billed. "All service providers need to look at the mediation layer of their solution stack to ensure that revenue leakage is kept to a minimum, and that customers are accurately billed based on actual usage," says Murphy.
It is not unusual for operators to suffer significant revenue losses as a result of poor mediation and accurate mediation will become even harder, and therefore more important, as telecoms operators shift from circuit-switched to packet-based networks.
Furthermore, the better the mediation software, the easier it is for telecoms operators to plug-in better customer care, capacity management, fraud detection, marketing and churn management software modules, not to mention improving interconnect settlement systems with other operators.
Openet's main advantage compared to competitors is that FusionWorks was built from scratch with the increasingly diverse needs of telecom operators in mind, says marketing director Andrew Court. Many competitors' products were built when the mediation process was very much simpler, he says, and therefore lack flexibility.
Given the company's fast growth since it was founded, that message has struck a chord with operators. But it will need to continue that rapid growth if it is not to be over-shadowed – or acquired – by the billing software giants, such as Amdocs, Convergys or Lucent Technology.