Vodafone and Nokia have introduced a cloud-based converged charging system to enable them to price and package new digital services targeted to individual user needs in a completely different way to current methods.
Vodafone said the move towards greater charging customisation underpins its Business division’s push into new digital services, including cyber security, software-defined and mobile private networks, and cloud hosting services. These services grew by 20% in the first three months of 2023, and now account for a quarter of Vodafone Business.
Nokia’s Converged Charging software is a secure and automated platform designed to unlock new commercial models for both Vodafone and its business customers, partners and third-party developers.
Through converged charging, Vodafone said it can offer businesses of all sizes, public sector organisations and developers access to new markets and revenue streams without them taking on the complexity of rating, assigning and billing users. The platform will handle all elements of this charging process for them. The Nokia software allows users to drag and drop in new applications housed in virtual containers rather than running on large servers, meaning new services can be introduced in a matter of days rather than weeks.
The system is claimed to be “far more” flexible and responsive than current charging mechanisms, which typically comprise three separate platforms to first calculate the cost of a voice call, message, TV or data service, then assign it to a user’s account before finally billing them.
The new method combines all three and then takes advantage of the dynamism and speed of advancing 5G Standalone (pure 5G) networks, coupled with low-latency multi-access edge computing. It does this by triggering new pricing models based on quality of service, location, dedicated network slices and specific network application programming interfaces (APIs) such as, for example, a bandwidth boost via Vodafone’s new Developer Marketplace.
Offering a use case, Vodafone suggested the potential for a motor manufacturer, for example, to tailor and charge separately for in-vehicle telematics and infotainment services, vehicle-to-vehicle and everything communications, asset tracking, and location-based services to suit the individual needs of a motorist, fleet or road haulage firm. The platform also supports a range of internet of things applications, including environmental and traffic gathering sensors, as well as devices that trade securely with each other within what is described as the “economy of things”.
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Vodafone will initially install the platform in Italy and the UK, before extending this and other converged charging services to many more markets from this year. The increased automation is also attributed with allowing companies to be quicker to market while saving energy and reducing costs.
“5G enables many new services, and with this new system, new ways to charge for them,” said Vodafone chief network officer Alberto Ripepi. “By leveraging the scale of our pan-European and African networks, we can help customers manage factory equipment, open developer marketplaces using our APIs, and enable enterprises to offer bespoke products to their own customers.”
Hamdy Farid, senior vice-president of business applications at Nokia, added: “We are pleased to be furthering our relationship with Vodafone through the roll-out of Nokia’s Converged Charging solution. As advanced 5G services start to become more widespread, our Converged Charging solution is very well-placed to help communication service providers and enterprises drive innovative 5G use cases and business models, and deliver significant operating efficiency improvements.”