For telecoms operators who provide voice and data services, billing accuracy reduces customer complaints, improves end-user trust and minimises revenue leakage. However, many industry regulators across the world do not provide best practice metering and billing guidance. Consequently, some communications providers turn to the framework provided by Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK, to ensure that their business benefits from consistent billing accuracy.
Ofcom’s Metering and Billing Direction aims to regulate accuracy as the complexity of billing often makes it extremely difficult for consumers to check that their bill is correct. The main requirements are that operators set appropriate internal targets to ensure that certain agreed performance standards are met, and that they measure their performance against these targets to demonstrate to their Approval Body and to Ofcom that targets are being achieved.
On 31 July 2014, Ofcom announced a series of updates to the Direction. Previously, the 2008 Direction had included both process-based and target-based requirements which set allowable error rates, for example, of one in 50,000 events.
The 2014 Direction is process-based and the target-based tolerances have been deleted. For the first time, wholesale related performance has been specifically included, with their ‘consumer’ being other communications providers which buy their services and repackage/rebrand them to the end-user.
In the UK, all communications providers, both landline and mobile voice services, with an annual turnover of more than £40 million are required to comply. This means that they must obtain approval of their Total Metering and Billing Systems (TMBS) from Approval Bodies. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers are subject to voluntary provisions.
Leading Approvals Body
TÜV SÜD BABT is the UK’s leading Approvals Body, auditing communications providers’ metering and billing systems to show compliance with the requirements of the Direction. It has been involved for over 30 years throughout the history of the scheme, which has existed in various forms since the privatization of British Telecom in the early 1980s.
TÜV SÜD BABT has helped clients across the world to develop solutions that deliver an accurate metering and billing system, including those in Bulgaria, India, Hong Kong, Turkey and the UK.Its clients include BT, KCOM Group, Mobiltel, TalkTalk Communications, Telefónica, Virgin Media and Vodafone.
TÜV SÜD BABT offers a range of services to ensure that billing systems and those functions that support them, are accurate and robust, as well as meeting all relevant regulatory requirements.
A typical TÜV SÜD BABT assessment involves:
An initial assessment/gap analysis, which includes an in-depth analysis to understand the business’s internal structure, suppliers and business model.
On-site assessment of end-to-end activities against the required regulatory framework.
Measurement of the system’s performance against agreed targets
The team at TÜV SÜD BABT takes a pragmatic approach, guiding clients on the the requirements of the Direction, while allowing them to progress at their own speed towards approval, typically taking anything from six months to five years.
TÜV SÜDBABT also has formal appointments under the EU-USA, EU-Canada and EU-Japan Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs), and as a Notified Body in Europe under the LVD, R&TTE and EMC Directives. It is accredited by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) against EN 45011 (Product Certification Systems) and ISO 17021 (Certification and Registration of Quality Systems).