Convergys Upgrade Eases Path To Usage-Based Billing

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Billing systems vendor Convergys will make it easier for cable operators and other broadband providers to put bandwidth limits and usage-based billing policies in place with the next major release of its ICOMS platform.

ICOMS 9 includes the ability to aggregate event records, such as bandwidth usage, in real time and then enforce policies based on that data -- such as notifying customers of their usage consumption.

"What we're seeing with the rise of over-the-top video, many of the providers feel this capability is key for them," said Michelle Nowak, Convergys' global head of strategy, solutions and marketing for cable, broadband and satellite.

ICOMS 9 is currently in "pre-beta" testing. Convergys has not announced an expected general-availability release date for the product.

Cable companies using ICOMS include Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and the U.K.'s Virgin Media.

Last month, AT&T became the first major U.S. Internet service provider to adopt a cap-and-surcharge model. The telco limits regular DSL users to 150 Gigabytes of data per month while U-verse Internet customers are allotted 250 GB; AT&T will charge $10 for every 10 GB beyond those caps.

Cable operators including Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications currently impose usage limits but don't charge overage fees -- but analysts expect MSOs to move in some way to usage-based billing at some point.

According to Convergys, the real-time policy enforcement feature in ICOMS 9 also can help operators manage parental controls for TV. The ability to notify customers that they are nearing their usage caps also helps avoid "bill shock," Nowak said.

"This lets operators manage those limits before their customers hit those limits," she said.

Other new features include a new offer-management configuration that provides a decision-tree structure for product catalogs and is designed to let service providers respond more quickly to competitors with new pricing and bundles.

In addition, ICOMS 9 will be pre-integrated with Convergys CRM, powered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM, for customer-relationship management capabilities.

To help providers sell commercial services, ICOMS 9 adds better support for tracking sales to large corporate structures through Convergys CRM. The upgrade adds support for multiple types of contacts, multiple locations, service-level agreements and the ability to charge for different points in the hierarchy, among other attributes.

"Cable companies needed a more sophisticated structure to sell to business customers," Nowak said.

The Cincinnati, Ohio-based company offers the billing system as licensed software or in managed services bureau; customers can run in the data center.

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