International transit carriers may now bypass the increasingly unworkable ‘footnote-workaround’ in pricelists – thanks to a forward-looking new format launched by iCONX, designed to comply with all current & future Origin Based Rating scenarios.

“Thanks to a flexible architecture, which offers total granularity to map origins & destinations, coupled with user-friendly grouping options called ‘Origin Sets’, iCONX continues to set the standard for advanced interconnect and routing management”, commented Sacha Jones, iCONX Head of Product and Delivery.

Addressing recent turmoil

To recap, in the past 12-18 months, new charging mechanisms have taken the carrier world by storm, as EU-based carriers, in certain countries, suddenly began to assign two different prices against one single destination, with the correct price being triggered according to the origin (Anumber) of each individual call.

What began as a one-off anomaly has quickly gained momentum as more EU country regulators approved the 2-tier pricing approach.

With at least 12 European countries actively following the new pricing model today, and others in the pipeline, the scope is now widening further as iCONX notes the emergence of origin based surcharges on rateplans from carriers unrelated to the EEA.

What began life as “2-tier” pricing against each destination, has also mutated with up to 4 or 5 separate prices appearing for certain countries.

Challenges for rating design

It may seem surprising that what appears to the layman like a simple enough pricing innovation should create such chaos. However the changes hit hard at the fundamental ways in which carriers bill and settle with each other at the wholesale level, and – by extension – the BSS tools (chiefly wholesale accounting systems) that support those activities.

Since the dawn of deregulation and interconnection almost thirty years ago, interconnect accounting systems needed only to concern themselves with the termination part (Bnumber) of a call event, except in some specialised circumstances. But in 2016, seeing, understanding and processing the Anumber has suddenly become critical to accurate operations.

For the core processing requirement – to rate interconnect traffic accurately – iCONX has always been 100% compliant for Origin Based Rating, thanks to a far-sighted original design and many years of compliance with individual country billing regimes (such as EBC in the UK) requiring lookups for shared costs, non-geographic services, payphone etc. – and all requiring recognition of the Anumber.

However for other BSS providers, this basic processing requirement has been much more of a headache, with informal soundings suggesting up to 70% of carriers using such systems are unable currently to rate according to the origin country. Yet it’s a critical requirement for the accurate generation of costbase.

Transit Carriers and the “Pricelist Footnote” Workaround

In the activities of international transit carriers some highly challenging compromises, workarounds and difficulties have been encountered. Core to their business is the issuance of pricelists containing either a partial or full A to Z of worldwide destinations. How can such pricelists – already significantly large documents – be expanded to show 2 different prices against each destination?

In practice the short answer has been to employ workarounds – crude footnotes carrying text-based instructions to apply a surcharge to an individual destination should the call origin be outside the EEA. As more and more countries became involved, so these footnotes are beginning to become bigger and more involved than the pricelist itself.

Unfortunately, no billing system on earth can load and validate a text-based footnote. What has been needed, is an unambiguous, forward-looking format which billing systems have the potential to work with.

iCONX Enlightened Review – introducing “Origin Sets”

Trying to review prices and codes next to each other in one place (eg a supplier pricelist), can be an exhausting process. Increasingly, the matrix is becoming absolutely enormous! Especially since, potentially, every origin may now be shown against every destination as a unique line item, despite the fact most of these repeating lines will show the same price.

This is where iCONX really shines, since the design fundamentally allows codes and rates to be grouped and reviewed as a separate process. So, for instance, in iCONX a selling pricelist may be created which quickly applies one price to a combined “Origin Set” of countries (eg “Pacific Islands”). This can be created as a single task to take care of multiple codes. Then separately, the user can break out those codes for further inspection, to add / remove members for that Origin Set, or simply check all is well.

This ability to drill down all the way from convenient groups to complete granularity of origins and destinations, is at the heart of the iCONX approach.

3-approaches for success

(1) Current Surcharge model (EEA vs non-EEA)

In this model, the iCONX system allows the creation of “Origin Sets”. These Origin Sets contain a combination of origins, defined by the user. Hence, the immediate requirement to manage codes and rates for “EEA” vs “non-EEA” pricing can be accomplished with ease, by defining and managing the sets accordingly.

(2) Future Surcharge model (Continents, multiple sets)

Forward-looking carrier professionals expect the next generation of charging to also focus on a more user-friendly batching that groups together multiple countries at, say, the regional level. Whilst carriers will enjoy the freedom to define an individual price regime for any country, in practice it may be more sensible to apply a “From South America” grouping, or “Indian Sub-continent”. For other countries that don’t obviously belong to such a group – perhaps small islands, or low-volume destinations – these could be assigned to a catch-all “Other” grouping, with rating rules set against each group.

(3) Ultimate Future Surcharge model (any to any)

In this ultimate model, total granularity is supported. There is no grouping of any kind, and any-origin can be mapped to any-destination. This provides for the ultimate level of control over tailored pricing offers, whereby carriers can exploit the full commercial potential of the new charging opportunities.

Market adoption

In addition to iCONX’s programme of adoption, which is already being rolled out to customers, other major international carriers have started to release updated formats of their own.

iCONX, Head of Product and Delivery Sacha Jones comments : “In iCONX, we guarantee a complete capability to autoload similar new dual-origin pricelists, as released by major carriers such as BICS, with zero additional downtime or processing load upon the iCONX system”

“The new iCONX format, we believe, takes the concept to the next level. With full control over the creation and management of Origin Sets, our state-of-the-art solution should meet all current and future Origin Based Rating requirements, enabling carriers to resume buying and selling destinations with full confidence”.