OBR Origin based rating is a complex dual rate charging method in wholesale voice that has aimed to rebalance termination rates between countries or economic regions such as the GCC or EEA. Traditionally, wholesale billing was based on the number being called only. However, OBR Origin Based Rating now requires a sophisticated rating process that looks at both where the call originated from, which can be country, zonal or network operator-level, as well as the end destination.  

Surprisingly, telco interconnect billing and routing applications still struggle to accurately maintain OBR agreements. This can result in time-consuming workarounds, or worse lost revenue and negative margins. 

How OBR charging started 

OBR first emerged in France seven years ago around the same time that roaming revenues in Europe were abolished by the EU regulator. This innovative pricing method aimed to identify a new revenue stream for international traffic by addressing commercial imbalances with more expensive wholesale routes, where non-EU carriers were charging significantly higher rates. This has had a domino effect in the market, where other telcos saw an opportunity to improve thinning margins and replace lost roaming revenue. 

Low-traffic routes with stubbornly high interconnect prices continue to dominate. This means that complex OBR pricing is here to stay, driven by regions such as the EU with higher inbound traffic volumes and lower termination rates. For example, the France to Tunisia route accounts for just 0.3% of wholesale traffic, but, at $0.51 per minute, it provides 3.6% of all wholesale revenues. 

Source: TeleGeography © 2022 PriMetrica, Inc.

Why OBR can be problematic 

Wholesale International Voice rates can now result in different rates for the same destination, depending on where the call originates from. OBR origin rates are often 10 times higher than typical termination rates. Maintenance of wholesale agreements with these rates has created many challenges for telcos in loading the OBR agreement changes, billing, reconciliation, pricing, routing and bilateral management. 

In some cases, the origin destination or A-number cannot be identified, which is known as invalid CLI Call Line Identifier. Invalid CLI means that the caller ID (Anumber) of the incoming call is not dialable, which can indicate fraud or a network error. OBR charging can impose a higher premium rate for calls with invalid CLI as the origin is unknown. Therefore, operators need to have reliable tools and data to detect and avoid invalid CLI in management of OBR traffic. 

Legacy tools for managing billing, routing, and trading of wholesale voice traffic have required significant enhancements to their core functions to support this complex origin and destination charging structure. However, where investment has not been available, some telcos continue to use manual workarounds to maintain these complex rates. This is resulting in expensive errors that can incur lost revenue, disputes, pricing and routing complications or negative margins. 

Recent trends 

Initially OBR agreements were basic “A-number surcharges” shared as a manual footnote. OBR has since grown to a hugely complex charging matrix, with the current challenge of country and mobile operator specific origin rates, in a market that has no standardisation. This requires smart wholesale tools to manage carrier specific interconnect billing and pricing formats. 

Disputes continue to grow, with operators reporting issues with how OBR agreement changes are provided, in particular duplicate or unclear rate and code changes. A telco operator recently shared “We cannot rely on the status flags on pricing sheets that we receive from many of our telco partners. For example, a destination will be flagged as unchanged, but when we compare to previous pricing there are changes on rates, codes, or OBR destinations.  Sometimes we receive pricing for months in arrears, which requires updating and re-rating of already invoiced traffic.” 

OBR charging from countries outside of EU continues to increase. Notably some operators in the Middle East and North Africa have introduced origin surcharges, and it looks like the spread of OBR charging continues in the market. 

Fraud in OBR – manipulated CLI 

To avoid expensive origin charges manipulated CLI is a growing issue in wholesale voice. This is where the incoming call is adjusted by the originating or transit operator, to an A-number that has no origin charge. For some operators or fraudsters, manipulated CLI can help increase profits by reducing costs and avoiding higher termination charges where OBR surcharges apply.  

Many operators in Europe are reporting revenue loss and customer dissatisfaction due to this growing issue, where incoming calls are appearing as spoofed or unknown numbers. This is resulting in time consuming billing disputes, regulatory issues, and trust erosion with customers. 

Industry groups including the i3forum, the GSMA and ITU have established working groups to encourage collaboration in the industry to find an optimal solution to address manipulated CLI. The i3forum have published guidelines for validation of CLIs and promote exchange of CLI information among operators as a best practice. 

Management of OBR Agreements 

Wholesale voice remains an important revenue stream for telcos and having the right tools to compete is even more important in a market where margins have been declining, and the charging complexity is growing. 

Using 3rd party intelligence to identify unallocated ranges is another key activity we have previously highlighted. Integration of a reputable numbering database into a telco wholesale management platform can further enhance detection of manipulated CLIs, where unallocated or invalid ranges have been used. This can further improve revenue assurance for OBR billing. 

As a thought leader in OBR, iCONX offers a comprehensive solution providing total compliance for OBR wholesale traffic across rates/codes loading and rating, billing, settlement, pricing and routing, including full consideration of bilaterals in OBR cost base. 

For more information, please contact info@iconxsolutions.com.