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Thu 21 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Smart billing

Denis Bernaert, of Convergys explains how all types of telecom operator can benefit from using a converged billing platform.

Smart billing

Denis Bernaert, VP client management at convergent billing specialist Convergys explains how all types of telecom operator, from start-ups to incumbents, can benefit from using a converged billing platform.

How has the past year been for Convergys in the Middle East and Africa?

We have been specifically focused on the MEA region where we have two offices, one in Dubai and one in Cairo, and 2009 has been an eventful year for us in the region. We had two major deliveries completed that we are very proud of.

The first was a project with Telecom Egypt, which we have been working on for a few years. We have now helped Telecom Egypt successfully migrate 11 million wire line subscribers to our solution.

Telecom Egypt is the largest wire line operator in the region, and they have now moved from quite a few legacy systems to one convergent system, which allows them to do convergent billing with all services, local, national and international, on one bill.

As a result of this, Telecom Egypt has improved its cash flow and is improving the customer experience. But this was just the first step, and the second step will be to add internet and data services to the same billing system.

In parallel with implementing the system, we helped the operator re-engineer some of its business processes, all its billing operations and back office processes, and as a result they have removed a lot of manual operations and streamlined their processes. This has allowed them to re-allocate resources, including staff to other value-added tasks.

What other significant developments have there been at Convergys over the past year?

We have invested a lot this year in talent. Everybody is talking about the economic crisis, but we are investing in our future by recruiting talented staff. We went from five people located in the region a year ago to 20 hired across our offices in Cairo, Riyadh and Dubai.

When you count staff supporting the region from Hyderabad in India, and various Western European offices, we have 40-50 people permanently focused on the Middle East and Africa region.

This has enabled us to really deliver a better service and support to our customers locally, with people who understand the culture, who speak the language and have the right knowledge.

What other big projects have you been involved with recently?

The second delivery which is a major one for us this year was for STC's wireless offering. Last summer we completed the migration of more than 5 million subscribers to a new converged system. This enabled STC to launch new offers in just days, which they could not have done previously.

We do have quite a few deals in the pipeline in the Middle East and also Africa. We see quite a lot of things happening there and we are also investing by hiring people, particularly in our Cairo office to look at this growing part of the world.

Are you offering any new services or products to operators?

We have also recently remarketed our portfolio to connect it better to the challenges we see in the region, so clearly we are focused on consolidation of converged services.

Converged services are usually fixed and mobile, but convergence between postpaid and prepaid is an area of growing importance. For example, we are trying to help our clients increase loyalty among their high value pre-paid customers.

We do that by offering operators solutions that enable them to offer their pre-paid subscribers services that are usually used by post paid subscribers. This is useful for closed user groups, for example a family where some members are pre-paid and some post paid. If you want to offer the group special offers, our systems can allow for that.

Do these systems work for all sizes of operation, or are they mainly aimed at the bigger, Pan regional operators?

Yes, we are able to use the same solutions to work with start ups and scale from zero to millions of subscribers in a few months. This is the beauty of the solution because you can implement it quite quickly and then you can scale, which means you don't have to change it a year later. We worked with Nawras in Oman from launch, and we are still supporting their growth.

Do you see operators increasingly turning to these solutions during the economic downturn in a bid to drive efficiencies?

It is not so much the financial crisis, and I think it is more the market which is pushing demand for convergent billing, because it is the customer that dictates the strategy of the operators, and customers don't want multiple bills. They want simplicity.

For me it is more the market that is pushing those companies to see the need to re-engineer the way they are approaching the customers and to enhance the results they need to do something to improve their systems.

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