Online charging system

Online charging system

Online charging system (OCS) is a system allowing a Communications service provider to charge their customers, in real time, based on service usage



Functions within the OCS

Online Charging Functions

Event Based Charging Function (EBCF)
Session Based Charging Function (SBCF)

Account & Balance Management Function (ABMF)

Rating Function (RF)


Unified charging engine for all services

The traditional IN provides real-time charging & rating capabilities only to prepaid subscribers. The traditional billing system is always offline based on CDR file processing. It handles non real-time charging requirements, and its charging execution process is not directly involved in service application control. The OCS is oriented to all subscriber types and service types, offers unified online charging and online control capabilities and can be used as a unified charging engine for all network services, making it a core basis for convergent billing in the network.

Rapidly boosted marketing capabilities

Both the traditional IN and the billing system are somewhat passive support systems for market promotion with the limited charging capabilities.

The OCS offers unprecedented flexibility and extendibility, or you could say, gives the ball to the marketing department to run with it. With the OCS, the marketing department can really explore network resource potentials and the desires of subscribers, to create personalized and feasible promotion strategies that meet the marketing objectives.

Versatile system infrastructure

The OCS has abstracted major objects of all charging processes as the pillars of its infrastructure and adopts customer-oriented design ideas. It is based on a model that separates subscribers from accounts as well as features an off-the-shelf product management mode. It completely breaks away from the traditional offline hard coding development mode based on service flow. This leads to a stable but versatile system infrastructure, which enables online tariff configurations through rule-driven engine technology, and the product launch period is greatly shortened.

Seizing earlier market opportunities

Innovating tariff policies is much easier, simpler and more effective than innovating service functions. Suppose that end users receive SMSs from the mobile operator, informing them that since they have used the network for 300 days, their recharge value on that day would be doubled as a bonus, and they would be entitled to new discounts on each 100th day thereafter. Most likely they would be happy to keep the subscription and tell their friends what a great deal it is.

Although various bells and whistles influence some customers, price is usually the most important consideration when subscribers make their final choices.

Many operators show far more enthusiasm towards new services than towards tariff policies when choosing from the two core parts of communications products, namely services (including tangible applications and intangible customer care) and pricing. As a matter of fact, to satisfy the value perceptions of different subscribers, it is faster and more cost-effective for operators to adjust tariff policies than to modify product functions and services.

The communications market might be the most complicated and flexible in product pricing among all the consumable industries. Its billing system can offer superb flexibility and a much wider billing space, as to be detailed below.

Based on real applications

Due to the development of new communications technologies, wide-range penetration of the Internet, and explosive growth of service innovations, telecom product pricing is much more diversified. In addition to the traditional basic elements, such as call duration, frequency and traffic, there are a variety of new elements including: location, bearer type, access channel, multi-service association, contents, and revenue distribution in the value chain, etc.

Based on customer segmentation

As market competition heats up, end users can be segmented not only according to their ages, occupations and income, but also according to cultures, nationalities and behavioral patterns and so on. The operator can then accurately work out differentiated pricing policies based on customer segmentation.

Based on various occasions

Promotion offers can also be implemented from periodic holidays for the whole customer base, to some particular local events for a group of users, or even to the status of a single user. For example, a subscriber can be charged according to how long he/she has used the service, or accumulation of usage, even based on his/her birthday.

By flexibly using these widely ranged factors and source materials, the operator can create differentiated pricing policies that meet market needs while increasing customer satisfaction and generating word-of-mouth advertising. In this way, operators can be proactive in the battle with changing market environments, and interwork with subscribers in real time, to achieve the marketing targets, while improving subscriber experiences.

Worldwide commercial successes

Presently, the OCS solution is quite technically mature. It has helped many operators to accumulate valuable experience, strengthen competitiveness and win in their respective markets.

Successful operations remain the biggest concern for operators. "What we need is not a new technology, but a practical scheme that can be integrated into the existing network environment," said Shane Logan, the Director of Service Architecture, Telus, Canada.

A couple of years ago, operators were wondering whether or not they needed the OCS, but now many of them are busy figuring out how they could implement the OCS in their existing networks.

In different network environments, different measures should be taken to implement the OCS.

A new operator can construct the OCS or even a comprehensive convergent billing network directly.

If their existing charging systems possess strong technical capabilities and market performance, some operators can reconstruct their existing networks to make the networks evolve to the OCS. Other operators might need to adopt a new OCS to replace the existing systems if they will not support evolution. China Mobile Guangdong, in Southern China has constructed the world's largest mobile IN. To realize convergent billing, China Mobile Guangdong planned to gradually integrate existing prepaid and post-paid systems into the new solution.

In April 2007, China Mobile Guangdong completed reconstructing the existing IN and deployed the first commercial OCS in the world which meets 3GPP specifications and paved the way towards large-scale evolution for existing INs. Their efforts were soon rewarded. By offering more flexible tariff policies, China Mobile Guangdong has won a bigger market share and provides outstanding service to more than 80 million subscribers.

Etisalat,, the largest multinational mobile operator in the Middle East, adopted a unified convergent billing system with the OCS as the core while constructing a new network in Nigeria. The system is able to cover the charging and billing requirements for all subscribers and services. According to experts in the telecom industry, new networks have for the most part discarded the traditional mode of constructing the IN and the billing system separately, and adopted the convergent billing scheme with the OCS as the core. As a result, these new operators can provide network services quickly and lower the TCO greatly.

To date, the telecom industry has witnessed overwhelming success through commercial applications of the OCS. Operators from more than a dozen countries in Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa are integrating the OCS in their networks, and increasingly more are welcoming their debut.

See also


  • 3GPP Telecommunication management; Charging management; Online Charging System (OCS): Applications and interfaces 3GPP 32.296
  • 3GPP Telecommunication management; Charging management; Charging architecture and principles 3GPP 32.240
  • Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) Charging V1.0 OMA Charging V1.0

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