Pre-study on Customer Care, Accounting, Charging, Billing, and Pricing

Prepared by:
Burkhard Stiller
George Fankhauser
Bernhard Plattner
Nathalie Weiler

Executive Summary

Electronic Commerce platforms offer an opportunity for businesses and challenges for research. As closed markets
do require generic transport services only, open Electronic Commerce marketplaces need to deal with the
delivery of advanced electronic services due to intense trends to value added information services. After having
deployed proprietary platforms, solutions with global access networks commenced due to the commercialization
of the Internet. However, today the global electronic marketplace based on integrated services networks is envisioned,
since the essential world-wide interconnection of residential customers and businesses at the same time
can be provided by the integrated services Internet.
It has been observed within this pre-study that closed platforms show a matured state with proprietary products,
applications, and tools, sometimes offering semi-open interfaces allowing for the integration with additional system
components, but lacking open semantics. However, regionally and logically restricted approaches, such as
Swiss Videotex, German Btx, or French Minitel, are going to be replaced by open Electronic Commerce platforms.
These open and public solutions start to flourish, mainly driven by the globally accessible Internet. Profound
research to obtain an efficient and service integrated platform supporting advanced services is still required.
The information society bears a stringent need for advanced communication services and content. Although solutions
for methods of charging and accounting single service class networks, such as the telephone network or Virtual
Private Networks, exist and are applied successfully, Integrated Services Networks require a completely
different approach. Charging and accounting for integrated services remain unsolved problems at the time being
which is due to a huge variety of service characterizations by Quality-of-Service, advanced networking technologies,
such as ATM, and a dramatically emerging integrated services Internet. In addition, new telecommunication
services impose another degree of complexity to existing billing systems, including the demand to bill for content.
This determines the need to integrate concepts for interoperable and standardized billing solutions between providers
for inter-operator agreements which may include content and transport services. A particular problem area
arises with electronic payments for transport services, determining the clear necessity of pico- or micro-payments.
As existing traditional and electronic payment systems are not well suited for this task, solutions have to be
researched, including cryptographic protocols for secure transmission of payments. Due to the highly competitive
telecommunication service provider market, dynamic pricing schemes for integrated multiservice networks are
required as well.
Today, customer care demands for an open, automated, and agent-based electronic market solution, since proprietary,
workflow-based, and closed systems already are available. However, standardized customer care interfaces
have to be developed and they will allow for the integration of vertical and horizontal business systems supporting
customer-related marketing and advertisement. More important, the provision of overall, successful, and open
Electronic Commerce requires clearly defined legal frameworks, financially profound taxation acts, and marketoriented
pricing schemes.
Once the prerequisites of Electronic Commerce, including organizational obstacles, technical problems on
accounting, charging, and billing, and customer-centric customer care systems, have been clarified, solved, and
developed, respectively, the success of global Electronic Commerce is in reach. However, it still depends on the
customer acceptance and satisfaction of an integrated telecommunication platform enhanced by value-added services
and it depends on the prospects of vendors and service providers to sustain long-term profitability enabled
by dynamic pricing schemes.
Based on this pre-study’s results the following research areas are recommended for in depth investigations:
• Accounting and charging protocols
• Convergence and integration of telecommunication services
• Incentive-compatible pricing models for Integrated Services Networks
• An environment for trading communities
• Open billing systems
Furthermore, additional demonstrators and user trials are suggested to foster technology transfer between academia
and telecommunications industry in collaboration with SMEs and start-up companies:
• New media and information services
• Enhanced and integrated telecommunication services
• A self-sustainable high-performance network for Swiss research

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