IoT Roaming – How Do Operators Reap the Benefits?

BCE IDA 5G One Agreement

September 14, 2023

Dimitris Zoulis, COSMOTE’s Project Manager for Roaming Services and International Synergies, talks to Daniella Torres about how VoLTE, IoT, and 5G will impact the telecoms industry.

The hybrid settlement period in which both TAP and BCE settlement processes will run in parallel should last for many more years. It’s undeniable. The advantages of the Billing and Charging Evolution (BCE) settlement process are unquestionable, but no one expects a sudden migration. This will happen gradually to address specific wholesale needs, such as IoT and 5G. All in all, operators are more concerned with their roaming margins and exploring revenue-generating services where BCE can help.


BCE is an enabler, not a cost center

Let’s recap. Data being the primary service used during roaming, the existing TAP-based settlement is no longer the most optimal method, especially due to home-routed data-driven services, where the home network no longer relies on the roaming transactions from the visited network/roaming partner. While millions of transactions are being exchanged bilaterally, the charge per transaction is reducing significantly, thereby making the current settlement processes the less optimal option for the long-term and new services. When looking at IoT roaming, a few operators reported that 70% of them consume less than 2MB and generate less than one cent of a Euro per month (<0.01 EUR/month).

The traditional TAP model was initially designed to support voice calls, where there was no need to differentiate devices or network technologies. It has proven too complex and rigid to address new market demands and services. For IoT roaming, with the current TAP and its inability to support low-level billing, it’s very labor-intensive to generate invoices that count the number of IMSIs, especially when a dispute arises. Moreover, 5G services will demand many new charging models, which will be focused on service, quality (network slice, bandwidth, latency, SLA), and data content. BCE will address these issues and provide better handling of high traffic volumes generated by 5G traffic.

BCE 2.0 will include several updates such as support for voice and SMS services, discount agreements commitments, and additional IMSI-based charging models. However, BCE 2.0 will not be available to go live until late 2024. The industry cannot wait and “needs to keep the ball rolling.” For this reason, many operators are opting to use TAP files to execute their IoT roaming strategies, even though it’s inefficient. TAP and BCE will continue to operate in parallel for years to come and operators will need the proper tools to manage and track both settlement processes simultaneously. This is where TOMIA’s One Agreement concept will fit in: an integrated deal management application for all types of roaming agreements.

Today’s IoT Challenges

While operators plan for the future, they are also keen to unlock new roaming revenues from the enterprise market today. Here they face a few challenges:

Manage high-volume of transactions:

Processing CDR information offers unmatched capabilities including accurate discount calculations, exclusion of RAP disputes, daily traffic updates, flexible IoT segment management, and charging at the IMSI level or VoLTE Quality of Service Class Indicator (QCI) level. Aggregated information input requires additional maintenance when new IoT segments are created or updated, or when traffic needs to be reprocessed.

Segment IoT traffic:

Traffic segmentation based on APN lists and IMSI ranges is commonly used in discount agreements. A few operators are seeking to monetize permanent roaming devices, which require segment definition based on roaming days. For accurate results, signaling information should be used to detect hidden devices in silent roaming. This requires powerful analytics that combines IoT detection capabilities with presence rules and proper traffic split across the entire duration of the discount agreement or settlement cycle. Handling and maintaining multiple segments dynamically can never be taken for granted. It’s also noted that BCE standards do not yet provide support for permanent roaming use cases.

IoT Rating: 

The industry is accelerating. The device-based charging models are evolving from the IMSI monthly fee. Operators are negotiating IMSI minimum allowances or charges per month, day, or deal period, as well as a charge for an entire IMSI segment during the whole deal period. Some even mentioned charging based on signaling traffic. In addition, some operators also consider combining IoT and standard agreements into the same settlement calculations and reports, which adds more complexity leading to unnecessary recalculations. 

Deal Analytics

TOMIA’s Deal Analytics solves these problems by offering end-to-end discount agreement optimization services. It enables roaming managers of all operators’ sizes and groups to forecast, simulate, and execute IoT commercial strategies efficiently. The service provides a friendly user interface where IoT segments and charging definitions can be configured easily, and their results are immediately available on the forecast, simulation, and analytics. Deal Analytics also fully supports automated accruing for tracking financial performance and speeds up the settlement process. In the next blog, we’ll drill down into the One Agreement and how it will help operators in the fast-approaching future of billing and settlement.

To learn more about Deal Analytics and how it can help you simplify your IoT roaming business, please get in touch via:

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