VoIP billing solutions help VoIP providers and others offering VoIP business services to efficiently manage their reporting, billing, and payment processes. VoIP billing solutions include detailed analytics, flexible billing cycles, customer self-care, DID management, and prepaid and postpaid billing services. Beyond simple origination and termination charges, VoIP billing solutions can assist VoIP providers in better handling more sophisticated billable call features such as:
- Call forwarding
- Included minutes
- Ring groups
VoIP billing solutions allow for automation, customization, and mostly hands-off management, letting the software attend to the details and complexity involved with managing multiple accounts and call detail records (CDRs) from multiple sources.
Most commercial and open source private branch exchange (PBX) software systems, softswitches, and Internet telephony engines (such as Asterisk) include billing modules as an add-on feature. These VoIP billing software components are referred to as bundled because they come with the rest of the services offered.
However, these modules are often very basic. Adapting them to the specific needs of a VoIP business — from wholesaler to reseller to call shop — can be a challenge involving complicated code development and changes to configuration files.
A third-party VoIP billing system can be necessary when the billing services provided by the PBX software system aren't sufficient..
A stand-alone VoIP billing system offers more advanced features than a bundled component. One of the most important services third-party VoIP billing software provides is infinite and finely-tuned customization.
Third-party — or standalone — VoIP billing software can help VoIP providers and wholesalers to consolidate information such as multiple rate tables and routes, and simplify billing to multiple customers by offering variable billing cycles. VoIP billing software can also accommodate billing for a range of optional features and offer more precise billing by addressing usage issues such as incremental billing that might be beyond the scope of the bundled billing service.
VoIP billing solutions are provided by companies who frequently offer additional wholesale VoIP services such as carrier services, routing, network monitoring and help desk services, and DID provisioning and management.
A comprehensive VoIP billing solution should be able to support multiple billing accounts, such as:
Scalability is another benefit of a third-party VoIP billing system. Bundled VoIP billing solutions are typically housed on the same server as the switch or PBX system. When billing software conducts reporting or billing functions, it may affect the performance of the switch or PBX. As the client base and call volume grows, the resource drain on the softswitch or PBX becomes more and more intense and noticeable. Independent VoIP billing software allows for separation between billing services and call management.
Some VoIP billing software companies also package their billing features with a softswitch located on the public Internet, beyond the company's firewall. VoIP billing software on the softswitch — as opposed to layered onto the PBX software engine — is better able to support high-volume calling with a lower post dial delay (PDD).
VoIP companies that might use a third-party VoIP billing solution include:
- VoIP providers
- ITSPs (including clearinghouses)
- Companies that offer callback services
- Call shops
- Call centers
- Wireless providers (Mobile Network Operators or Mobile Virtual Network Operators)
- Independent international long distance providers (ILDs)
- Competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs)
VoIP billing software is also used by VoIP providers working directly with the consumer market by offering Hosted PBX services, calling cards, or residential VoIP services. A VoIP billing system may also be used to account for out-of-network calls by PC-to-PC or PC-to-phone providers.
A VoIP billing system is closely integrated with other tools and reporting features, such as least cost routing (LCR). Many VoIP billing solution companies offer turnkey products customized to the business' focus, offering different features and functions for call shops, calling card companies, or residential VoIP providers.
VoIP billing software often includes route management tools, quality of service (QoS) monitoring, real-time traffic monitoring, network operations center (NOC) support, reporting, rate administration, and easy admin tools.
VoIP billing software for wholesale customers tend to include models for VoIP wholesale and termination billing. Services often include:
- Handling millions of CDRs
- Detailed analysis
- Advanced reporting
- Customizable bill generation/invoices
- Supports complex and variable payment arrangements
- Web-based administration (CMS)
- Offers role-based management access
- Profit and loss reporting
- Call pattern detection (fraud management)
- IVR compatible self-care
- Web- and phone-based customer self-care
- IP or Tech prefix variation for authentication
- DID management
- Comprehensive rating (not just rate tables)
- Prepaid and postpaid services
- Multiple SIP proxies
- SIP <-> H.323 conversion
- IVR, SIP proxy integration (calling cards)
- Multiple currency types
- Reseller/affiliate management
- Supports Class 4 and Class 5 switches
- Vendor management/vendor self-care
- Call re-rating
- Real-time traffic monitoring
- Integrated revenue assurance
When it comes to billing for services, a competitive turnkey VoIP billing software package will typically support:
- ANI/CNAM billing (customer recognition)
- Flexible billing cycles
- Batch billing
- Automated top-ups for prepaid accounts
- Credit control (calling within credit limits)
- Charges by account or pricelist
- Variable incremental billing
- Step charges
- Minute bundles
- Grace periods
- Customer discounts
- Interest/penalty calculations
- Rate sheet overrides
- Tax exemptions
- Real-time account status
- Email notices for late payments/expired cards
- Peak/off peak billing
Flexible billing/rates offered by competitive VoIP systems might accommodate minute rounding, the phone number where the call originated, or admin-determined included call legs.
Reporting features included by VoIP billing solutions may include:
- Accounting request (ACR)
- Average call duration (ACD)
- True answer seizure rate (ASR)
- Post dial delay (PDD)/call setup time (CST)
- Answer to bid ratio (ABR)
- Call success ratio (CSR)
- Average calls
- Max calls
- Min calls
- Call history by user
Call authorization per account or user may be based on:
- Allowed call time
- Allowed prefix
- Allowed time of day
- Number of concurrent calls
- Account balance/status
VoIP billing solutions offer authentication, authorization, and accounting (referred to as AAA) services to VoIP companies such as wholesalers, ITSPs, resellers, VoIP providers, and calling card companies.
VoIP billing solutions are often paired with wholesale management solutions, offering administrative support for softswitches and border session controllers. These types of multipurpose VoIP billing systems provide billing for all clients, usually from a central and easy-to-use online location, with converged services and gateways offering simpler service and account management.
Converged services accommodated on a comprehensive VoIP billing system can include:
- Mobile phones
- Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS)
Depending on the VoIP billing software, a third-party VoIP billing system can integrate with a number of open source or proprietary VoIP systems, such as:
Standalone VoIP billing software will typically function on servers using MySQL or PostgreSQL, or the Diameter or Radius server protocols. Most VoIP billing providers offer database replication using SQL server, MySQL, or Oracle. Some VoIP billing solutions providers also incorporate services such as OSCommerce to support online consumer calling card purchases.
VoIP billing solutions are also designed to work seamlessly with a variety of softswitches, session border controllers, and gateways used by VoIP telephony engines (such as industry leader Asterisk), including:
- Aloe (formerly Mera)
Standalone VoIP billing solutions are built to be compatible with the most popular and high-performing PBX systems, and generally integrate protocols such as:
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