Is telecom mediation the unsung hero of the 5G era?
Telecom mediation systems are like the stage crew working hard behind the curtains during a theatre production. They are the guys who work the spotlights, handle the costumes, move the scenery and perform the many other tasks needed to run the show and let the big stars shine. In the BSS world, the big stars are mainly the ones handling money or subscriber information – including OCS (online-charging systems), billing, revenue assurance, analytics and customer touch points, to name a few. But the truth is none of these actors would accomplish much unless mediation was behind the scenes doing the valuable online and offline data collection, aggregation, transformation, adaptation and distribution work it has been doing for a long time.
A brief history of telecom mediation
As defined in industry standards, mediation is a key telecom node that sits between the data generators – such as network or IT nodes – and the data consumers, which are the downstream operations and business support systems. The telecom mediation system is responsible for filtering out the non-relevant data, aggregating the partial data records, combining necessary information and transforming the data as per the format required by the data consumers. In its early days, mediation was mainly collecting call data records (CDRs) with usage information from fixed network switches, processing them and distributing them to billing systems so the service provider could charge its subscribers. Behind the curtains, this meant a plain and simple file transfer protocol (FTP) was needed to send a batch of files from one place to another with some internal logic in the middle.
Then 2G, 3G and 4G mobile networks came along and added not only extra complexity to the source data records due to the introduction of new services (for example, data and SMS), but also dramatically increased the amount of CDRs to be processed. At the same time, the evolution of the telecom market meant there were more information consumers passing through the mediation platforms, including: service assurance, fraud detection, performance monitoring, business intelligence and analytics, big data and external partners. The market dynamics demanded for information to be transferred more quickly, and new business models were introduced faster than ever before. All this relied heavily on mediation functionalities to bridge all network elements between Operations and Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS).
Find out more about how mediation has evolved to support changing customer demands.
What about 5G and IoT?
5G is bringing not only faster and better-quality connections for the consumer market but also revolutionizing the IoT business by enabling new use cases only possible with 5G capabilities – such as network slicing, ultra-high speed and ultra-low latency. This means the number of connected devices will grow exponentially, and as a result they’ll be a lot more sources sending data through the mediation, and increasing the amount of processed information. The nature of these use cases in new industries will also require more from the enhanced mediation logic capabilities and will need to be integrated with more consumers. Before the new 5G use cases are in place, it’s important to be aware that the charging architecture also needs to evolve to meet the required standards – for example, the introduction of a service-based architecture with new flows for session management and online and offline rating and charging. Flexible and reliable mediation platforms are well positioned within the networks to provide these new capabilities and help service providers to be ready to support them, and unlock extra revenue opportunities.
Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect mediation to move into the limelight, as it has still thrived its supporting role – and it can certainly continue to work quietly behind the scenes, helping service providers’ BSS and OSS stars guide them on the journey to 5G monetization.
Want to learn more about this new 5G charging architecture? Download our eBrief “What is the 5G Charging Function?”
Read what 10 operator executives are saying about the 5G monetization challenge in the MIT report
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