PORTLAND, Ore. -- Wireless, wireline and cable network operators all face a common obstacle to providing multimedia services using the new 3G- and 4G-based devices--namely, how to track real-time usage. To gain access to the rich new revenue streams enabled by WiMax and the Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), operators must combine service delivery with billing functions, which traditionally have been run by different parts of their organizations. To the rescue is coming a new breed of transaction-tracking software companies.
Openet, for instance, supplies the FusionWorks Framework engine to AT&T for its new-age Smart Limits service. Smart Limits allows subscribers to specify their own unique rules for limiting network usage, such as setting certain hours of the day for text messaging so that teenagers don't abuse the service after hours.
Likewise, to provide the real-time video, gaming, social-networking and other "postpaid" services over next-generation 3G and 4G networks requires dynamic policies that let subscribers make up their own rules governing real-time transactions.
"The convergence of telephony, the Internet and multimedia like music and video requires that network operators change the way they provide new services," said Marc Price, senior telecom strategist at Openet (Dublin, Ireland). "Openet is focused on the monetization of these new services by supporting billions of events per day with very low latency on our FusionWorks platform."
Openet focuses on "a segment of the network operator market that defies categories, which is why we came up with the phrase 'transactional intelligence' to describe what it is we do," said Price. "We support all the surplus of next-generation technologies from 3G to 4G," including WiMax, LTE, IMS and its variants, as well as Packet Cable 2.0 for cable networks. All of them are "real-time and transactional," Price said, "enabling network operators to give real-time responses to subscribers that enhance their experience of the network."
In Openet's view, AT&T is pioneering the market with Smart Limits, but the company predicts that Verizon, T-Mobile and other network operators will soon follow suit.
FusionWorks captures transactional and network activity data from back-end systems, regardless of whether the service is wireless, wireline or cable based. These new services require dynamic rules that are specific to each subscriber.
Openet positions itself as the leader in this new market. Other companies working the same turf include Comptel (Washington), Intec Telecom Systems PLC (Atlanta) and Digital Route (Stockholm, Sweden).
"For many years, Openet has been a leader in telecom mediation--that is, collecting transactional data about network usage," said Paul Hughes, vice president of communications software research at Yankee Group. Openet "has a portfolio of tier-one customers, which uniquely positions them as providers of dynamic controls for real-time services such as bandwidth throttling," or allotting more or less bandwidth to customers depending on their usage, Hughes said.
"These type of real-time controls will become increasingly important as newer bandwidth-hogging services, like downloading and delivering music and video, come online," he added.
Traditional network operators billed once a month, but Openet maintains that real-time information capture about service usage is now necessary. A trend that began with prepaid wireless cell phones, which keep track of how many minutes are used in real-time, has forced the network operators to change their infrastructure so that they can both deliver services and worry about how subscribers will pay for them simultaneously.