Back End: Cycle Billing & Clearinghouse | Major Billing Functions

Back End: Cycle Billing

The back end of the billing system uses data from the updated bill pool and adds non-call related billing charges and financial adjustments. The billing system then adds fixed recurring charges (such as monthly service fees and taxes), applies payments that have been received, produces invoices, and maintains a history database for legal purposes (government regulations) and customer care systems.

Figure 1 shows the basic call-rating process. This diagram shows that a call detail record evolves as it passes through the rating process. In the first step, a rate band is determined. Then, the identification information on the CDR is used to identify a specific customer’s account (guide the record). The customer’s rate plan is discovered and the unit (usage) and fixed (per event) charging rates are gathered and calculated. The new information (rate band, call charge amount) is added to the call detail record and it is moved to the bill pool, as it is ready to be billed.

Figure 1: Back End: Cycle Billing.
Source: The Billing College


A clearinghouse is a company or association that transfers billing records and/or performs financial clearing functions between carriers that allow their customers to use each other’s networks. The clearinghouse receives, validates and accounts for telephone bills for several telephone service providers. Clearinghouses are particularly important for international billing because they convert different data record formats that may be used by some service providers and convert for the currency exchange rate.

Clearinghouses provide a variety of services including processing proprietary records (e.g. switch records) into formats understandable by the member carriers’ billing systems, validate charges from carriers with intersystem agreements, and extract unauthorized or un-billable billing records. Clearinghouses transfer messages in a standard format such as exchange message record (EMR), cellular inter-carrier billing exchange roamer (CIBER), or transferred account process (TAP) format. The EMR format is often used for billing records in traditional wired telecom networks and the CIBER and TAP formats are used for wireless networks. The records may be exchanged by magnetic tape or by other medium such as electronic transfer or CD ROM.

Clearinghouses receive billing records from companies (outcollects - sometimes called in-roamers) and submit billing records to companies (incollects - sometimes called out-roamers). Outcollects are billing records that are sent to other systems to collect for services provided to visiting customers. Incollects are billing records that are received from other systems for services provided to their customers that have used the services of other networks.

Inter-carrier billing systems must be capable of handling billing system errors. There are many events per call and the possibility exists for duplicate records or missing details in the billing records. Charges or records may be received for customers that do not exist in the local system or the inter-services (or roaming) agreement between companies may not be valid. Charges or records may be received from other companies (incollects) that have crammed or slammed bills. Cramming is the erroneous or fraudulent addition of charges for services that were not agreed to by the end customer. Slamming is the unauthorized transfer of customer’s preferred service provider to a different service provider. When errors or omissions are detected, individual CDRs or entire batches of billing records may be flagged for return to the sender and they may be tagged for further investigation.


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Mark Winstanley said...

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