Real Time Billing | Introduction to Billing

Real Time Billing

Real time billing involves the authorizing, gathering, rating, and posting of account information either at the time of service request or within a short time after the call has been initiated (this actually may be several minutes). Real time billing is primarily used for prepaid services such as calling cards or prepaid wireless.

Real time billing involves authenticating, authorization, and accounting. Many real-time billing systems use remote access dial in user server (RADIUS) to limit the access to the system to registered and authorized customers. RADIUS is network protocol that operates on a network server (software program and database) that receives identification information from a potential user of a network service, authenticates the identity of the user, validates the authorization to use the requested service, and creates event information for accounting purposes.

Real time billing may also provide for better customer care and provide advice of charge (AOC) information. AOC provides the ability of a telecommunications system to advise of the actual costs of telephone calls either prior or after the calls are made. For some systems, (such as a mobile phone system) the AOC feature is delivered by short message service.

Figure 1 shows a real time prepaid billing system. This diagram shows that the customer initiates a call to a prepaid switching gateway. The gateway gathers the account information by either prompting the user to enter information or by gathering information from the incoming call (e.g. prepaid wireless telephone number). The gateway sends the account information (dialed digits and account number) to the real time rating system. The real time rating system identifies the correct rate table (e.g. peak time or off peak time) and inquires the account determine the balance of the account. Using the rate information and balance available, the real time rating system determines the maximum available time for the call duration. This information is sent back to the gateway and the gateway completes (connects) the call. During the call progress, the gateway maintains a timer so the caller cannot exceed the maximum amount of time. After the call is complete (either caller hangs up), the gateway sends a message to the real time rating system that contains the actual amount of time that is used. The real time rating system uses the time and rate information to calculate the actual charge for the call. The system then updates the account balance (decreases by the charge for the call).

Figure 1: Real Time Billing

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