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Service providers beware – not all billing systems are 'true' SaaS

Omdia analysts urge service providers not to take vendors' claims of 'cloud native' and 'SaaS' for billing systems at face value, and recommend asking questions about which clouds – private, public and/or hybrid – are supported.

Kelsey Ziser

February 1, 2024

3 Min Read
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From start to finish, the time it takes to deploy a telecommunications billing system can vary widely from vendor to vendor, according to a report by research firm Omdia. In addition, service providers should research whether a vendor is offering a "true" software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution within their billing system.

Omdia surveyed 19 telecom billing systems vendors and asked: "What is the average length of implementation time from start to customer acceptance?" Responses ranged from as little as one month to as long as 12 months, with an average of 4.6 months. Surveyed vendors included Amdocs, Comarch, Ericsson, Huawei, LotusFlare, Mavenir, NetCracker, Optiva, Oracle and others.

"Implementing a new billing system can be quick and straightforward with SaaS solutions for greenfield operators, taking as little as one month to bring online," explained Omdia Principal Analyst Joe Hoffman and Practice Leader James Crawshaw, who co-authored the report. "However, for expansive brownfield billing transformations, implementation can take as long as a year."

Average implementation time (months) for telecom billing system. Source: Omdia

The survey respondents didn't specify whether their answers were regarding greenfield or brownfield deployments. Omdia analysts also noted that a longer deployment doesn't necessarily equate to a worse solution. Rather, it could indicate a more accurate time estimate. Omdia is a sister company to Light Reading.

Omdia recommends that service providers in the process of selecting a billing system vendor ask which factors may shorten or lengthen the deployment time. They also may want to speak with previous customers for feedback.

The billing, or revenue management, market reached $6.5 billion in 2022 and is expected to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 2.9% to $7.8 billion in 2028, according to Omdia.

The majority of the firm's survey respondents (84%) said their billing solutions were cloud native, and all but three said they could also run in a private cloud.

Watch out for SaaS impersonators

Nearly 80% of vendors also said they had a SaaS offer, but several said customer demand for this service was low. Omdia defines SaaS as a cloud-based (public cloud or vendor private cloud) subscription where the vendor manages capabilities and features such as the platform, updates, backups and security.

"We suspect that several respondents who claimed they had a SaaS solution were actually referring to a managed service with a subscription payment model," said Omdia.

The analysts noted that if a vendor claims to perform quarterly or less frequent software releases, this might indicate that it's not a true SaaS offering. Another red flag is if the dedicated instance in the vendor's cloud isn't the same software version that clients are operating and therefore won't scale to the same degree or have the same cost benefits as true SaaS.

Omdia urged service providers not to take vendors claims of "cloud native" and "SaaS" at face value, and recommended they ask questions about which clouds – private, public and/or hybrid – are supported. Operators should also inquire about vendors' pre-integrations with charging, customer relationship management (CRM), payment and accounting systems, for example, to reduce the need to develop custom integrations.

Customers should also take any claims of AI integration with a grain of salt, the analysts said.

"Treat vendor claims of AI and GenAI with some skepticism. If these features are extras, ask for evidence of the ROI," they said.

About the Author(s)

Kelsey Ziser

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Kelsey is a senior editor at Light Reading, co-host of the Light Reading podcast, and host of the "What's the story?" podcast.

Her interest in the telecom world started with a PR position at Connect2 Communications, which led to a communications role at the FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid research lab at N.C. State University. There, she orchestrated their webinar program across college campuses and covered research projects such as the center's smart solid-state transformer.

Kelsey enjoys reading four (or 12) books at once, watching movies about space travel, crafting and (hoarding) houseplants.

Kelsey is based in Raleigh, N.C.

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