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 Nexcom Success Story

This case study also reveals the history of EyeBill billing. Fact is, that the dissatisfaction of Nexcom with the billing systems available on the market by year 1999, forced the management of Nexcom Bulgaria to order a customized development of a VoIP billing System. This system was ordered to comply with the telecom s strictest requirements for scalability, variety of useful features and flexibility. Although that was the most expensive option for the large telecom, it was considered a must. That is because management recognized that a penetration strategy in an emerging VoIP market with promising development was possible only with a powerful and flexible billing at hand.

The installation of EyeBill marked a second billing system replacement for Nexcom. EyeBill System installation turned into a complete success -- the company was finally supplied with a tool that became a vital part of its total management. As a result Nexcom achieved the high market and operational targets that it had set beforehand.

Overview

Nexcom International
Nexcom Telecommunications, LLC, is the leading provider of Internet Telephony and enhanced communications services in Central and Eastern Europe. Nexcom s network allows global telecommunications carriers, businesses, and consumers to originate and terminate voice, fax and data traffic over the Internet. Established in 1998, Nexcom Telecommunications is a 100 per cent private owned company with US based management, and regional offices in 10 countries. As of 2002 Nexcom covers over 13 countries and has 3 international Points of Presence (PoPs) in Frankfurt, London and New York.

Nexcom Bulgaria
Nexcom Bulgaria ("Nexcom") is the first company to provide high-quality, low-cost international phone service to business and residential customers in Bulgaria. The company s packetized IP communications network facilitates a full complement of voice, data and fax services to its Bulgarian customers. Nexcom has significant contribution to breaking the monopoly of BTC (Bulgarian Telecommunications Company) through its initiative for the official recognition of VoIP services in Bulgaria.

Market conditions
Up until the end of 2001, VoIP was not legalized in Bulgaria but at the same time there was no law that explicitly claimed it to be an illegal telecom service. Therefore the VoIP market was considered open for the ambitious management of international telecoms and in 1998 Nexcom Telecommunications became the first company to enter the Bulgarian VoIP market. Nexcom was attracted by the lack of competition in the reliable, inexpensive VoIP telephone services on the Bulgarian marketplace. In the conditions of economic recession in the country, potential customers were especially price-sensitive, which secured high demand for the Nexcom services. These circumstances looked promising for the seizure of large market share but there were some serious challenges to be faced.

Challenges

At the stage when Nexcom executed a penetration strategy in Eastern Europe, the company had to suffer from great operational inefficiencies. The latter were due to the lack of critical functions in the VoIP billing software that Nexcom owned at that time:

  • Ineffective customer invoicing -- The invoicing was done manually by the account administrators. The billing data needed to be exported in Excel spreadsheets in order to be processed and stored. The problem was getting more severe as the number of Nexcom s customers started to increase rapidly.
  • Disabled prepaid services -- Due to the low average income per capita in Bulgaria, Nexcom strategically eliminated bad credit risk by limiting its services to postpaid accounts and calling cards. Therefore the increased demand for Nexcom s services translated into a higher demand for calling cards, higher that the calling card generation capacity of Nexcom s billing system. This tendency meant that the company will not be able to seize the VoIP market potential in Bulgaria. That, on the other hand, opened room for a competitor.
  • Slowed-down growth Nexcom s customer base was rapidly expanding and its billing was at the verge of its scalability limit. Despite the excessive research for a proper billing system, for the period of two years, Nexcom had to install two different billing platforms. Both of them failed to meet the corporate needs of the company. Seemingly, there was no appropriate billing on the market that would satisfy the company s need for scalability, efficiency and flexibility. That endangered the growth potential of the company.

Nexcom intended to become a low-cost, high-quality unified telecom network throughout Central and Eastern Europe, which was impossible without a reliable billing system.

Requirements
Nexcom had very strict system requirements:

  • Scalable platform that can handle the increasing amount of call traffic with miniscule risk of system breaking down
  • Absolute flexibility that will be demanded in cases of unforeseen market trends. (The situation analysis of the VoIP market in Bulgaria revealed that some U-turns in the market trends should be expected)
  • Balance between technical challenges with the degree of flexibility flexibility had to outweigh the technical challenges related to billing implementation
  • System upgrade after technical architecture evolutions
Solution

Stage I - Strategy

Nexcom s management took the decision to order customer development for a billing system.

The problems experienced by the company were a solid proof for the importance of such a system. Therefore the management made a realistic assessment of its potential benefits and took the decision not to compromise in terms of quality and scalability upon making the billing platform order.

EyeBill had to incorporate all of the requirements of a large and fast-developing telecom

Stage II - Development

The development of the system started in November 1999 and its first version was completed in just 3 months. The project was executed by Sirma Artificial Intelligence, a leading Bulgarian-based software company with numerous international projects in its business portfolio. The major challenges during the development process were related to the high demands of their client (see Requirements).

Above all, the team of software architects at Sirma had to make sure that the drawbacks of the billing systems, used previously by Nexcom, do not appear in their product. This sole requirement involved a lot of research and development effort.

Stage III Implementation

At this stage time was a crucial factor for Nexcom.

The implementation of the billing system was a straightforward process:

  • The installation was completed for 2 hours
  • The system went into production mode in 2 days, during which Nexcom staff filled out the predefined rate cards and customer info in the billing. Direct installation was preferred to a system migration because Nexcom s management concluded that the system migration process would be a more time-consuming option as compared to the option of direct interaction with the user-friendly interface of EyeBill
  • Without training, with system specifications document only, Nexcom employees were able to start operating with the system and put it into production mode for the 2-day period outlined above
  • The platform was installed on a single machine
  • The replaced billing system was left as a back-up for a few weeks, in case the new EyeBill billing fails in processing the VoIP calls. However, EyeBill did not produce a single failure in any of its functions

During the implementation stage, EyeBill met the requirements of Nexcom for time and ease of system deployment.

After the system implementation in Nexcom Bulgaria in April 2000, EyeBill System was installed in the company s offices in Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, and Lithuania.

Results

EyeBill Billing Platform incorporated all of the requirements of a fast-growing alternative telecom. Nexcom was able to immediately streamline its operations and increase the quality of its services:

  • Instead of generating 1000 (thousand) prepaid cards for 45 (forty-five) min with its previous billing, NEXCOM was able to generate that same amount in less than 2 minutes. Moreover, the cards generation was executed by a one-processor machine that was not especially designed for that purpose
  • The major requirement of Nexcom in terms of system scalability was satisfied the first EyeBill test allowed the simultaneous processing of 4000 (four thousand) call attempts per second
  • System resilience, assessed by the number of server failures per period, was secured by the addition of a failover server
  • The system was designed to run for lengthy periods of time with the DB server down which also added to the overall reliability
  • Software quality was addressed by implementing Java-based platform, which is the platform of choice for building robust enterprise class applications
  • The billing was supplied with flexible rate cards, day masks, and other service configurations that will facilitate Netcom s service quality development
  • Since June 2001, EyeBill Billing Platform has been reintroduced with new features and improvements every tree months.

Nexcom managed to:

  • Focus resources into improving service offering
  • Increase revenue by providing unique proposition to each corresponding customer segments
  • Maximize company wide efficiency by processing a single supporting CC&B (Customer Care & Billing) infrastructure
  • Decrease time costs
Conclusion

By January 2002, when the Bulgarian market was fully liberalized, Nexcom was well equipped to face competition not in Bulgaria only, but also in the Eastern and Central Europe.

Thanks to the quality of EyeBill Billing System, Nexcom s successfully deploys resources for for building the first pan-Central and Eastern European IP telephony network Nexcom attracting customers with flexible VoIP services that are tailored to their individual needs and wants.

The decision to invest in a billing platform that supports all aspects of Nexcom s business turned into a winning strategy that facilitates the retention of the company s leadership on the VoIP market in the long run.

 
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