Implementing Value-based Billing
Mobile operators do not typically allow external parties direct access to their billing systems because they usually contain sensitive customer and financial data. However, in order to facilitate value-based billing, mobile operators need to provide an interface for applications to record those billing events. This interface is usually proprietary in nature. A typical scenario is illustrated in the following diagram:
|Figure 1: Here's a generic model of a billing event recording interface.
As shown in the diagram, each mobile operator has its own proprietary interface to access its billing system. Consequently, the same J2ME application needs be modified in order to adapt to different billing interfaces, forcing publishers to write one version of an application for each billing interface (and hence for each operator). This often means a large amount of resources are spent writing, maintaining, testing, and certifying billing routines rather than applications. Such efforts defeat Java's promise of "Write once, run anywhere".
On the other hand, if mobile operators want to facilitate value-based billing, they can only sell applications that can interface with their systems. This greatly reduces the size of the available pool of applications.
What both parties require is a common way to submit and access all the event information. Operators need a way to collect billing event data from a variety of applications, while publishers need a single interface to submit billing events that is independent of any one operator. In short, both parties require an interoperable way to access billing events, i.e., open event-tracking capabilities.
To make value-based billing models viable and flexible, information about the number of units of consumption (or number of plays) is required. Tira Wireless has been leading the specifications team to develop JSR 190 to do just that.
Optimized Value-based Billing: JSR 190
JSR 190 is an extension to the existing J2ME specifications that allows standardized tracking of application events and the submission of these events to a tracking server via a standard protocol (such as HTTP). Effectively, the Java code is instructed to record events (such as number of plays), and report it when the user has network connectivity again. The user's privacy is protected by different methodologies, for example with the use of application serial numbers.
JSR 190 has several benefits. As a standard, it streamlines the development process because developers have a standardized tracking methodology for use in their programs. This optimizes memory usage and the process of event tracking itself since all applications contain the same billing language. Until now, a standard has not existed, so this is an important move forward.
For service providers, JSR 190 allows operators to source applications from a variety of publishers or developers; these applications track usage and are able to communicate that usage to a billing system without costly custom integration.
For mobile operators, it allows the ability to differentiate casual and heavy users and bill them accordingly, and provides a versatile billing model to be in place for the more sophisticated applications that are being developed. The ability to monitor and track data usage gives operators the opportunity to adjust their billing systems, respond quickly to market demands, and remain competitive.