Once upon a time, telecommunications referred almost strictly to phone bills. There was likely a monthly fee, combined with charges for the number of long-distance calls you made. Later, things got more complicated as text messaging, trendy ringtone downloads, and the occasional minute or two of (painstaking) Internet access came into play. But still, telco billing was reasonably straightforward.

Today, however, it’s a different story. Customers do everything on their mobile devices, from ordering food to streaming entertainment to controlling their smart thermostats (and, occasionally, making a phone call). With the constant disruption and continuous demands for more innovation—not to mention the rollout of 5G networks—telecommunication companies’ offerings have become more complicated than ever. And so have the billing models that make them possible.

Here's a brief look at some of the key developments driving this change—and why telco businesses must have the billing systems to embrace them.

Demands on the Customer Experience

First, customers in both the B2B and B2C circles demand more from the billing experience (though they might not recognize it) than ever before. Today’s consumers have limitless options for just about anything they want to purchase—including telecom services. They do heavy research before making any purchasing decision, and they’re looking for transparency, convenience, and streamlined experiences at every turn. They want real-time updates on their account statuses. They enjoy various easy and convenient payment options (and frictionless renewals). Most importantly, they want to maximize the value they get for the money they spend. As much as anything else, billing has become a crucial part of the customer experience for today’s telecommunications customers.

“To retain customers and expand sales,” said Gotransverse founder and CEO James Messer in Forbes, “CSPs need to enhance every touchpoint for the customer, making it easier to subscribe and change services on demand. That includes automating business processes such as new subscription offerings, billing, and payments as part of the overall CX.”

With more customer demands, telco companies that want to stay ahead have to step up their games, offering seamless experiences and on-demand service, including billing. This kind of agility stretches the limitations of legacy billing systems, spotlighting the need for sophisticated, cloud-based billing infrastructure to help telcos meet their customers’ every demand.

New & Ever-Evolving Business Models

With consumer demands for value come the need for innovative business models, from usage-based offerings to partnerships with companies in adjacent markets. Customers can now purchase services—from cell phone plans to their favorite streaming subscriptions—individually or in bundled packages as disparate telecom companies integrate to provide personalized customer experiences with both on-demand and subscription services.

Of course, while these integrations and partnerships are becoming more critical for attracting and retaining customers, they also complicate billing for telecom companies. From mediating usage events (and mining them for business insights) to ensuring every participating business receives the appropriate revenue allocation (and quickly), legacy billing systems can no longer keep up.

It is sometimes possible to reconfigure or modify outdated systems to handle more complex transactions, such as marketplace settlements. However, this "Frankenstein" approach is rarely efficient, cost-effective, or successful in the long term. Instead, savvy marketplaces turn to agile billing platforms built to meet their needs.

5G & the Growth of the Marketplace

Finally, the recent rollout of 5G technology has turned the telecommunications game on its head. This is about much more than high-speed broadband; it's about connecting billions of simple and complex devices in just about every industry. It's also about creating purposeful networks for concrete applications.

In a recent panel discussion on the 'Up Next in Commerce podcast', Gotransverse Chief Product officer Geoff Coleman joined two other billing experts—Natasha Sachdeva, VP Solutions Engineering at Mirakl; and Olivier Smith, Technology Lead from the Office of the CTO at Matrixx—to discuss how 5G is propelling even more telecom evolution. One salient point from the discussion was that telecommunications providers couldn't do it alone when giving customers the total value of 5G. "For service providers to be able to provide this value,” said Sachdeva, “they need to be able to open up their business models to leverage the different innovations that are being generated and provided throughout the industry and be able to provide that to businesses and other consumers as well."

In other words, telecommunications companies will need to collaborate with other businesses—from enterprise software and cloud platform providers to manufacturers in every industry—to bring the theoretical values and benefits of 5G to life in any significant way. And marketplaces are a powerful tool to foster that collaboration. You can learn more about the growth of marketplaces here. Still, the B2B marketplace is designed to create frictionless transactions and simplify procurement processes for buyers that achieve the following: offering a broad selection of products and shipping options; providing clear information about delivery and fulfillment; making returns and refunds easy for buyers; and leveraging dynamic pricing to deliver premium value and stay ahead of the competition.

The correct billing platform will have marketplace billing built right into its core framework — no “Frankensteining” necessary — and it will be equipped to handle settlements rapidly and accurately to ensure a frictionless experience for both customers and sellers.

The future of the telecommunications industry is upon us, and savvy companies are staying competitive in large part by leveraging billing platforms that enhance, rather than hinder, their ability to embrace 5G and all the digital disruptions that have come before and with it. If your business is ready to lead the charge, Gotransverse can help. Our platform was designed with the future in mind, and we're honored to be using our expertise in complex billing—from usage-based to marketplace—to support our telco clients across the globe. We invite you to request a demo to learn more, and one of our experts will walk you through our platform and process.