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  Now it's Wamcatel to resolve triple play billing

First Thoughts: When all the bullies on the street gang up on you, what do you do. You start your own gang. And that's what's likely to happen in IPTV now that Amdocs has joined the Alcatel-Microsoft axis. Perhaps our nickname of Walcatel should be adjusted to Wamcatel (Windows Amdocs Alcatel) for the new triumvirate. Alcatel and Amdocs to offer triple play billing.

But why would any IPTV technology business want to suddenly partner up in the billing business and limit its systems to one billing system?

A one stop shop is not desirable here, but the truth is that billing in going to get complicated, especially as TV operators decide they are not sure exactly what they should be offering. As Digital Rights Managements systems tie into conditional access, and content can be moved out of pay TV systems, then a video service could be billed as a monthly flat charge, with pay to own options, and download to rent options, as well as paid rights to burn DVDs.

TV program prices could vary based on the format density they are delivered in (HDTV), their popularity and whether customers have rights to put them on portable players. They could also vary depending on other parts of the triple play. A monthly "bundle" is what triple play is all about, so at least three discount bands are likely to exist, perhaps many more with IPTV being cheaper if you are also a phone customer or a mobile customer.

In Microsoft IPTV you can watch two or three things at once on the screen. If one or more of these are pay per view, do you give discounts for viewing size (does the system even know what your viewing options are at the client TV?)?

Will their be links to mobile TV systems and volume discounts for both telephony and VoD? We would expect so. Will there be pre-paid, pay per view? We're not so sure, but someone is likely to try it. Will someone put caps on the amount of Gigabits that can be downloaded each month? In which case will they offer cheaper extra data in discount bands dependent on how much families have spent on films? Over time it is all possible.

Cellular billing has proved complicated and new types of software have had to be written for pay as you go and for data services of all types, until the modern cellular billing system is broken into multiple parts and looks like a patchwork quilt of software.

Every single one of those companies that has a piece of the cellular and fixed line billing cake, from Comverse and Convergys to Ericsson, Intec, LHS and Portal and others, will all have to make the move now into convergent billing systems that support IPTV, but has Amdocs, the supplier that has more of the major accounts than any of the others, already headed them off at the pass?

Final Thoughts: A rush to sign up similar partnerships with Siemens and Lucent can be expected over the coming weeks and months, with the smaller IPTV suppliers getting a call from the few remaining billing companies that have no such partnerships. In the end IP convergence will lead inevitably to consolidation among billing suppliers.

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