Industry Thought Leadership

Nexign Helps Operators in MEA Slash Time to Market by up to 5 Times by Introducing Unified Billing

February, 2021
Michael Matyushin
Chief Technology Officer


With a high pace of modernisation in the MEA telecommunications market, CSPs are looking for a partner to support and speed up their digital transformation. To meet this demand, in 2020 Nexign completed the large-scale digital transformation project that successfully addresses the challenges of CSPs globally, including the Middle Eastern and African regions. The project called “Unified Billing” was carried out for MegaFon – the provider of digital opportunities that operates in Russia, Tajikistan, the Republic of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

MegaFon PJSC is a leader in the Russian and global telecommunications market, offering wide range of services: mobile and broadband internet access, digital TV and OTT services, innovative digital products across Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the Internet of Things, Big Data analytics and processing, cloud solutions and more. Initially, MegaFon has been evolving as a group of companies that have become its subsidiaries following the company’s restructuration in 2009.
Apart from establishing unified management standards, strong single brand and corporate culture, MegaFon wanted to unify the subsidiaries’ IT infrastructure to take its business to the next level and facilitate digital transformation. With billing system being the backbone of the IT infrastructure, the fact that subsidiaries were utilizing seven separate solutions with different logic and custom code led to an array of issues. Such variety of BSS systems did not allow to fully unify the company's business processes. It also hindered launching new offerings, made integration of partner services more complicated and required substantial investments to support these systems.

In 2015, the executive leadership team decided to bring the whole company to a unified billing system and set the following strategic goals:

  • Support digital and business transformation;
  • Improve the quality of customer service;
  • Centralize and accelerate launch of new business projects;
  • Create an ecosystem that will facilitate faster integration of the external partners;
  • Optimize total cost of ownership (TCO) for the billing system by 20-30%.

Solution: the “Unified Billing” project
One of the project’s core tasks was creating a cross-functional team with common goals. It was fairly challenging given that around 1,500 MegaFon employees were involved. The project’s success relied on the mutual involvement and engagement of both MegaFon and Nexign teams. Also, it required to simultaneously migrate subscribers to the new platform and support legacy billing solutions until they are fully replaced – this only added to the challenge. Thanks to coming up with an accurate plan together with the operator, migration of B2C subscribers ran nearly unnoticed for the customers: additional tariff schemes were added to the new billing system at once, while the existing ones were migrated gradually.

“This project is unique in many ways. Together with MegaFon, we ran complex transformation of its systems. With modernizing the BSS platform, the company also had to undergo serious organizational and procedural changes,” noted Mikhail Matyushin, Chief Technology Officer at Nexign.

“We applied an individual approach in the B2X segment. It was critical, because over the years, our customers accumulated a variety of parameters for product applications that were created in accordance with individual needs of customers in different regions – especially the companies with geographically-dispersed structures. For the government and enterprise sector, it was also important to follow SLA – otherwise, we could have simply lost these customers,” said Andrey Knyazev, Director of BSS at MegaFon PJSC.

The COVID-19 outbreak also affected the situation: migration of healthcare organizations was postponed for the final stage of the project and was led especially carefully.

The project lasted for five years and was completed in the middle of 2020 despite all the roadblocks caused by the pandemic, the ensuing lockdown and shift to remote work.

Middle Layer and microservices fabrics
The transformation of the billing service substantially decreased TTM for the new products. However, with such a high pace of modernization in the telecommunications market, MegaFon needed to further speed up its transformation.

“BSS allowed us to launch and configure new products much faster. But if there was a need for adjustments in the partner solutions, we were hampered by vendors. To overcome this challenge, MegaFon and Nexign created a layer of microservices above the billing, so new projects could be promptly created and tested by our own developers or external suppliers,” said Igor Glebov, Business Development Director at MegaFon PJSC.

Thanks to introducing this extra layer, the TTM for a new functionality was slashed from several quarters to 2-3 weeks. As an added value, MegaFon is now able to quickly solve tasks related to piloting and testing without making changes to the core of the billing.

Moreover, the Middle Layer created a setting for integrating new partners. The plethora of microservices consolidated on this level serves as a basis for partner and customer cooperation in the joint initiatives. Thanks to microservices, by autumn 2020, MegaFon launched over 100 projects.

Product Catalogue
Nexign Product Catalogue works as a central configuration point for all operator’s offerings. It supports the whole product lifecycle from the inception and adjustment of price and other parameters to the product’s decommissioning. The catalogue provides MegaFon with the information required for coordinated functioning of the rating, service and self-service systems, billing, order management, settlement payments and many more. With the ongoing partnership, catalogue’s functionalities will be further expanded.

“We are still working on the catalogue and plan to finish the works in 2021. Though the catalogue hasn’t become a silver bullet for all our problems yet, we have already achieved a lot. The first and second levels – local catalogues and the product catalogue – have already been launched. Now we are in the final stages of completing the third – federative level, which will enable faster integration with partners and channels,” said Sergey Nikiforets, Director of Digital Services at MegaFon PJSC.

In the course of the project MegaFon and Nexign achieved the following results:

  • Successfully migrated all 8 subsidiaries into one billing system with the unified billing processes. Transition of eight subsidiaries to a unified system allowed to slash costs on the billing’s support and increase its efficiency.
  • Unified business processes and aligned product portfolio across all subsidiaries while retaining flexible pricing policy for the regions.
  • Reduced the TTM for different products by 2-5 times.
  • Launched over 100 products with the microservices fabrics.
  • Reduced the influence of external risks including the risks of the currency fluctuation and changes of the pricing policy for different vendors by using the unified solution from the Russian provider.
  • Enabled to offer equally high level of service across all regions by having merged contact centers with equal KPIs and standard request routes.
  • Completed seamless migration of B2C, B2G, B2B and B2O customers to a new billing system, which allowed to avoid customer churn or decline in customer loyalty.
  • Cleaned up irrelevant data. In the beginning of the project, some of the subsidiaries stored a lot of duplicate and old data. At the moment, all duplicates have been cleaned up, and, in the operational contour, there is only data required for tariff modifications (for two accounting periods for roaming, and for one period for all other services). The rest of the information can be requested from the data store.

Ultimately the “Unified Billing” was a significant contribution to MegaFon's transformation of the telecom operator into the operator of digital opportunities. The company managed to broaden its o-fferings beyond classic telecom services and start providing digital products and services by expanding its partner ecosystem in particular.

“Since CSPs in the Middle East and Africa are looking for the way to streamline digital transformation processes, it is clear that unified and centralized product management, as well as technologies like microservices and methodologies like Fast Track are in huge demand in the market. Nexign is ready to help local operators take their business to the next level and increase subscriber loyalty by offering future-proof solutions and ensuring uninterrupted service at any stage of the project,” says Hassen Hamza, Business Development Manager of Nexign.

By completing the project, Nexign has proven it can bring measurable value to CSPs’ business in MEA region and help them facilitate transformation. While Nexign enabled the large telco company to achieve its business goals, the company also plans to use its experience of any-scale projects to help CSPs in the MEA region streamline digital transformation.