Converged billing: split session billing
PortaBilling offers an extremely flexible system of dynamically adjusted rates, so that rates can be based on time of day, amount of service used, or other parameters. It may happen that a session (e.g. voice call or broadband Internet connection) spans several rating periods. Until now, such a session would generate a single xDR record (reflecting the fact that the customer actually used the service just once), and the total charged amount would be calculated based on the rates/discounts applicable for each individual portion of the session and the duration of each portion.
Starting with PortaBilling MR23, such a session will produce multiple xDR records, each linked to the applicable discount level/rate. This makes it very easy to check the accuracy of all transactions billed for both administrators and end-users.
Scalability and performance improvements
Subject to the timely release of RedHat 6, PortaBilling Maintenance Release 23 will utilize the latest version of MySQL (5.1), including table partitioning on large tables like those storing xDR information. This significantly increases the speed of the most frequent data access operations, such as “show the customer’s xDRs for the past day”, since just a small portion of a large table needs to be accessed.
Service providers who anticipate a large number of users accessing their web interface may benefit from the ability to deploy several web servers and distribute the load between them. It is also possible to divide the online web load (generated by users accessing online web pages) and calculations (such as producing invoices or configuration profiles for IP phones) between several available web servers.
Redesigned Self-care Web Interface
Maintenance Release 23 will include a prototype of the new interface for end-users to access their profile data, check billing information, download invoices and, most importantly, manage their IP Centrex settings. The main focus of this new interface redesign is simplicity and intuitive navigation for the end-user. This includes an easy-to-use structure of menus and controls, graphical icons and improved presentation of information, and a different approach for managing several important components (e.g. hunt-groups).
We expect the new interface to allow service providers to significantly reduce their helpdesk workload, since customers will be able to perform virtually all configuration tasks for their hosted IP Centrex environment themselves.
The new interface is only in the prototype phase, and does not contain the complete set of functionality. We are currently seeking suggestions, comments and any other type of feedback from PortaSwitch users regarding the new interface. This will enable us to produce the best possible final version of it.
The old interface is still being provided for full backward compatibility. You may choose to activate access to the new interface for specific customers or accounts.
Service provisioning framework
To simplify integration with external systems (e.g. IPTV platform or website hosting server) which receive their service configuration from PortaBilling, a dedicated interface is created so that all provisioning tasks can be controlled from a single location and managed in the same fashion. Every modification of an object such as an account or customer in PortaBilling is recorded as an event. An updated service configuration for that account is then pushed out to one or several provisioning plug-ins. Each of these plug-ins provides an interface for supplying data to a specific external system. This could be a text configuration file for a legacy application, or an XML API provisioning interface for a state-of-the-art service platform.
The extensible framework allows service provisioning for new platforms to be added quickly and with minimal effort.
WiMAX service support
Internet connectivity via WiMAX is becoming more and more popular in all parts of the world. WiMAX allows voice and data services to be supplied directly to customers without the need for any infrastructure on the customer side (e.g. existing phone line). Service providers utilizing WiMAX can thus gain a significant amount of new customers among “mobile” users or in rural or underdeveloped regions, where other broadband Internet options are not available.
PortaOne has performed interoperability testing with Huawei ASN gateway WASN9770, so that PortaBilling can be used as a RADIUS AAA for authentication of user sessions, provisioning service flows, collecting real-time usage data, and charging customers for services used.
Invoice payment minimum
A new feature in the invoicing module allows the collection process for invoices whose total is below a certain threshold to be deferred. For instance, instead of diligently demanding payment for $0.37 and even blocking the account if no payment is made, the system will simply transfer this balance to the next invoice, then to the next one, and so on, until the amount due on a new invoice is greater than the specified threshold (e.g. $5), and the whole amount becomes due at that time.
Redesigned PortaSIP architecture for improved performance
A single PortaSIP instance can spawn multiple B2BUA, each of which can process requests independently of the others (this is very similar to the symmetric multi-processing technology used in PortaBilling Advanced). This allows efficient utilization of multiple CPU or cores, thus increasing by 150-200% the amount of call requests per second which a single PortaSIP server can handle. Therefore, starting with the new release, a single PortaSIP server can handle up to 6,000 concurrent calls.
In many countries VoIP is still prohibited and standard SIP communications blocked by ISPs, so the only way to use this service is via an encrypted tunnel, connecting a user’s local PC with a remote SIP server. PortaSIP now supports the TLS (Transport Level Security) interface, whereby a remote SIP phone can securely connect to the PortaSIP server directly, so there is no need for tunnel software or equipment on the service provider side.
TLS technology may also benefit users in countries where VoIP is allowed, since they can use it to enforce privacy when using the service on public networks.
T.38 incoming fax support in PortaUM
In addition to the support for T.38 faxes already available in PortaSIP (in case a call is originated or received by a fax machine connected to a SIP adapter), it is now possible to receive an incoming fax to a user’s PortaUM mailbox via the T.38 protocol. This enhances the overall quality of the service provided to customers, since the T.38 protocol is more resilient to network problems than the default G.711 pass-through protocol, and also allows the number of interconnect carriers to be extended.
No changes are required on the user side, as PortaUM will automatically use the T.38 protocol if it is supported by the remote party.