14 May 2007

A Brief Description of the New Features Guide for PortaSwitch Maintenance Release 15

For convenience of our customers we have published a Maintenance Release 15: New Features Guide.

It is quite an extensive document with multiple useful examples of the best ways to use new features of PortaSwitch that are available in MR15. Below is just a brief description of the Guide’s content aimed to introduce you to this document.

Please refer to the Guide for more detailed descriptions of MR15 features and numerous practical examples.


Converged Billing – Support for Multiple Services

Maintenance Release 15 marks a huge leap forward for PortaBilling100, as it is now officially “not just for VoIP billing”. PortaBilling100 can now process charges for any type of service: voice or video calls, Internet connectivity, data transfers, or one-time events such as sending an SMS message or renting a pay-per-view movie.

In order to correctly distinguish among these different types of services, PortaBilling100 introduces the concept of service types. A service type describes what kind of service you provide to your customers and how you charge them for it.

PortaBilling100 is supplied with a pre-defined, ready-to-use set of service types. Your current billing configuration will be effortlessly migrated to the “Voice Calls” service, while for new products (or new services for an existing product) the amount of configuration is minimal.

Event-based Billing

Previously, all telephony calls were charged based on duration. While the time-based billing model is good for many services (e.g. WiFi connections), it is not applicable to certain other service types (e.g. SMS or data transfer), since there is no “duration” involved in using these services. For this reason, PortaBilling100 now supports time- and quantity-based types of services.

Another related change is that the term CDR (Call Detail Record) has been replaced by xDR (eXtensible Detail Record) in most parts of the web interface, since not all charges will actually be related to calls now.

Billing for WiFi Services

PortaBilling100 now supports a new type of node – Mikrotik Access Point which allows providing prepaid and postpaid wireless access services. This feature does not directly change the way in which billing works; rather, it simplifies the management of various rate plans on large PortaBilling100 installations.

Routing Plans with Profit Guarantee

A profit guarantee has been available even in earlier releases of PortaBilling100: a route will not be selected if it is more expensive than what you charge your customers. MR15 extends the profit guarantee functionality, now enabling you not only to ensure that you do not lose money, but also to specify how much profit you should earn.

Another improvement in the area of advanced routing is the ability to apply a round-robin algorithm (alternate routes) where the price difference between several vendors is insignificant. Now in PortaBilling100 MR15 you can activate this feature for a particular routing plan, so that routes with a price difference smaller than a specified threshold will be regarded as equal when arranging routes.

Shared and Exclusive Volume Discounts

You now have two options for defining how two different volume discounts for the same destination group, which apply to an account and a customer at the same time, are to be combined:

  1. You can use shared mode. In this case, when a user makes a call to a destination within a destination group, both sets of counters will be updated.
  2. A new mode, available as of MR15, is the exclusive discount plan. If a discount in the plan applicable to an account is defined as exclusive, then only the counters for the account will be updated, until the discount has been used up.

New Add Duration Behavior

Features like this truly are the “dark side of the force”, but this is also where PortaBilling100 excels. Previously, the ratio for increasing charged call duration was specified as a set of thresholds and associated rates. This could potentially create problems with longer calls, where an increase becomes easier to notice.

MR15 changes the way add duration calculations are performed. Now every portion of a call is increased according to the specified rate, and then all of them are added up. One very important benefit of this method is that the percentage rates no longer need to be in ascending order.

E-Payments Log

You can now monitor all credit card charge attempts per individual customer or payment processor from the PortaBilling100 web interface. This provides a convenient tool for helpdesk personnel to analyze and solve problems with customer payments, without having to look in the log files on the PortaBilling100 server.

Improved Integration with PortaUM

PortaBilling100 interface now features a “Manage UM Account” link for PortaUM enabled accounts. This link is located next to the checkbox and will take the administrator directly to the account’s PortaUM pages.

Improved Custom Reports

When specifying a date parameter for a report scheduled to run periodically, you can now relate this parameter to the actual report execution time.

As a result, you will always receive a report that includes calls made by the customer during business hours on the previous day. Parameters may also be populated automatically with a date after the actual report time.

Since actual report execution time may vary, PortaBilling100 always uses the scheduled report execution time to calculate values for the parameters.


Advanced Call Forwarding

Several call forwarding modes are now supported, including a new advanced call forwarding method which gives you access to more features. You can assign a particular type of forwarding using the Call Features tab.

Call Forwarding to SIP URI

In addition to traditional follow-me forwarding, where a call is forwarded to another SIP account or any PSTN number, you now have a convenient way to forward calls to an external SIP proxy. This is ideal for situations where you are running a “DID Exchange” or similar service, with each incoming call to your pool of phone numbers to be forwarded to the SIP proxies of a customer who purchased a particular number.

Direct Incoming Calls to B2BUA

PortaSIP MR15 allows B2BUA to accept direct incoming connection from a remote SIP UA on a public IP address. This is ideal for SIP trunking and similar services. This improvement accounts for over 20% increase in the call processing speed.

Unified Messaging

Prepaid Card IVR for IP Call Leg

PortaUM now includes a full-fledged IVR for prepaid card services with the functionality identical to PortaOne debit card application for Cisco gateways. The main advantage of this application is that it can efficiently provide services for calls coming to your network via SIP, with no need for IP-PSTN conversion. The voice prompts can be pre-converted into a required codec, so there are no additional license fees or limitations on the number of concurrent calls.

PortaUM prepaid card application supports multi-lingual IVRs, however, at this time only the English and Cantonese languages are supported, since Cisco TTS modules, developed by PortaOne, have to be ported to PortaUM platform independently. We will add support for other languages in future releases.

If you would like PortaOne to develop a particular language IVR within a specific timeframe, please contact our sales team for more details.

Please refer to PortaUM Administrator Guide for more details on configuring the prepaid card IVR on PortaUM server.

ANI/DNIS Call Back IP Calls

Previously, ANI/DNIs callback was only available for the Cisco platform. Now PortaUM offers to run “IVR-based” callback services. Calls to your callback DIDs will be delivered to PortaUM, PortaUM will disconnect the incoming call (so the user is not charged), then call the customer back and collect the destination number.

Configuration of the billing part is identical to the configuration of Cisco-based callback, described in PortaCallBack User Guide.

Dial-by-name Directory

A new feature is now available in auto-attendant: if a user does not know the extension number, s/he can get connected by dialing the first three letters of the person’s surname!

On a separate configuration page of UM web interface you may define announcements for each extension in your IP Centrex. You may block some extensions from access via the dial-by-name directory (your company’s CEO will probably appreciate this).

Call Queues

In conjunction with the group hunting feature on PortaSIP side call queues allow you to offer “call center” functionality to your IP Centrex customers. In PortaUM configuration for a specific DID number you may define as many queues as you want and forward them to your IP phones or virtual accounts with group hunting. Each queue may have its own distinctive “on hold” melody.

You may also assign the average “call processing time” for each queue and PortaUM will correctly calculate and inform the customer about the estimated wait time.



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