Xacct Takes Mediation Wireless
By William Fellows, Mon Mar 12 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Xacct's network analysis software has made the leap to mobile, and will be put into service first on the Isle of Man, BT's UMTS proving ground.

The first implementation of Xacct Technologies' wireless mediation software goes live next month when BT rolls out its Universal Mobile Communication System (UMTS) service on the Isle of Man. Xacct claims to have other wireless customers already in hand but isn't naming any.

Until now, Xacct's software has been used exclusively in wireline Internet Protocol environments, where it has 60 customers. It collects network activity information and delivers it to applications such as rating engines, which then apply the tariff models to the data to feed into operators' billing processes. Xacct's unique selling point, so the company claims, is its ability to do this at the client device or from the gateway.

Packet-switched networks give operators the opportunity not only of getting a much better insight into what subscribers are doing (by the packet) but also, of translating this into a one-to-one relationship by offering additional, personalized services based on previous activity. Operators can also look out for particularly high-revenue subscribers and give them preferential access to the network rather than the potluck connections they share with every other subscriber right now. IP is basically a whole new world for operators to learn, Xacct said. At the moment, no one knows what people will pay for which is why initial packet-switched data services are being offered as pre-priced, pre-packaged bundles.

Xacct said this kind of snooping is far easier on CDMA2000 networks than on GPRS and UMTS, which have a more complex set of charging mechanisms. Voice rather than data will be the killer application for GPRS, Xacct believes.

Xacct says companies including IP billing giant Portal Software offer some mediation capability but cannot scale to support millions of devices. Xacct has a total $77m investment from Sun Microsystems and others to date and had planned to IPO last year until the bottom dropped out of the market. The company said it will go to market when favorable conditions return. Xacct also said it will become profitable by year-end. Its average sale price is in the millions of dollars.

BT's Isle of Man UMTS network rollout, via its 100%-owned Manx Telecom subsidiary, has been designed to test-drive third- generation technology (3G) in a highly localized geography. Just two weeks ago, BT finalized the raft of services it will make available. To begin with, UMTS will be available only in a small part of the island. Why? Because there will only be a few hundred NEC handsets available.

The network will support 384Kbps downlink and 64Kbps uplinks, enough to support games, send video clips and business applications, but not enough to watch live television. Theoretically 3G offers 2Mbps connections; a T1 connection is 1.5Mbps.

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