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Billing system targets 'Net content providers
(IDG) -- As the pressure mounts for e-businesses to start making money, network managers are being called on to help their companies track the financial aspects of the complex content and revenue sharing arrangements that have become commonplace on the 'Net. Enter TeleKnowledge, a Framingham, Mass., start-up that has developed a billing system for Internet content and service providers.
Version 2.0 of TeleKnowledge's Total-e billing software uses a flexible, modular approach that is easy to adapt for IP-based services. The system has general-purpose ordering, billing and customer care components that can be customized with software plug-ins for portals, syndicators, advertisers and others.
"Lots of companies are worried about how content physically gets packaged, syndicated and delivered to business partners. We're worried about the business issues: how you calculate and reconcile the financial relationships,'' says Chris Huff, a TeleKnowledge vice president.
Huff says traditional telecommunications billing systems are designed for single services - such as local or cellular telephone service - and can handle flat-rate and usage-based billing for customers. However, new Internet services require value-based billing systems that can assess charges based on the quality and timeliness of the service.
"There are unique and interesting applications that are coming onto the Internet - particularly in the business-to-business space - that require novel ways of billing," says Peter Sevcik, president of Net Forecasts in Waltham, Mass. "TeleKnowledge has developed the most flexible approach to billing. . . . This can give service providers an edge in being able to invent and tailor billing to new IP services."
The flexibility of Total-e is what attracted Broadserve.com, a Garden City, N.Y., start-up that plans to deliver a suite of broadband services, such as video-on-demand, videoconferencing and voice over IP, via the Internet.
"We needed to have a billing platform that supports IP services," says Meir Koren, CEO of Broadserve.com's Israeli subsidiary. "We would like to provide a bill based not on the length of a conversation but on the number of frames delivered or how long it took to transfer the packets. We need to have varied solutions to billing our customers."
Koren says Broadserve.com is creating plug-ins to Total-e for each service it offers, and that each plug-in is taking only a few days to create. "Usually it takes months and months to implement a billing system for a different service," he says.
Total-e is server software that runs on Unix, Windows NT and Oracle 8. Version 2.0 features a software developers kit and a wizard utility that makes it easier for users to create new plug-ins. Pricing for the software starts at $500,000.
So far, TeleKnowledge has eight installations of its Total-e system and has raised more than $25 million in venture capital. The 75-employee company plans to go public next year.
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