The Policy and Charging Control (PCC) framework is a 3GPP-specified architecture (defined here: http://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/23203.htm) that enables policy control and charging functions on a per-subscriber and per-flow basis, in both 3G and 4G (LTE networks).
The PCC architecture reference points are defined in the 3GPP specification 29.212 available here: http://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/29212.htm; the overall logical architecture is represented in the diagram below (non-roaming):
In the NFV.net reference architecture, Sandvine’s Universal Policy Control provides VNFs for the PCRF, PCEF, and TDF components. Matrixx’s Convergent Charging Solution provides VNFs for the OCS and OFCS components.
Performing accurate, real-time metering of Layer-7 application data traffic for prepaid and postpaid charging use cases is a requirement in today’s telecommunications market. These capabilities form the foundation of many subscriber services, and are necessary both to protect subscribers from bill-shock and to protect network operators from revenue leakage.
Many systems claim to be Gy-compliant in accordance with the PCC architecture, but lack one or both of the functional requirements (i.e., direct and real-time). These non-compliant solutions typically introduce a processing intermediary that breaks the direct connection, leading to a host of accuracy and reliability challenges that in turn cause revenue leakage and unreliable billing for all online charging use cases.
Sandvine and Matrixx’s virtualized online charging integration is completely compliant with 3GPP PCC standards. In the NFV.net architecture, the Policy Traffic Switch (PTS) Virtual Series (PCEF/TDF) is connected directly, in real-time, to Matrixx’s Convergent Charging platform (OCS).
Critically, the PTS performs the on-the-wire measurement of usage, and usage is passed directly to the OCS (i.e., it does not pass through an external intermediary or internal intermediary process). As a result, the NFV.net online charging reference architecture is both accurate (i.e., measures usage correctly), and reliable. From the service provider’s perspective, failure to adhere to the strict PCC standards for online charging results in revenue leakage and unreliable billing for online charging use cases. The degree of revenue leakage varies by use case.
If there were no difference in charging accuracy and reliability between these deployments, then non-compliance would not be of significant importance – but that is not the case. The only way for a service provider to achieve minimum revenue leakage and maximum reliability is by adhering to the PCC requirements. These issues are explained in detail in this whitepaper.
Moreover, the NFV.net PCC real-time charging implementation boasts extreme flexibility to enable in-the-field configuration. Matrixx’s IDE (Interactive Digital Ecosystem) BSS stack was architected to deliver new products and services primarily through self-care channels that reduce the cost to serve, and to enable roll out of new service propositions rapidly, without requiring complex, SI customization.
Similarly, Sandvine’s SandScript policy language enables on-the-fly alterations to network policy in response to changing business drivers. Most network operators will likely begin with an automated policy configuration, using tools like HOT (HEAT Orchestration Templates), puppet, Chef, or Ansible (which does not require any agent on the VM but can SSH to multiple boxes to push configurations, run commands, etc.) but can then be easily altered through the SandScript policy language. For details about the many advantages of freeform policy authoring with SandScript, see the materials available here.
This case study provides an overview of how Matrixx introduced a differentiated digital experience based on real-time charging at Telstra, and a whitepaper that provides additional detail on PCC-based real-time charging is available here.