We often work with clients that operate both an ILEC and a CLEC. Typically the ILEC was the original business, but then it made sense to start offering competitive voice services in surrounding areas, and so a new CLEC was created to take advantage of those opportunities.
In these initial CLEC rate centers, telcos often treat them much the same as the ILEC numbers – a similar billing structure, with free local calls and then different rates for intra-LATA and long distance calls. This makes a lot of sense, since everyone already understands the ILEC product, and often you’re competing against a large incumbent with a poor reputation – so you don’t really need to innovate in terms of your business model.
But we can operate nationwide!
With the advent of nationwide VoIP providers like Bandwidth or Inteliquent it has become possible to offer phone numbers from any part of the country to your subscribers. And since subscriber lines can easily be provided using voice-over-IP, it’s entirely possible, from a technical perspective, to offer service anywhere in the country.
Sometimes this opportunity arises because an existing business client has a branch in another city, and they love your service so much they’d like you to provide voice services in all their offices. Or sometimes the sales team is just enthusiastic and loves the idea of being able to sell to anyone, anywhere.
This isn’t necessarily a great idea from a market strategy point of view – but if you decide to go ahead, you have one important decision to make about your product.
What’s your plan for billing and switch translations?
There’s a bunch of complex logic built into your switch to classify each call as local, intra-LATA, inter-LATA, international and so on. If you offer service in just a few rate centers, or one or two LATAs, this isn’t a big deal – although you still need to make sure you keep it up to date with changes to the LERG. However, if you decide to offer services nationwide, that’s a huge amount of data to create and maintain.
If you want to keep billing the way you’ve always done, you would need to build every rate center and every LATA in the country into your switch. While that’s not impossible (on a Metaswitch CFS, at least), that’s a huge amount of work, and makes it much harder to maintain your system and troubleshoot problems.
So instead, if you’re considering offering CLEC voice services outside your normal service area, I’d strongly encourage you to explore other approaches to billing.
- Maybe you simply offer a flat monthly fee for unlimited calls within the US.
- If that makes you nervous, maybe you could bundle the first 1000 minutes and then charge a fee per-minute above that.
Either way, if your fee structure doesn’t differentiate between local, intra-LATA and inter-LATA calls, you won’t need to build or maintain translations for the whole country. Saving you a lot of time and money.
I’m not saying there’s zero work to do. You still need to figure out what billing records you want to create for these subscribers, and build some translations for that. You’ll also need to track that in your billing and invoicing system. But once you’ve figured it out, you’re all set.
So next time someone wants to offer service nationwide, take a moment to consider the translations implications, and see if a flat-rate plan will work.
Feel free to contact us if you’d like help setting up a Nationwide CLEC subscriber type in your system. (Although please note: we are not regulatory consultants – there may be federal or state rules about tariffs that you should review before going down this path. We can’t advise you on that.)