Bell Mobility to extend 3G services to prepaid customers

Bell Mobility says it would be able to bring more parity to its prepaid customers this year while offering next-generation services through the deployment of a software platform from Alcatel Canada.

The two companies Monday said they had signed a multimillion dollar contract under which Alcatel would help deploy its 8690 Open Services Platform and its payment suite. This includes the Alcatel 8618 Rating Engine and 8610 Prepaid application, which will be installed throughout Bell Mobility’s network. The dollar value of the contract was not disclosed.

Alan Liu, Bell Mobility’s associate director of service development, said the Alcatel product would make it easier for Bell Mobility to offer prepaid customers the ability to download Java games, access the Internet and choose from a variety of billing options.

“”We wanted to move our prepaid platform from what we deployed years ago — a legacy system focused on voice — into a newer platform that allows us to bring in a lot of 3G services,”” he said. “”As we start moving a lot of our postpaid customers into that space we wanted to bring our prepaid customers along as well.””

Geoff Cowan, executive vice-president of sales for Alcatel Canada, described the Open Services Platform as an architecture of a suite of software modules that enable the cusotmization and provision of services.

“”Even the carriers that have the capabilities now, they’re somewhat limited in the length of time it takes, flexibility, the linkages,”” he said. “”If you imagine behind the scenes, so many databases and different services have to exist.””

Liu said Bell Mobility chose Alcatel because of its track record in the prepaid services market.

“”Their core platform allows you to build a lot of extensions onto it,”” he said. “”As we come up with new services, we can just add onto what we’ve already purchased in different ways.””

Bell Mobility and Alcatel will work together on the project, with Alcatel assisting with project management and engineering expertise, Cowan said.

“”They have a very clear understanding, I think, of their market space and what their customers want,”” he said. “”I think we bring to that equation deep knowledge of what can and can’t be done with the technology, the speed of service deployment and that type of thing.””

Liu said the goal right now is to simply offer the same services it provides to postpaid customers.

“”For all intents and purposes, we’re focusing on just transitioning to a new platform,”” he said. “”Most customers probably won’t notice a difference in what they’ll be getting.””

The evolution of open communications networks is forcing carriers to consider their long-term future, Cowan added.

“”They’re causing people to look at service levels, they’re causing people to look at flexibility,”” he said. “”If you no longer, for example, constrain someone indirectly by having to change their telephone number if they move carriers, then you’d have to expect that the services and the prices would be where you’d have to aim to keep them.””

Cowan said the deployment would be complete by the end of this quarter, while Liu said Bell Mobility would be in a position to begin marketing services by the middle of this year.

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