IPDR: More than Just Usage-Based Billing (Part 1)

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When engineers think of Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR), usually the first thing that comes to mind is usage-based billing. While usage-based billing is the reason that the cable industry first adopted IPDR, it’s important to remember that the information provided by this protocol goes way beyond billing.

In recent years, CMTS vendors have expanded their support of IPDR to provide access to more network and subscriber usage information. This data can be used for congestion management, planning investments, and even marketing purposes. The best part? IPDR is part of the DOCSIS protocol, so this information is automatically sent from the CMTS without violating user privacy or slowing down the network.

How Usage-based Billing Works with IPDR

Usage-based billing is very straightforward. Each subscriber has an allowed quota per billing cycle and those who go above the quota have to pay extra for bandwidth consumption.

IPDR delivers precise information without overloading your CMTS or network, at a substantially lower cost than other methods of gathering bandwidth consumption data. The information is streamed from the CMTS in accumulated blocks of a minimum of 15 minutes per service flow per cable modem.

Today, IPDR solutions go beyond just a database of information by linking utilization data to the subscriber, separating the information per service flow, and aggregating billable and non-billable bandwidth utilization. For example, if you don’t want to bill customers for traffic generated by your telephony or VOD service, you can classify these as non-billable utilization.

Any provider interested in moving towards usage-based billing should be careful to ensure transparency for subscribers, since this type of billing can be contentious for consumers who are used to all-you-can-eat models. As such, successful implementation of usage-based billing should include automatic notifications for subscribers who near their defined threshold. It may also be a good idea to create a portal to allow your customers to monitor their utilization, pre-purchase additional bandwidth, and understand whether their usage patterns justify an upgrade to a plan with a greater allowance.

Once you have set thresholds and can accurately track subscriber usage, you can implement whatever policy is best for your business — whether it is to provide a warning, start charging for exceeding the quota, or creating a temporary slowdown for users who go above their allocated bandwidth.

Beyond Billing

But what else you can do with all this data? How can you capitalize on the investment you have already made?

This is the real beauty of IPDR.

By cross-referencing IPDR data to the subscriber cable modem MAC address, adding geolocation, and subscriber plan and account type, you now have a complete dataset that can not only serve engineering purposes but also assist marketing, product, planning, sales, and every single department of an MSO.

In my next blog, I’ll go into detail of how you can utilize IPDR data for these different departments.

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