A new generation real-time customer payment system for VimpelCom

Customer: VimpelCom Ltd.

The client

VimpelCom Ltd. is a leading telecommunications operator in Russia and the CIS. The company operates under the Beeline brand.

The VimpelCom group consists of several operators providing voice and data services through a range of wireless, fixed and broadband technologies in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Cambodia, covering a territory with a total population of about 345 million. VimpelCom was the first Russian company to be listed on the NYSE (under the symbol "VIP").

Objectives

In 2001 VimpelCom started using the Beepay system that had been developed in-house and provided Beeline clients with an opportunity to choose the time, type and method of payment for mobile services. (Most mobile phone subscribers in Russia use the pay-as-you-go scheme). The system covered Beeline offices, cell phone dealers, shopping malls, gas stations, bank branches and ATM networks. Making payments was convenient and reliable. However, by 2005 the system could barely handle the increasing number of customers any more.

A system that processes all customer payments is mission-critical for any mobile operator. Since Beepay had reached the limit of its capacity and could not support the increased number of transactions or the addition of new services, VimpelCom management decided against expanding the old system. A new state-of-the art solution was needed that would better fit modern concepts of corporate architecture, i.e. be reliable, powerful, scaleable and capable of accommodating additional functional modules. Therefore the company's IT department took the choice of a new enterprise platform and a system developer as a major policy issue.

The contract was awarded to Jet Infosystems who had vast experience in the development and deployment of similar systems as well as their technical support.

Solution

The Kabira Transaction Platform (Kabira Technologies, USA) was recommended by Jet Infosystems for the new Beepay XP system. While an entirely novel product in the Russian market, this advanced solution had been successfully deployed by numerous companies around the world, including, for instance, FranceTeleCom, Visa and Bank of America.

The project started in end-2005. In due course Jet Infosystems staff developed three basic functional modules that could process customer payments made in three different ways.


Zinaida Khokhlova, manager, mass marketing, VimpelCom: "Thanks to the Mobile Transfer service pay-as-you-go customers across Russia can now top up the accounts of their friends and family using their own credit with Beeline. You can do even for subscribers based in other cities and/or roaming".

Vladimir Filippov, vice-president, architecture and development, VimpelCom: "Since our previous Beepay system had reached the limits of its capacity, we needed to replace it with a state-of-the-art corporate payment platform. This project has resulted precisely in such an innovative system that readily handles the increasing workload and gives the company an additional competitive advantage."

The number of customer complaints as a key service quality indicator dwindled after the stabilization stage was completed, testifying to fast and reliable performance of the new payment system.

April 2006Accounts could now be topped up through activation of prepaid cell phone cards. The first transaction was processed on April 1, 2006. The system was designed by Jet Infosystems in cooperation with Kabira Technologies.
September 2006 Vimpelcom's specialists develop Mobile transfer, an innovative marketing tool that enables Beeline customers to transfer funds from their account to other subscribers through the cell phone.
Mobile transfer became the first Beepay XP module that was developed entirely on the new platform. Since the marketing department announced the new service in advance, the customer insisted that it should be launched on a full scale as scheduled. The module was put into operation on September 1, 2006.
January 2007 Development of the most sophisticated module, the so-called Agent scheme, commences. Since the vast majority of payments are credited to Beeline through partners who use supermarket cash registers, special terminals and other technologies, this module had to have the highest capacity.
May-October 2007Migration of the Agent scheme to the new payment system started once all the three modules were developed and tested. At this stage Jet Infosystems experts discovered that some agents were not prepared to move to the new system by changing their interfaces. The issue was addressed by creating a so-called compatibility interface (not originally planned), as an adapter between the new and the old system. The job was far from easy; for instance, the new interface was synchronous while the old one asynchronous, so that asynchronicity had to be emulated for the agent. The system was launched and first agents started migrating to this hybrid scheme. The second instance of the new system that was deployed later could be entered only through the "native" interface. By October 2007, 97% of VimpelCom agents had already moved to Beepay XP.
December 2007 Once agent migration was complete, the top priority was to stabilize the system's operations to comply with service quality standards such as the weekly number of customer complaints or the average payment processing time. By mid-December it became evident that the system could indeed meet all the expectations.

The winter holiday season, when the number of mobile phone conversations skyrockets, was a critical test for the system. On December 29-31 the amount of payments increased by 50-70%. Beepay XP was working flawlessly even as its workload peaked at 6 million transactions on December 29. VimpelCom then announced that the transition to the new system was complete.


Fig.1 Beepay XP system: logical diagram
 

Technical solution

As a mission-critical system, Beepay XP is predictably based on powerful yet fairly standard corporate-level hardware and software. The system owes its outstanding performance and superb reliability to the underlying enterprise platform and custom solutions.

Beepay XP consists of Hitachi Data Systems disk arrays and clustered Sun Microsystems servers using Symantec (Veritas) software. File backup is based on Symantec NetBackup; Nortel Application Switch and Nortel VPN Gateway deal with traffic management. The DBMS is powered by an Oracle solution.

For continuous operation, Jet Infosystems used a redundant transaction input scheme. Should a channel fail, the system has an opportunity to switch to the other channel.

January 2008Jet Infosystems experts provide Level 3 technical support, i.e. deal with issues that can not be resolved by VimpelCom technicians and handle requests for repairs. A problem reported by a client's representative through a trouble ticket system is addressed by Jet Infosystems under the SLA or delegated to the next service level (Kabira Technologies).

Outcome

All the payments are currently received by VimpleCom through the Beepay XP system. Thanks to its performance, scalability and reliability potential, the system may be expanded as the business is growing and easily accommodate newly developed modules and increased functionality.

The client

VimpelCom Ltd. is a leading telecommunications operator in Russia and the CIS. The company operates under the Beeline brand.

The VimpelCom group consists of several operators providing voice and data services through a range of wireless, fixed and broadband technologies in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Cambodia, covering a territory with a total population of about 345 million. VimpelCom was the first Russian company to be listed on the NYSE (under the symbol "VIP").

Objectives

In 2001 VimpelCom started using the Beepay system that had been developed in-house and provided Beeline clients with an opportunity to choose the time, type and method of payment for mobile services. (Most mobile phone subscribers in Russia use the pay-as-you-go scheme). The system covered Beeline offices, cell phone dealers, shopping malls, gas stations, bank branches and ATM networks. Making payments was convenient and reliable. However, by 2005 the system could barely handle the increasing number of customers any more.

A system that processes all customer payments is mission-critical for any mobile operator. Since Beepay had reached the limit of its capacity and could not support the increased number of transactions or the addition of new services, VimpelCom management decided against expanding the old system. A new state-of-the art solution was needed that would better fit modern concepts of corporate architecture, i.e. be reliable, powerful, scaleable and capable of accommodating additional functional modules. Therefore the company's IT department took the choice of a new enterprise platform and a system developer as a major policy issue.

The contract was awarded to Jet Infosystems who had vast experience in the development and deployment of similar systems as well as their technical support.

The Kabira Transaction Platform (Kabira Technologies, USA) was recommended by Jet Infosystems for the new Beepay XP system. While an entirely novel product in the Russian market, this advanced solution had been successfully deployed by numerous companies around the world, including, for instance, FranceTeleCom, Visa and Bank of America.

The project started in end-2005. In due course Jet Infosystems staff developed three basic functional modules that could process customer payments made in three different ways.

Zinaida Khokhlova, manager, mass marketing, VimpelCom: "Thanks to the Mobile Transfer service pay-as-you-go customers across Russia can now top up the accounts of their friends and family using their own credit with Beeline. You can do even for subscribers based in other cities and/or roaming".

Vladimir Filippov, vice-president, architecture and development, VimpelCom: "Since our previous Beepay system had reached the limits of its capacity, we needed to replace it with a state-of-the-art corporate payment platform. This project has resulted precisely in such an innovative system that readily handles the increasing workload and gives the company an additional competitive advantage."

The number of customer complaints as a key service quality indicator dwindled after the stabilization stage was completed, testifying to fast and reliable performance of the new payment system.

April 2006Accounts could now be topped up through activation of prepaid cell phone cards. The first transaction was processed on April 1, 2006. The system was designed by Jet Infosystems in cooperation with Kabira Technologies.
September 2006 Vimpelcom's specialists develop Mobile transfer, an innovative marketing tool that enables Beeline customers to transfer funds from their account to other subscribers through the cell phone.
Mobile transfer became the first Beepay XP module that was developed entirely on the new platform. Since the marketing department announced the new service in advance, the customer insisted that it should be launched on a full scale as scheduled. The module was put into operation on September 1, 2006.
January 2007 Development of the most sophisticated module, the so-called Agent scheme, commences. Since the vast majority of payments are credited to Beeline through partners who use supermarket cash registers, special terminals and other technologies, this module had to have the highest capacity.
May-October 2007Migration of the Agent scheme to the new payment system started once all the three modules were developed and tested. At this stage Jet Infosystems experts discovered that some agents were not prepared to move to the new system by changing their interfaces. The issue was addressed by creating a so-called compatibility interface (not originally planned), as an adapter between the new and the old system. The job was far from easy; for instance, the new interface was synchronous while the old one asynchronous, so that asynchronicity had to be emulated for the agent. The system was launched and first agents started migrating to this hybrid scheme. The second instance of the new system that was deployed later could be entered only through the "native" interface. By October 2007, 97% of VimpelCom agents had already moved to Beepay XP.
December 2007 Once agent migration was complete, the top priority was to stabilize the system's operations to comply with service quality standards such as the weekly number of customer complaints or the average payment processing time. By mid-December it became evident that the system could indeed meet all the expectations.

The winter holiday season, when the number of mobile phone conversations skyrockets, was a critical test for the system. On December 29-31 the amount of payments increased by 50-70%. Beepay XP was working flawlessly even as its workload peaked at 6 million transactions on December 29. VimpelCom then announced that the transition to the new system was complete.


Fig.1 Beepay XP system: logical diagram
 

Technical solution

As a mission-critical system, Beepay XP is predictably based on powerful yet fairly standard corporate-level hardware and software. The system owes its outstanding performance and superb reliability to the underlying enterprise platform and custom solutions.

Beepay XP consists of Hitachi Data Systems disk arrays and clustered Sun Microsystems servers using Symantec (Veritas) software. File backup is based on Symantec NetBackup; Nortel Application Switch and Nortel VPN Gateway deal with traffic management. The DBMS is powered by an Oracle solution.

For continuous operation, Jet Infosystems used a redundant transaction input scheme. Should a channel fail, the system has an opportunity to switch to the other channel.

January 2008Jet Infosystems experts provide Level 3 technical support, i.e. deal with issues that can not be resolved by VimpelCom technicians and handle requests for repairs. A problem reported by a client's representative through a trouble ticket system is addressed by Jet Infosystems under the SLA or delegated to the next service level (Kabira Technologies).

All the payments are currently received by VimpleCom through the Beepay XP system. Thanks to its performance, scalability and reliability potential, the system may be expanded as the business is growing and easily accommodate newly developed modules and increased functionality.

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A new generation real-time customer payment system for VimpelCom