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RealTime IT News

Getting Behind LogiSense

Funny how things change. The founders of LogiSense set up shop in 1995 as an Internet service provider, and in the course of their work they began to develop an internal system to meet the complex billing needs of an ISP operation. The billing software worked well, so well in fact that in 1999 they sold the ISP operation and a year later began marketing back-end billing tools instead.

The firm has since established a global presence, with clients in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and most recently on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean. There, its billing tools are assisting in the rollout of a series of wireless deployments.

It is not the island's first foray into Wi-Fi. The Dutch side of the island went wireless earlier this year, with a deployment that saw Lucent Technologies reselling mesh networking equipment from BelAir Networks.

This time around the action is on the French side of the island, with LogiSense delivering back-end support for carrier-grade access points and controllers being deployed by Gemtek Systems. The network will cover downtown St. Martin and scattered resorts.

As such things go, this deployment is relatively straightforward for LogiSense, in that the client (Gemtek) had the good sense to look for billing solutions early in the process. "A lot of people, when they set up a lot of different locations, the first thing they look at is the hardware. The backend billing is the last thing they look at," said LogiSense marketing director Louie Conceicao. Much easier, he says, to build in billing solutions from the start.

Even when the company is brought in late in the game, though, the fundamentals of the product remain the same. It's all just billing: Only the details vary, and the software has been designed to accommodate those variations.

"Some clients set up services by the hour, some are prepaid, some are post-paid, but all of that is configured in our back office. It all comes down to the service, the duration and the dollar value, and all of that can be pre-configured in our software," Conceicao explained.

That kind of brand promise may be well-received in a Wi-Fi marketplace looking for help in managing its billing processes.

"There is demand for backend billing and roaming solutions, based on increasing adoption and willingness to pay for public hotspots," said Ina Sebastian, a research associate with Jupiter Research.

The more Wi-Fi permeates the marketplace, the greater the need for these tools: "As Wi-Fi service providers increase their footprint through roaming relationships to target paying users, usability of the roaming and billing systems is of high importance."

No surprise, then, to see that there is competition in the back-end billing space. Bigger names include Conversys, Amdocs and Portal, while mid-tier players — though usually more wireless network specific — include AirPath and Pronto Networks. LogiSense tries to distinguish itself through its billing model, licensing out its software rather than selling the product as a hosted service.

"Our customers typically are looking for more control over the services they offer," Conceicao explained. "They want to add promotions and control invoicing. They want to generate their own reports." A licensed model makes that possible.

At the same time, the vendor derives a range of benefits through use of the licensed model. "In the first place, we still are being compensated on support," Conceicao said. At the same time, "it also allows us to put the product out there into the real world. When they run it themselves, they can let us know what challenges they are having, what new services they would like us to offer, what we can do to make the product better meet the needs of the marketplace."

As to marketing, LogiSense draws some 70 percent of its leads through Web searches, so that is where the firm devotes the bulk of its marketing spend. Trade shows, meanwhile, are taking a back seat. The company is doing fewer of them these days, though in a more strategic way.

"We used to go to the trade shows just to build brand awareness, just to get our names out there. Now we see the trade shows much more as a marketing campaign. We don't just go to exhibit. We go there looking for leads. That means having someone from your management team speaking on a panel. It means if you have prospects on the fence, you make sure that you invite them to the show. You set up meeting rooms, you invite the press. If you go there just to exhibit, you are just another booth."