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With the on-going deregulation and liberalization of the global telecommunications markets ICL Plc reckons it has secured its place in the rapidly growing business of interconnect settlement systems by acquiring Fort Communications Technology Ltd. Fort, established in 1988 and previously owned by Belgian-based Landbell Plc, specialises in software for new telecoms operators, and designed and built Prospero, a system for calculating interconnect fees and tariffs levied between existing PTTÆs and new telecoms operators. In 1995, ICL invested some money in the development of the software, and also worked with Fort to further develop the product. Fort turned over ú2m last year, and ICL will integrate the company and its 12 staff into the ICL Telecommunications Business, headed by Gary Bunney. Bunney says the acquisition has secured the future of the product, and ICL will invest money in developing Propero and extending it to Internet payment and retail tariffing systems. ICLÆs Telecoms division is a leader in mediation systems, with its SIMS Service Independent Mediation System, which garners call billing information from operatorsÆ networks. Prospero applies tariffs to telephone call records for both the operator and caller end of the call. It works out charges new operators have to pay to use existing companiesÆ lines, and also works out how much the subscriber will be billed for each call, so a new operator can work out the profitability of each call, and decide whether to re-route through a different long distance operator. ICL says interconnection charges are likely to be the single biggest cost facing a new telecoms operator, accounting for as much as 50% of their cost base. They are also a significant part of an established operatorÆs costs, but also a valuable source of revenue, and can contribute up to 40% of revenue. With de-regulation and liberalization, analysts expect the growth in the interconnect billing software market, currently valued at only $250m, to be 100% a year.

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