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VoluBill Cranks Up

Data charging platform vendor VoluBill is talking up its status as the lone startup in the market, touting a bevy of new commercial deals amid hopes of a lucrative exit strategy.

Founded in 2001, the Grenoble, France-based vendor has developed what it calls a “Dialog Control and Charging Platform (D2CP)” software kit, which aims to enable operators to create, rate, and bill for fancy new data services without needing to upgrade their standing transport infrastructures. In other words, it fits broadly into the volatile service gateway (GGSN/PDSN) cum mobility router category, where so many startups have already met their ends.

To date, VoluBill has only announced wins at Celcom Malaysia and Philippine carrier Globe Telecom (see Volubill, HP Win at Globe and VoluBill Secures Malaysian Contract). According to CEO André Meyer, that list now includes a high-profile, ten-year contract with partner IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) at AirTel in India; deployments at DigiCell in Haiti and Trinidad; Djezzy GSM in Algeria and Mobilink in Pakistan (both subsidiaries of Orascom Telecom); and Saudi Telecom Co. (STC).

“We also sold to Orange, including the Dominican Republic, Botswana, and Guadaloupe,” says Meyer. “They are small, but we have very high hopes regarding Orange. We are working on trying to become more and more present in the Orange group.”

With a headcount of “between 50 and 55” and total VC investment of €26 million (US$31 million), Meyer is bullish on the company’s prospects (see VoluBill Scores $14M). “We believe we will not need any new funding rounds. We should hit break-even relatively soon and then generate return to our investors... We believe we could have an exit in the area of what P-Cube did with Cisco. We believe that, based on past and future success, we are shooting for a three-digit number for an exit.”

Grand ambitions -- though VoluBill’s strategy of selling indirectly and partnering with system integrators, such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and LogicaCMG plc (London/Amsterdam: LOG), does appear to be paying off (see HP Resells VoluBill and Logica, VoluBill Team Up).

VoluBill is the only remaining independent player in this space, following a spate of vendor fallouts and acquisition activity. Last week, struggling rival Megisto Systems Inc. sold its assets to Interactive Technology Holdings Ltd. for approximately $1 million, while ProQuent Systems Corp. in March announced a similar deal with Bytemobile Inc. (see Megisto Sells Up and Bytemobile Swallows ProQuent). On a more successful note, last month Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) acquired NetSpira Networks SL for a rumoured value of around $30 million, and in August 2004 Cisco bought P-Cube for a whopping $200 million (see Ericsson Acquires NetSpira and Cisco Plucks P-Cube for $200M).

“Unlike Megisto, Tahoe, and Proquent, we made the right decision when we started the company not to develop any specific hardware, but to instead adopt an open system strategy based on Linux OS,” explains Meyer. “We didn’t spend any money on hardware. The net result is we spent three times less than any of our competitors. That’s why the board is so happy with us. We have spent less than €20 million [$24 million] to date, so we still have a lot of cash in the bank.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

eurichardson 12/5/2012 | 3:08:41 AM
re: VoluBill Cranks Up
Mr. Meyer must be smoking something real strong when he says that he is expecting a 3-digit number for an exit. I predict that Volubill will be the next one to shut down, if they don't find a buyer soon. Their list of customers (Haiti, Pakistan, Algeria, etc) is a clear sign that none of the mainstream mobile operators see any value in Volubill's product. It will be difficult for Volubill to sustain their business for long, based on revenues from these Tier 4 operators.
lrmobile_leonardo 12/5/2012 | 3:08:37 AM
re: VoluBill Cranks Up VoluBill won tier 1/tier 2 operators like Airtel in India, STC in Saudia, Globe Telecom in Philipines..(large millions of subscribers).
These operators arn't Tier 4 operators as suggested by GeorgeWblair.
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