EuroProfile: Volubill

Increasing demand for policy management and real-time charging capabilities is giving Volubill a boost

April 9, 2010

4 Min Read
EuroProfile: Volubill

When John Aalbers, the CEO of Volubill , wakes up each morning, he's soon struck by the same thought: Why do I work for a company that has the word "bill" in it when we don't sell billing systems?

It's a dilemma he wishes he had dealt with a few years back, he tells Light Reading, and it's a double whammy too, because with the name starting with a V, it always appears way down the list of attending companies whenever Volubill books space at an industry event.

But even after a beer or three, Aalbers can't be persuaded that renaming the company Aardvark Telecom is a good idea. (Anyway, the name's already taken.)

Besides, he has other things to occupy his time.

Like other companies that specialize in policy management systems, Volubill is busy responding to RFPs from all over the world, as service providers in mature markets trapped in flat-rate marketing strategies try to figure out how to manage the growing demand for, and use of, data services that are putting pressure on their networks but not delivering greater revenues. (See Policy Matters to Mobile, Policy Players Prosper, and Policy Matters to Mobile Broadband Operators.)

It's a challenge that Aalbers and his team are seeing time and time again, but he believes there's a manageable way out of that particular fix that doesn't involve an across-the-board cost-per-megabyte approach.

Instead, Volubill proposes the reconnection of operators' cost and revenue models based on market segmentation models. It's all about developing new business models based on graduated service levels and stepped charging that's developed with particular types of users in mind, such as online gamers, says the CEO.

That kind of deep market segmentation, based on multiple criteria (customer type, location, device, application, personal user preference, and so on) can only be achieved if a service provider ties its traffic management, policy control, and charging capabilities together. Dealing with those functions individually just won't work, Aalbers says.

That kind of strategic thinking, along with platforms that enable policy control, real-time charging, and revenue management, has opened doors in the past few years. Volubill, which had its early success in developing markets with its real-time charging platform, but is now also breaking into more mature markets with its policy control offering, now claims more than 70 customers in 40 markets, including some big names, and has now achieved profitability. (See Tata Turns to Volubill, IPKO Deploys Volubill, Orange Botswana Picks Volubill, Volubill Wins African Deals, and STC Deploys VoluBill.)

Table 1: Volubill Cheat Sheet

Company name


Location (headquarters)

London (but registered in France)



Key executives

CEO John Aalbers, head of sales Ben McCafferty, CFO Anne Gabrot

Headcount and key locations

About 150 and rising, with bases in the UK, France (Grenoble), Denmark (Copenhagen), and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

Company focus (market sector, core proposition)

Real-time charging, with CHARGE-IT platform, and policy control, with CONTROL-IT platform


About �35 million, with most recent round in 2007. Three lead investors - Sofinnova Ventures, Seventure, XAnge


Targeting �23 million in 2010

Profitability (operating or net income)

Profitable at operating and net level in 2009

Headline customers/key accounts

Bharti Airtel, Orange Group (France Telecom), Orascom Telecom

Main competitors

Ericsson, Huawei, Bridgewater, Camiant, Openet

Company motto

"Shaking up data services"

CEO's favorite movie

Breakfast at Tiffany's

In fact, the company claims to have recently landed four new deals in a six-week period, including a breakthrough account in North America about which Aalbers can't yet disclose further information. (See Volubill Touts Policy Deals .)

That means Aalbers is getting busier, and hiring new blood. But he's not just waiting for RFPs to drop into his inbox -- he's heading to pastures new to hunt down new potential customers, and, for the first time, Volubill is attending the TM Forum 's Management World event in Nice, France (May 18-20), where the Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) community gathers each year. (See The SPIT Manifesto.)

And Aalbers and his team know how to attract a crowd -- appeal to the attendees' liquid needs. During the day, the Volubill stand will host Light Reading's favorite barista, Daisy Rollo. And if you haven't tasted Daisy's coffee, you haven't yet lived. (See BBWF's Liquid Gold.)

And once folk are wired to the ceiling on a caffeine high, they can then switch later in the day to a Caipirinha, courtesy of the cocktail bar staff that will relieve Daisy of her duties.

Do show floor plans get any finer than that? If they do, please use the message boards below, because I can't think of any right now.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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