When FIQAS really took off, back in the mid-1990s, the market situation was very different than it is today. It seemed interesting for me to look back on our past and contrast it with my ideas for the future.
Pioneers and cowboys
FIQAS already started in the telecom market before liberalization was a reality. At that time, pioneering parties were busy doing business working around the existing legislation. The PTT demanded a fairly high price per call, so others tried to capture some of that market by charging a lower price, with a service based on the callback principle. We worked for parties that made you first call an American number, then hang up, to be immediately called back. Then you could call for a lower price. FIQAS catered for the rating of the call detail records. Though the market was not free at that time, one could benefit from cheaper rates even then. Some of these parties, which started a bit like cowboys, later went on with their own networks and carriers.
Flexibility for new market players
Before the market opened up, there were monopolists who worked with their own large systems. Suddenly, there were smaller players requiring systems that were smaller and less expensive, but especially more flexible. To compete against the big market parties and thus gain market share, these new players offered better pricing and specific discounts. This imposed special requirements on the billing system. Interestingly, the billing chain process steps we worked out at the time have actually remained almost the same throughout the years. The only difference is that we now offer this flexibility not just to market challengers, but to established names as well.
After the hype and bubble-burst of 2000
In the run-up to the 2000 bubble burst nothing was too crazy for telecom companies who one way or the other were also involved in the internet. As long as they were conquering market share, they would attract investors. The bubble burst when investors realized that many of the telecom companies were not making money. After that, it became ever more important to achieve healthy returns. Of course we could help with that. After the hype, around 2001, we formed an alliance with a company that provided switches and a company that organized mediation. Our job was to provide billing for international telecom companies that set up their network in this way.
From telco to other industries
The billing process in the telecom market is quite complex. This has been advantageous for FIQAS. Because we had a system that could effortlessly operate for telecom companies, we could easily move into other, less complex markets and serve customers there as well. But the telecom market had its own dynamics too… Providers worked out that telecom networks, in addition to phone calls, could also be used for sending data. So they started offering phone, tv and internet in multi-play packages. There it was and still is important that customers receive an invoice that combines all of these services. That is what FIQAS provides: a convergent invoice, that ensures a complete overview for every customer.
What we have learned from our past
If you sell something in a certain way, for example, with specific discounts on certain days or times, you also want to be able to invoice accordingly. We enable our customers to do so, and we learned how to do that thanks to the experience we gained in our early days.
In my next article I will connect the past to the future. I will dig deeper into the challenges that the telecom market and other markets are facing. I will look ahead to the next generation products FIQAS is working on.
Managing director FIQAS Software B.V.
FIQAS is an authority on invoicing processes, established in 1989, with renowned international customers and operating from Aalsmeer (greater Amsterdam area).