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Genband on the Run

Phil Harvey
News Analysis
Phil Harvey

Media gateway vendor General Bandwidth Inc. is on the move again. The company has lately caught some momentum in the media gateway market and it's also literally moving.

After five years in Austin, General Bandwidth is shortening its name to Genband and taking its new moniker to some new digs in Plano, Texas, in the building where DSC Communications Corp. once lived before it was taken out by Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). The firm is also rebranding itself, revealing its new partners, releasing new products, and even talking about mergers and acquisitions.

On the surface, those changes seem minor, compared to what the company's been through since the telecom recession. (See Alcatel Reins In General Bandwidth.) But the larger point is that Genband's new group of managers, led by Charlie Vogt, of Taqua (now Tekelec ) fame, is dead set on remaking yet another once-ailing company into something larger than a single-point product vendor. (See General Bandwidth Drafts New CEO.)

In that vein, Genband announced today it is rolling out two new products -- and both new devices are the fruits of the company's very quiet acquisition of Menlo Park, Calif. gateway maker Syndeo Corp.

Syndeo's backers spent more than $100 million building its products, but Genband won't say how much it paid for the company. The company has said, however, that the buy gives it an expanded presence in the cable market, where it counts Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. and RCN Corp. as customers.

The first new product is the C2 Signaling Controller, a device for connecting SIP networks to legacy SS7 networks and databases. The other new box is the S4 Applications Server, a device that gives operators a way to provide Class 5 services (call-forwarding, call waiting, caller ID, etc.) to residential and small business VOIP customers.

These two devices are now being sold separately, and in combination with the G6 -- Genband's flagship gateway that allows packet-based voice calls to traverse legacy, circuit-based networks -- as part of an IMS strategy that Genband's partners are pitching to carriers worldwide. (See HR Ranks General Bandwidth First.)

Genband has also added to its partner roster, which now includes Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. , in addition to earlier investors such as Alcatel and Siemens. (See Siemens Gets Closer to Gen Band.) With the three partners, Genband is simultaneously chasing business in wireline networks, cable networks, and wireless networks, where it has just started pitching itself as one of many vendors that can help operators backhaul wireless traffic via pseudowire emulation.

But it's in the new telco and cable access networks where some analysts see Genband's immediate opportunity. In the telco space, specifically, new fiber-fed networks require a way to handle lots of voice subscribers, without necessarily scrapping all the installed digital loop carriers and Class 5 switches serving those lines now.

"We might see the addressable FTTP market move from greenfield to brownfield or overlay," says Matt Davis, an analyst at IDC . "If that happens, companies like Genband will have a pretty good opportunity." (See General Bandwidth Wins FTTH Deal and General Bandwidth VOIPs FTTP.)

Genband already counts AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) as its customers. (See General Bandwidth Inks Alcatel Deal and SBC Picks Alcatel for FTTP.) And in the cable space, a similar pitch is made. Genband says it can provide the boxes to transition calls to and from the PSTN and the company can enable Class 5 services over cable-fed VOIP connections.

With its new products and partners, Genband is better able to take on competitors like Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Alcatel, Nuera Communications Inc. , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), to name a few.

But what's the company's next move?

The recent addition of a new CFO (Jan Gaulding, former CFO at Sevin Rosen Funds ), as well as the product expansion, could lead one to believe Genband is looking for an exit, however casually. CEO Vogt told Light Reading the company will pursue "M&A where and when it makes sense," but he wouldn't be any more specific.

An analyst who did not want to be named said Genband would be a good fit inside an already established provider of next-generation access networks -– like Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) or Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT).

Vogt, again, wouldn't comment on that. But he does note that Genband had $20 million in sales last year and he expects the company to turn a profit by the third quarter of this year. What's more, he sees growth being slow and steady, since he says carriers will take "at least a decade" to migrate their legacy networks to IMS-capable networks.

If Genband can keep pace and show some growth, why not go public?

"With… 100% growth expectations in 2006, we believe that our growing portfolio of product and solutions will form the foundation of a company that the public markets are looking for," Vogt writes in an email response to Light Reading.

Not exactly a denial, was it?

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:36 AM
re: Genband on the Run
Anyone think these guys will still be a standalone company in '07?
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:29 AM
re: Genband on the Run
These guys will likely not be standalone if Charlie can flip this P.O.S if at all possible. Caution: Look at what Tekelec is going to do to Taqua (shut it down as L.R. reported)! Good Luck!
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:24 AM
re: Genband on the Run

I am guessing from your flippant response that you know very little about GenBand. While Charlie's "MO" is to ready companies for acquisition, that is not always a bad thing.

GenBand is a quality company that has outstanding product. Just ask any of GB's customers. Taqua is not even comparable to GB. I commend Charlie for being able to sell a company that had no real revenue and questionable intellectual property.
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:49:10 AM
re: Genband on the Run
I also agree that Genband is a great company that it has developed a very good product. But,, I can only hope that they don't sell out. Instead, I hope they go public. It is my understanding that the stock options granted the original employees, engineers and sales forces.. (you know.. the ones that worked round the clock.. lived on airplanes for the early years of the company) will be worthless if there is a sale. Only way to benefit from options promised by the company will be for the company to go public. This is thanks to the company policy changes of the last 4 years. Wish they couldnGÇÖt go back on their word and original employment contracts once they make promises to employees, but unfortunately, they are free to change those types of commitments without regard to what was originally promised to the employees. So I maybe way off base here, but I think there are a boatload of us that wish them all the success in the world and hope they go public.
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