China Unicom Picks Starent
Starent Networks Corp. has won a "multi-million dollar, multi-year contract" to supply China Unicom Ltd. -- the second largest mobile operator in China – with wireless routers for its forthcoming CDMA 1xRTT network.
The deal appears to eclipse any deal so far announced by the other startups working in the wireless router arena (see Having a Flutter on the GGSNs). It seems that China Unicom will employ the Starent product as a packet data service node (PDSN) –- the technical term for a CDMA wireless router -- to provide services like wireless email and Web access to its customers.
Unicom currently has around 36.14 million subscribers on its older GSM network and 2.28 million customers on its newer CDMA network. Now the operator is looking to install a 1xRTT network, to enable it to offer faster data services to customers.
"They're making a very strong move into CDMA 1xRTT," says Starent's VP of product marketing, Gennady Sirota. He expects an initial rollout before the end of this year, with a more concentrated push in 2003.
Now, regular readers may find this a little strange. When we briefly spoke to the Unicom folk back in May they said they didn't plan to offer a vast array of data services just yet.
"We understand data services are the future," Jiangbo Zhou, senior manager of the IR department at Unicom said, but, for the moment, "SMS is king."
So Unstrung thinks that the initial rollouts of the CDMA 1xRTT network will be in the business districts of mainland China, where customers could actually have a need for wireless email access. Starent's Sirota backs this up, saying that part of the testing process for its products carried out by the Ministry of Industry and Information (MII) concerned its VPN capabilities.
Mobile VPNs are an essential part of enabling secure wireless links between carriers and their enterprise customers. "VPNs are a major part of all this," allows Sirota.
Sirota wasn't wildly comfortable talking about the major players Starent beat to win this PDSN contract. But certainly many of the big names have been after -- and in some cases won -- a slice of this lucrative business (see When Figures Don't Match).
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com