Optical/IP Networks

2004 Leading Lights: Where Are They Now?

Tonight, Light Reading will present the second annual Leading Lights Awards, doling out very cool glass statue-thingies to 11 distinguished winners.

This year's finalists can be found here: Leading Lights Finalists. The names of the winners, after being revealed at our invitation-only dinner, will be released to the public Thursday morning.

Before we hand out this year's gongs, let's jump back 12 months to remind ourselves who picked up last year's accolades, and ask the critical question: Is a Leading Lights Award the leading indicator of future riches? Or does it come gift-wrapped with the telecoms equivalent of the Sports Illustrated cover curse?

So let's stroll through 2004's lucky winners and see how the past year has treated them:

  • Industry Statesman, Public Company: The winner in 2004 was Scott Kriens, CEO, Juniper Networks.

    Kriens is still a prolific speaker and his company still has street-cred in the carrier-class routing market. But (Nasdaq: JNPR) had something of a rocky year trying to integrate all those shotgun-style acquisitions with many executive comings and goings. (See Juniper to Acquire Kagoor, Juniper Takes Two: Peribit & Redline, Peribit Deal: More to Come, Juniper Gets Into $122M Funk, VP Jumps From Juniper, and Kittu Keeps the Kitty.)

    The company seems to have adopted a curious marketing and PR approach that allows it to say things like: "Juniper doesn't have an acquisition strategy." (See Juniper's Secret.)

    Bottom line? If Kriens wants to keep his golden rep in place, he'd better work on his marketing and his share price. Speaking of which...

  • Best Investment Potential, Public Company: Ah yes, Juniper Networks again!

    This chart says it all:

    We had our reasons to be optimistic. Juniper gained 44 percent in 2004, compared with a 20 percent loss for (Nasdaq: CSCO) shares. But this year? Zzzzz.

  • Best New Product, Public Company: Cisco's CRS-1.

    You can't underestimate how important this product was to Cisco. Even though the CRS-1's financial impact has been hard to determine, it's been successful on the marketing front, establishing that Cisco can at least keep up with -- and maybe even edge ahead of -- its rivals in the core. (See Cisco, Nortel Score Comcast Wins, China Telecom Selects Cisco, Cisco's CRS-1 Charms C&W, and Cisco's CRS-1 Gets Edgy.)

  • Best New Service, Public Company: Vodafone's 3G Service won last year.

    OK, so we were excited about 3G, and Vodafone Group plc's (NYSE: VOD) relatively high-speed mobile data service seemed to work, so the award was earned and deserved. But things have moved on, and the acronyms are getting longer -- HSDPA, anyone? (See Voodoo Cranks Up 3G.)

  • Best Marketing, Public Company: Motorola took the honors in 2004.

    Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has always been out there as a mobility powerhouse, but this year the company stepped up and began aggressively marketing its telecom infrastructure capabilities. It has since quickly made a name for itself with some high-profile wins with major carriers. (See Moto Gets a Piece of Verizon FTTP.)

    And the company's work around the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture, or AdvancedTCA , has yielded more than 50 customer seminars, more than 15 conference and Webinar presentations, and a whole pile of press releases and white papers all hammering home the company's early market leadership in this very important area of the telecom equipment market. (See ATCA Needs Platform Thinking and ATCA Starts to Rumble.)

  • Best M&A Strategy, Public Company: Alcatel.

    It looks like Alcatel's (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) acquisition of TiMetra in 2003 was perhaps one of the most successful networking acquisitions ever. Alcatel now has a real edge in new services deployments, particularly for IPTV; Cisco even alluded to the product's success as one reason for the acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta Inc. (NYSE: SFA). (See Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal, Routers Answer IPTV Call, Alcatel Router Revenues Surge, and Sci-Atlanta: Cisco's IPTV Lifeline?.)

    So, top marks in the IP router market. But not every acquisition is smelling of roses yet. The strategy behind the Spatial Wireless softswitch acquisition looked solid, but there are signs that all's not well in the field. (See Tekelec Takes a Hit on Cingular.)

    Still, the vendor's ebullient CEO Serge Tchuruk is talking up Spatial as a 2006 go-getter, so we'll keep an eye on how that turns out. (See Alcatel Serges on Triple Play .)

  • Industry Statesman, Private Company: Jeffrey Citron, CEO, Vonage

    Well, Citron's still loud, ubiquitous, and talking up Vonage Holdings Corp.'s success and prospects to anyone or anything that will sit still long enough to listen. But there's still no sign of an IPO or mind-boggling acquisition, and with the major carriers and online world's big hitters muscling in on the IP telephony market, time's running out... (See Vonage Hearing Buy-Out Bids.)

  • Top M&A or IPO Candidate, Private Company: BigBand Networks took the award last year.

    BigBand Networks Inc. also appears as a finalist this year, in the one category you don't really want to repeat. The company didn't implode or anything, but frankly, we expected bigger things. Like an IPO. Or an acquisition.

  • Best New Product, Private Company: Acopia's Adaptive Resource Switch (ARX) From what we've heard, Acopia's doing well, and has even sold some stuff to big wigs such as Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO). In the past year, it updated the ARX, pumped out a "baby brother" version, and expanded its reach to Europe. File under "Good Call." (See Acopia Unveils New ARX Products, Acopia Goes Remote, and Acopia Goes to Europe .)

  • Best New Service, Private Company: Skype Technologies' Skype 1.0 got the judges's nod in 2004.

    EBay. Billions of dollars. 'Nuff said. (See EBay Buys Skype for $2.6B.)

  • Best Marketing, Private Company: Atrica won in 2004.

    Yeah, Atrica Inc. is all about carrier-class Ethernet, and that's good stuff. Repeated wins with (NYSE: FTE), not bad. (See FT Heralds Ethernet Breakthrough.)

    But everybody seems to be talking carrier-class Ethernet nowadays -- Cisco in particular -- and there's also the potential for Ethernet-centric multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPPs) to become a competitor. (See Carrier Ethernet Makes Its Move, MEF Rubber Stamps Ethernet Gear, and Ethernet Stalks the MSPP.) At least Atrica got its message out while the getting was good, but whether it can maintain the same sort of marketing momentum without fast-talking evangelist Nan Chen remains to be seen. (See Chen's Outta Atrica.)

    — The Staff, Light Reading

  • For more information on the Leading Lights Awards, click here.

  • For more information on The Light Reading Telecom Investment Conference, click here.

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