Check Point's Chary Customer

Firewall stalwart Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) is hyping up its ambitions to dominate the cellular network security market, despite the last-minute no-show of its latest European customer at an industry briefing in London today.

The Israeli vendor -- regarded as the number one firewall player for enterprise networks in the fixed Internet sector -- is attempting to incorporate its firewall software into cellular networks against rival offerings from the likes of NetScreen Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: NSCN).

Check Point currently claims eleven existing cellular network customers worldwide, all of which remain officially unannounced. According to David Aminzade, EMEA wireless manager, five belong to Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), and two form part of T-Mobile International AG's empire.

A European addition to this selection was expected to be announced today in London, but the carrier apparently got camera-shy due to “reasons beyond the company’s control,” Check Point says.

Naturally, Aminzade plays down any concern over the non-appearance, emphasizing instead the low level of carrier development in this space.

“The majority of carriers remain unaware of the potential for hackers to attack their wireless data networks,” he tells Unstrung. “Once operators open roaming agreements, for example, they have no control of who is coming onto their networks and the potential problems they could cause. Cellular firewalling is uncharted territory, but we expect to dominate the cellular industry in the same way we have dominated the IP Internet security market.”

Analysts believe the company will only achieve such ambitions by proving reliability and quality to a skeptical carrier market.

“Check Point’s core strength is its understanding of enterprise data networks, but the company doesn’t have the same level of relationships with carriers as other, potential competitors,” comments Steve Brazier, CEO of Canalys.com Ltd. “I would expect them to come up against competition from Nortel Networks Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc., LM Ericsson, Nokia Corp., and Alcatel SA.

However, the man from Canalys thinks that Check Point is talking a good fight. "The points they are making about the weaknesses of cellular data networks are spot on, though,” Brazier says. "It is a growth area and they are certainly in the right space."

But the question remains, can Check Point convert the talk into carrier customers, especially ones that aren't afraid of the spotlight?

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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