Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) landed a unique deal when BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) named its primary 21CN equipment suppliers last week: It was the only vendor awarded a network category (i-node) all to itself (see BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers and BT Picks Ericsson for 21CN).

But that doesn't mean it'll only be supplying Ericsson technology for BT's "Intelligent Nodes," where the carrier will house technology such as softswitches, IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) elements, and bandwidth managers. "We're supplying the core of the i-node, the Telephony Softswitch [a.k.a. Engine Softswitch]," but discussions are ongoing about the potential partnerships required to deliver other functionality, says Karl Thedeen, VP of Ericsson's wireline business.

For instance, he says that BT's bandwidth management requirements will be met by a combination of Ericsson technology, which will support QOS setups and service provisioning, and technology from as yet unspecified partners.

And Thedeen wouldn't comment on the commercial terms of Ericsson's agreement with BT: "All I can say is that it was a very tough and competitive process. BT has been very demanding on its cutting-edge technology demands, and has made its choice based on our technology and our financial stability."

He adds that Ericsson's "mobile competence made us a more complete partner for BT," which has stressed the importance of interactivity between 21CN and other carriers' mobile networks.

Ericsson's IMS experience was also a factor, adds Thedeen. "IMS was not an immediate selection criterion as such, but it was important that we could show a clear evolution path from what we are providing now to where BT wants to move to in the future. BT has evaluated that migration." (See Ericsson Provides IMS to Telefónica , Ericsson Grabs Sprint IMS Win, Ericsson Demos IMS, and Telecom Italia Picks Ericsson for IMS.)

Graham Beniston, Heavy Reading analyst at large, says Ericsson's selection for the i-node domain "underlines the impact of fixed-mobile service convergence on BT's thinking, and endorses the decision of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute Tispan group to base all NGN services on an IMS core. Ericsson clearly has a lead in being a major vendor of mobile switches whilst having a solid background in TDM telephony." (See ETSI Drives Convergence Standard and ETSI Creates Tispan.)

Beniston also reckons Ericsson, and the other preferred suppliers, will be getting partnership instructions from BT. "BT will be stipulating its required partners for technology such as trunk media gateways and session border controllers. They won't just accept the proposed partners -- that's not how this process is working. BT has chosen its big vendor partners, and will get them to financially underwrite the smaller vendors BT wants them to work with."

That means there's still an opportunity for companies such as Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS), which had teamed up with unsuccessful bidder Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI), to get involved in 21CN, reckons Beniston (see Marconi in Turmoil).

Sonus is no stranger to BT, and its partnership with Marconi is believed to have been driven by BT's 21CN requirements (see HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up and Sonus Gets BT Stamp of Approval).

Beniston's not alone in thinking Sonus may still have a role to play. Citigroup analyst Alex Henderson says the "door is open for further i-node vendors to be named in the future." In a research note he says Marconi's exclusion was "a clear disappointment for Sonus," but adds that BT says the i-node category "is very likely to see additional vendors named going forward."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:16:32 AM
re: Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party
Ericsson says it will bring in partners to augment its softswitch. Why would anybody think that this had anything to do with Sonus? Sonus supplies competing not complementary product.....

goergies 12/5/2012 | 3:16:24 AM
re: Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party Does Graham Beniston have shares in Sonus. He is always using any chance to mention their name.

Why does he think they will be in BT at all.

Graham let it go man.
Graham Beniston 12/5/2012 | 3:16:23 AM
re: Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party No, I don't have any financial interest in SONUS! Or any of the other vendors, although I am a deferred Marconi pensioner :(

Sonus topped my comparative report on Carrier Peering SBCs withthe GSX 9000, and came 6th in my report on Trunk VoIP Media Gateways with the same product. BT realised that their trunk media gateways would be stranded assets, so told vendors they wanted media gateways where the TDM cards could be pulled and IP cards added.

My source on that information wishes to remain anonymous.

A senior BT spokesperson included the information about unpicking bids with multiple partners and cherry picking those wanted in a briefing last year.

Hope this helps.
Graham Beniston 12/5/2012 | 3:16:23 AM
re: Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party Ray's last paragraph is confusing. I've already pointed out that Session Border Controllers and Trunk VoIP Media Gateways are part of the Metro Node, not the i-node.

The i-node partners will be in different areas such as bandwidth management. Since everyone knows that the Marconi offering was technically very good, I could imagine Operax appearing here.
Kevin Mitchell 12/5/2012 | 3:16:23 AM
re: Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party Doesn't it seem strange that BT selected the major vendors for their key areas (I-Node, Metro, etc.) without knowing all that they are supplying? This makes for a confusing and likely prolonged interop testing period.

It does sound as if Ericsson will bring in a partner for the bandwidth management/policy control area although they do have a piece of that with their IP Service Engine (similiar to P Cube/Juniper SDX technology).

Sonus could have a shot where the MGs are deployed, in the metro nodes, but Alcatel, Cisco and Siemens all have their own solutions, so it's a long shot.
voyce_overipee 12/5/2012 | 3:16:16 AM
re: Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party Sonus topped my comparative report on Carrier Peering SBCs withthe GSX 9000, and came 6th in my report on Trunk VoIP Media Gateways with the same product.

dude, i read that HR report. your listing Sonus as an SBC vendor is itself a bad sign for the report's credibility. No one considers the GSX a real SBC. The fact your listed partners for sonus are all SBC vendors (acme, kagoor, jasomi, netrake) is kinda telling, dont ya think?

of course your claim that distributed sbc was the way of the future is also way off, but at least that one's defendable as an opinion. (based on marketing FUD, but at least an opinion)
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