HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up

With some industry folk still scratching their heads over the raison d'etre for the VOIP equipment partnership between Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) and Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONSE), a Heavy Reading analyst reckons he's figured out the underlying technical reason for the deal (see Marconi & Sonus Team for Next-Gen).

Marconi, which announced its latest interim results today, is reselling Sonus's high-capacity media gateway when it has one of its own (see Marconi Reports Q2 Results). Marconi says Sonus's product is good as a centralized trunk gateway, while its own is better as an edge gateway in a distributed architecture.

That arrangement fits neatly with BT Group plc's (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA) plans for its next-generation network, or 21st century network (21CN), which is the subject of a special SuperWebinar to be presented by senior BT executives tomorrow.

Marconi is heavily involved with BT as the carrier moves towards its initial infrastructure procurement decisions, and some say that BT's specifications for 21CN are behind the Marconi/Sonus tie-up (see Marconi Softswitches With BT and Vendors Detail Gear in BT VOIP Trials).

And in a conference call about the vendor's financial performance in the first half of the current fiscal year today, CEO Mike Parton said Marconi has a "very good chance of winning a good piece" of 21CN business.

But Heavy Reading analyst-at-large Graham Beniston questions whether Marconi's explanation, that the Sonus gateway is a better centralized network element, tells the full story. He believes the ability to transform Sonus's gateway into a session border controller, which can manage VOIP traffic across the interconnects of separate IP networks, is a key factor in the partnership.

"Marconi has a perfectly good media gateway, as was shown by the product comparisons in our recent report [see Heavy Reading Reports on VOIP]. But I think BT worked out that deploying large trunk gateways is something of a temporary arrangement. When BT's competition catches up with it and is offering VOIP, then BT will need IP-to-IP interconnection capabilities, and the trunk media gateways will become stranded assets."

However, those potential redundant gateways could be put to good use if they could be transformed into session border controllers, and that can be done with the Sonus gateway, but not the Marconi product (see Sonus Takes Session Control).

"With the Sonus gateway you can replace the TDM card with an IP card, and once that transition is complete the gateway becomes the media proxy part of a distributed session border controller architecure that's controlled by a centralized softswitch. The Marconi product can't do that, and I think Marconi fell behind in its R&D in this area. That's probably one of the reasons Marconi has forged a relationship with [carrier-grade session border controller vendor] Newport Networks Ltd.," reckons Beniston (see Marconi Resells Newport Session Controller).

BT is due to report on the progress of its 21CN trials on Thursday, when it unveils its latest financials, as well as in the Webinar on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Marconi's interim financials sent its share price soaring on the London Stock Exchange by 23.5 pence, nearly 5 percent, to 528.5 pence. The company reported increasing levels of customer activity, and an increase in gross margins and lower operating losses on second-quarter revenues that were flat with the same period last year at £305 million ($566 million).

BT was Marconi's largest single customer, accounting for nearly a third of all revenues.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

For more on BT's next-generation network plans, check out the coming Light Reading SuperWebinar: BT's 21st Century Network

jlcsig 12/5/2012 | 1:06:00 AM
re: HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up Intersting Angle....
However the Session Border Controller vendors would have you beleive that a softswitch-based architecture (such as Sonus) can never come close to replicating a stand-alone box for session border control.

How much of that is acurate versus self-preservation?
Graham Beniston 12/5/2012 | 1:05:53 AM
re: HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up I've interviewed 25 SBC vendors for Heavy Reading over the last 4 weeks, and I detect a move towards distributed operation. Be sure to catch my Light Reading webinar on SBCs on December 2nd!
dljvjbsl 12/5/2012 | 1:05:53 AM
re: HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up So the selection of the Sonus MG is purely about economy in that it can become a border controller. Does this, as it seems, imply that BT sees MGs as very temporary (two or three years) elements of the network?
Kevin Mitchell 12/5/2012 | 1:05:51 AM
re: HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up I disagree.

Sonus has no traction with their SBC functionality and Marconi already has the relationship with Newport for SBCs.

The HR analyst talked w/ 25 SBC vendors??? That's a stretch of definition to say there are 25 vendors in that space.

Nice plug for HR
Graham Beniston 12/5/2012 | 1:05:42 AM
re: HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up In defining SBCs, I include border signalling proxies embedded in softswitches, so I asked as manuy softswitch vendors as possible if they were including this functionality. The answers were mixed. But there are a surprising number of Session Bordr Controller vendors per se out there. I also included those whose products were purely for the enterprise. To get some idea, just do a google search on "session border controller"!
Graham Beniston 12/5/2012 | 1:05:42 AM
re: HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up So the selection of the Sonus MG is purely about economy in that it can become a border controller. Does this, as it seems, imply that BT sees MGs as very temporary (two or three years) elements of the network?

> I would guess that is the perception. BT usually like to buy equipment with a 15 year lifecycle. I would also guess that they will go for a distributed model, where the softswitch handles all of the signalling proxy/B2BUA, and the SONUS is the media proxy.