The Awards Dinner was the culmination of several weeks of hard work. The winners, in each case, are real winners, having survived three months of scrutiny and debate by a staff of more than 20 editors and analysts from Light Reading and its leading market-research division, Heavy Reading. Light Reading received more than 300 awards nominations in all, and each one was screened by our editors and analysts.
Once the initial screening was complete, a list of "contenders" was handed over to an elite panel of judges consisting of Scott Raynovich, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading; Scott Clavenna, Chief Analyst, Heavy Reading; and Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading.
After some conference calls and a few email threads that, when printed, could paper the Pacific Coast Highway, our judging panel came to a consensus in each of the 11 awards categories.
For a complete rundown of the nominees, please check out: Leading Lights Awards Finalists. The winners are as follows...
(NYSE: LU) has taken its lumps in these pages, but the company came on strong in 2005. With IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), Russo has transformed Lucent from a sad-sack layoffs machine into a relevant next-generation networking company. And Lucent has backed up the talk – more about that later – with wins at the triumvirate of (NYSE: BLS), Cingular Wireless LLC, and (NYSE: SBC), with (NYSE: VZ) reportedly in the wings.
Another company that went through hard times, Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) rebounded from a bankruptcy filing and a 1-for-73 reverse split to become a factor in the IPTV craze. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and (Nasdaq: JNPR) still provide stiff competition, but their stocks flagged this year while Redback soared. A key win at BellSouth indicated the strength of Redback's technology; investors can look forward to a potential win with Verizon and the possibility of profitability in 2006.
The "universal" switch seems indicative of the telecom industry's direction, as Ethernet begins to hold sway in carrier networks. 's (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) 1850 presages the trend of multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPP) that are more Ethernet than "multiservice," and while the box is only available in Europe so far, it appears to be a solid representative of future network developments.
IPTV isn't a reality for most consumers yet, but fiber-to-the-home can be. By skipping the IPTV step for now, going instead with tried-and-true RF video delivery, Verizon has gotten a step ahead of SBC's Project Lightspeed and BellSouth's fiber plans. Yes, Asian broadband still kicks U.S. butt. Verizon, though, has shown that the big RBOCs really can deliver when the pressure is on, and FiOS is hopefully a harbinger of better things to come.
Lucent has grabbed hold of the conversation on fixed/mobile convergence and put its name in the forefront of IMS discussion. That's given the company a hook for its ongoing recovery story and revived Lucent's name as a technology contender. Competitors have been cornered into responding – including, arguably, Cisco, which touted IMS at its recent analyst conference but also stressed the importance of non-IMS applications, as if to dilute the press IMS has been getting.
Cisco makes so many acquisitions that its strategy is like a horoscope: On any given day, you can dummy up a reason why it makes sense. But Cisco's buys this year go beyond hand-waving mysticism. The company still acquires tiny companies with key technology (Nemo Systems, NetSift Inc.) or bigger ones that expand its network reach (FineGround Networks, Sheer Networks). This year could mark a major turning point for Cisco, though, as the pending Scientific-Atlanta Inc. (NYSE: SFA) purchase strengthens Cisco's video story and – alongside the KiSS Technology pickup – could catapult the company into the home-networking arena.
Maybe her management style has softened a bit (or maybe not), but Lo still commands attention. Ruckus Wireless Inc. stands out from the wireless LAN crowd with its plans for unwiring the networked home with an eye toward multimedia quality of service. A deal with (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008) is the feather in Lo's cap and provides another reason to keep an ear to the ground for Ruckus.
A cynic would note that Force10 Networks Inc. hasn't gone public after a couple years of apparent success. At least it hasn't graced Light Reading's Top Ten Private Companies as often as Calix Networks Inc. With revenues of $60 million projected for this year and a slate of customers that includes Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), and ESPN, Force10 seems primed for a big move.
Though wireless LAN is on the rise, the technology itself is starting to seem commonplace – until you come across something like this. Claiming the speed throne for now, Airgo Networks Inc. has produced a 240-Mbit/s chipset (average throughput of 120 Mbit/s), a fine example of multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) technology put to use, with a dash of coolness for a slowly commoditizing WLAN world.
VOIP peering could be a crucial element of future telecom networks. Other efforts are afoot to help out VOIP upstarts, but InfiniRoute Networks Inc. has a VOIP peering service that caters to Tier 1 carriers, giving them a chance to use VOIP to reach into new territory. That's a potential revenue and market-share booster for the big service providers, not to mention a way to help them boost their VOIP stories. VOIP peering is cool technology, but InfiniRoute might have found the best path to a solid payback.
Credit the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) for getting the job done. In two years, they've helped make carrier Ethernet a serious, even vital, element of the equipment world. The certification program is what will make the concept fly, though, by giving equipment vendors the guidelines to what "carrier Ethernet" means to the carriers. That kind of homogeneity is what's kept Ethernet alive all these decades, and it's what will power carrier Ethernet as well.
— The Staff, Light Reading