Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25

The "Unstrung 25" started life as a list of interesting startups and entrepreneurs, but now it's taken on a different guise -- a couple of guises, in fact. We've already unveiled one of them: our list of the top 25 public companies, whose shares we track in the Unstrung Index. Now we're gearing up to unveil our second Unstrung 25 -- of private companies.

Our first official list will be published next month, but we want to get the ball rolling now on the selection process. More specifically, we want to get input on what startups you consider to be particularly hot -- hot meaning that they have the best chance of hitting the jackpot in terms of getting bought for megabucks or being suitable fodder for an eventual IPO, if and when that idea comes back into fashion.

Our Unstrung 25 list of top private companies is going to be a little different from the Unstrung 25 lists of old. For a kickoff, we're carving it up into five categories, so only five startups in a particular market will be able to call themselves an "Unstrung Hero." We're also going to make a bigger thing out of explaining why Company X is ranked second while Company Y is third, to spice things up a bit.

Our Unstrung Heroes are also going to have to keep on their toes. We're planning to add new startups to the Top 5 lists in each market segment whenever we feel like it (which is likely to be often). And of course, when we add a startup, we'll have to drop one. Won't that be agonizing?

In order to get things started and stir up some controversy, we're unveiling our five categories and some possible candidates for Unstrung Hero honors in this article. This is just to get the discussion going. Nothing is set in stone.

What you need to do
Comment on our tentative picks on the message board at the foot of this story.

We also encourage you to propose alternative candidates on the message board, but if you do so, please follow these rules:
  • Name the market category
  • Give your reasons for proposing a company
  • Don't post propaganda from marketing literature
  • Don't propose stealth-mode startups that won't disclose what they're developing
  • Make it brief
  • Name the company that should be dropped to make way for your proposal
  • Don't send us private proposals; post them on the message board so they can be discussed in public.

    We also encourage all readers to rate posts, giving the lowest rating (1) to messages that make no serious case for a company or ramble on interminably. We'll delete messages that waste readers' time.

    So, here are the categories and our tentative contenders. Let us know what you think.

    Service Providers
    We're not just talking mobile operators here. This could be any sort of service provider making its mark with wireless technology, from WLANs to virtual mobile network operators to companies that provide services to the wireless operators themselves.

    Some of the possible contenders in this category are:

    Boingo Wireless Inc. -- A wow in WiFi.
    Telephia Inc. -- Data delivery and services to the wireless community.
    airBand Communication Inc. -- Wireless broadband for businesses.
    Megabeam -- Bringing 802.11 to Europe.
    Monzoon Networks AG -- Making sure the Swiss don't miss out on WLAN access.

    Solid kit is what we're talking about here. Boxes shipped in boxes. Who could make it into this Top 5?

    MeshNetworks Inc. -- If Bluetooth/802.11b mesh network kit is your bag.
    Flarion Technologies -- OFDM base station meisters. Has trials with Nextel.
    ArrayComm Inc. -- Spectral efficiency kit. Helped persuade the FCC to have a TDD auction this year.
    Tahoe Networks -- Wireless Internet hardware. Cited as key competitor by Cisco (or so we hear).
    Cambridge Positioning Systems -- Location-based services kit for the network.

    But it doesn't include components companies because…

    …they have their own Top 5! Processors, antennas, et al. Names in the frame are:

    Atheros Communications -- Multimode chipmaker. Has Intel as a customer.
    CSR -- Bluetooth gurus in the semiconductor field.
    SkyCross Inc. -- Adaptive antennas that can cover 2GHz-5GHz for devices.
    XtremeSpectrum -- New on the scene, making ultrawideband chips.
    Ashvattha Semiconductor -- GSM/GPRS/GPS/Bluetooth, all on one chip.

    Then we break into the wonderful world of software, with a double-whammy for the writers of code.

    Software I: Applications and Development
    There are plenty of you out there, selling service delivery solutions, developing the software for the applications developers, and, of course, creating the applications themselves. So come on, don't be shy! Up for consideration are:

    Webraska Mobile Technologies SA -- Merger with AirFlash added "software application development platform."
    PacketVideo Corp. -- Strong partnership program and impressive customer list.
    Digital Bridges Ltd. -- Games and entertainment delivery platform and games publishing. Backed by Apax Partners.
    Air2Web Inc. -- Application delivery platform targeted at enterprise customers.
    Seven Networks Inc. -- You can’t sniff at deals with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Cingular Wireless, and Sprint PCS (NYSE: PCS).

    And where would the wireless carriers be without their back-office software?

    Software II: OSS, Billing, CRM
    That's right: the sector known as "dull but worthy" by those not working in it, and "absolutely essential to the operators and service providers -- and it's not as unsexy as many people think" to those on the inside.

    So we want to know which companies have the best packages for wireless service providers. Knocking on the door in this category are:

    Cerillion Technologies Ltd. -- Creating a niche with billing systems for the smaller mobile operator.
    Cellglide -- Traffic management is its game.
    Am-Beo -- Rating and revenue chain management specialists.
    Watchmark Corp. -- Service assurance, with some big name customers.
    Cramer Systems -- One for the wireless engineers: hardcore OSS for wireless nets.

    So get on the message boards, if you think you've got what it takes! Keep an eye out for the first rankings next month.

    — The Staff, Unstrung
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    mobileyedi 12/4/2012 | 9:10:07 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 anyone knows what they are doing in Vodafone UK with the GPRS? How is that connected to the WLAN solution? Very interested...

    Any other references carrierguy?

    lrmobile_wificonsultant 12/4/2012 | 9:10:42 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 Have a look at "Airpath" (www.airpath.com) at the States. It seems like Airpath and Wireless creation have a very similar back-ofice-solution. I read about the solution of wireless Creation a few month ago. It looks like the right thing for Europe, because of the consideration of the market's special needs. Also it seems like a professional solution, because Siemens is using it, too.
    spc_bakerboy 12/4/2012 | 9:16:52 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 Ok Dan. You asked for it:

    In use at the moment with:

    Redstone, NTL, GTS, Jersey Telecom, TeleGreenland, Maltacom, Manx Telecom. In implementation with three others.

    It is not the only thing that we do. There is also CRM and retail billing. Although we are well known for doing the billing for the 3G project at Manx Telecom we also do fixed wire and GSM billing as well as stuff for the finance industry.

    In answer to some of the others, we are profitable month on month. However it is fair to say that the current state of confidence in the market has meant that our marketing spend has been cut back from the industry's traditional lavish levels.

    This is because we have a well established base of customers. Most of these are of the old school type and are therefore still making money themselves and therefore are still moving ahead with new projects.

    We have won other new clients in the current climate by replacing competitors who have stumbled in the implementation of their systems. Three of this type are currently underway. Of course details cannot be revealed as this kind of project is not something that an operator wants to have trumpeted from the roof tops.

    As to the name.. What's in a name? Well you have to call yourself something don't you. So after scratching our heads for a while and after the umpteenth pint of Old Diridgible we came up with Cerillion. Actually our attempted explanation is that it relates to the name of business cases. You have the worst case scenario, the best case and then, better than best case, the blue sky case. "Blue Sky" was taken, as was "Cerulean". "Cerillion" was the closest miss spelling that we could register.

    However I do like the idea of a beautiful alien race. Perhaps that is what I will say next time I am asked.

    Hope that you confidence in your business continues to shine. Keep brushing.

    Robin Burton
    wifimi 12/4/2012 | 9:17:54 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 I have seen a lot more serious products than this company you mention
    spc_myles_telos 12/4/2012 | 9:19:55 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 Yup the colubris networks' hotspots solution. boingo uses it... and i'm sure so do a few others... it's a secure, managed, AC/AP I believe.
    knockemdead 12/4/2012 | 9:19:57 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 There is a company in Europe called Wireless Creation (www.wirelesscreation.biz) which has the potential to become the european "Fatport"-enabler. They offer a complete WLAN management system (WPS 2.0) inclusive an Access Gateway (CreationOne) that can handle static IP. They have solution packages for cafes, hotels and airports and they started ship the system to their first carriers recently. It seems to be the first out-of-the-box ASP-model worldwide. Look at the Features on their website. Does anybody know something comparable? I'm very interested in competitors with similar features. If you know tell me please.
    joset01 12/4/2012 | 9:29:20 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 Okay, okay, I bite...so how many customers does CerillionGÇÖs IBAS system have, if any? Give us some names. Who is testing the software? Are you seeing any revenues from the product yet? How much funding have you recieved? How much do you have left? What's your cash burn rate? Any layoffs recently?

    And why does your company sound like it was named after a strange, green, yet beautiful female alien race from a 60s Star Trek episode? ("On earth, we call this a kiss").

    These are questions we need answered...

    Dan, Unstrung
    - Who has that ring of fresh, clean confidence everyday.
    spc_bakerboy 12/4/2012 | 9:29:26 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 Who would have thought at the end of the twentieth century, when we were still enjoying a growth phase in the telecom market that had been unbroken for several decades, that today we would be experiencing such a dramatic downturn.

    Why has this happened? Partly it is due to a fundamental ultimate limit to growth. Expenditure on telecom had been rising as a percentage of GDP for a long time. Obviously that ultimately has to come to an end. The other reason has been a sudden loss of confidence.

    Market confidence is a funny thing. People still make as many, if not more, phone calls as ever they did. Yet one morning the market wakes up and suddenly no longer feels confident. It is essentially an emotional reaction. The over enthusiasm at the end of the last century was just as much an emotional reaction as is the current bout of pessimism.

    However the effects on the industry from consumer to operator have been very real indeed.

    The impacts on the billing industry have been profound. A glance through the contract pages of any industry magazine tells the story. The scarcity of capital has led to a reduction in the number of completely new systems being commissioned. Instead the focus has been on extending and enhancement of existing systems. Hence the contracts being awarded are often for extra modules, adjunct systems and so forth.

    Where completely new systems are being awarded the shortage of capital has led to more operators considering a complete, ready implemented, end to end system rather than a GÇ£best of breedGÇ¥ approach which may be seen as more expensive and more risky in terms of delivery on time and on specification.

    The new broadband technologies of GPRS and 3G can be expected to lead to the need for replacement systems. However in times of downturn new ideas are not easy to launch. People tend to go with what they perceive as being tried, tested and safe rather than new, innovative and better.

    The exception is for systems, such as CerillionGÇÖs IBAS system that help operators to manage margins, exposures and investment decisions more effectively. This type of solution has long been a GÇ£counter recessionaryGÇ¥ type of system.

    In the meantime the market squeeze is likely to reduce the number of vendors that are active in the market. Those without a reasonable customer base are likely to be the most vulnerable.

    However there is only so long that operators can go on patching up legacy systems and putting off investment to support broadband technologies. We certainly see a growing level of activity in operators investigating their options. In fact at Cerillion we do not remember a time when activity has been quite so intense. This will soon result in an increased number of new project announcements. And who knows, all it may not be long before the stream of bad news from the telecom market dries up. And then we may see that fragile flower, confidence, raise its head once more
    dwilkens 12/4/2012 | 10:02:28 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25
    PacketVideo has thriving offices in London, Paris, Nice, Tokyo, San Diego, Chicago and New Jersey. We operate throughout Europe, Asia and North America. We have mobilemedia services running in carrier networks in Japan and Europe. A visit to www.pv.com will confirm our strong momentum as leaders in mobilemedia.
    dwilkens 12/4/2012 | 10:02:36 PM
    re: Privates on Parade: The Unstrung Top 25 The writer is incorrect.
    PacketVideo has thriving offices in London, Paris, Nice, Tokyo, San Diego, Chicago and New Jersey. We operate throughout Europe, Asia and North America. We have mobilemedia services running in carrier networks in Japan and Europe. A visit to www.pv.com will confirm our strong momentum as leaders in mobilemedia.
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