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Starent Linked to Virgin Deal

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
10/19/2004

Wireless router startup Starent Networks Corp. appears to have secured a contract to supply its PDSN (Packet Data Serving Node) infrastructure kit to U.S. carrier Virgin Mobile USA LLC.

Wireless routers (GGSNs in GSM-derived networks; PDSNs in CDMA systems) are packet core network devices. In their next-generation guises, wireless routers add sophisticated service creation, billing, and IP traffic management capabilities to this strategic point in the network.

Operating as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), Virgin Mobile USA leases spectrum from Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) and boasts the country’s fastest growing CDMA subscriber base.

Unstrung’s interest was first piqued when both companies were listed as joint presenters of a conference session at tomorrow’s Mobile Infratech event in London. No previous relationship has been announced.

A source close to the deal has confirmed that a deal is on.

Founded in August 2000, Starent has built up an impressive customer base and established itself as the lone startup operating in the GGSN (GPRS Gateway Support Node) and PDSN market, battling against the might of incumbent vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See Starent Wins at Verizon PR, Starent's Startup Double-Up, China Unicom Picks Starent, Starent Wins Vivo Deal, Rural Cellular Picks Starent, and Starent Wins at US Cellular.)

Starent says that other names will soon be added to this list, but declines to comment on the Virgin deal. “We certainly have other contracts we have not announced, due in part to agreements with the carriers,” says the vendor’s director of marketing, Andy Capener. “However, we only talk about announced agreements.” [Ed. note: So, like, you never talk about lunch or, say, movies?]

Virgin Mobile was unable to return calls by press time.

Data services platform startup NetSpira Networks SL is also likely to be involved in the deal. Earlier this year the company announced a partnership with Starent to supply its “Enhanced Charging Solution” to the wireless router vendor. The kit aims to enable operators to create, rate, and bill for data services without needing to upgrade their transport infrastructure (see Starent, NetSpira Do Billing).

“We have an OEM agreement with Starent in the U.S.,” Netspira’s CEO Jose López told Unstrung in May (see NetSpira Cranks Up).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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