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Optical/IP

Ubiquity Plans London IPO

SIP application server vendor Ubiquity Software Corp. plans to raise £20 million (US$37.8 million) on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) within the coming weeks (see Ubiquity Preps London IPO).

The firm, based in Cardiff, Wales, says the funds will be used for further product development and to bolster its sales and marketing team, with particular emphasis on supporting its growing list of partners (see Nortel Uses Ubiquity's SIP Tech, Siemens Integrates Ubiquity, and IBM Resells Ubiquity SIP Software).

The company currently employs 167 staff, more than half of which are based in Cardiff, home to Ubiquity's R&D operations. It also has offices in California and Ottawa and employs representatives in Japan and China. The company says its Asia/Pacific team will grow following the listing.

R&D funds will be channeled particularly towards the company's ACE (Application Creation Environment) and the development of an unspecified "service mediation product."

The firm's VP of marketing, Jeff Liebl, couldn't comment on the firm's planned capital structure, or what sort of valuation the company might have after its flotation. He described media reports that Ubiquity would be worth £100 million when it listed as "speculation. We're not even in a position to make that sort of decision yet."

He did, though, confirm that Ubiquity's 2004 revenues were £5.3 million ($10 million), and that those revenues were generated globally. The company claims more than 70 trials and engagements around the world (see Bell Canada SIPs With Ubiquity and SipStorm Offers VOIP With Ubiquity).

"It's still early days from the point of view of commercial deployments, but we've been working for some time with major carriers... on what they'll need in the future, and we have developed a mature applications server technology, which is already on release 6.0," says Liebl.

He adds that Ubiquity has been developing its products to support IMS (IP multimedia subsystem), which is now all the rage as carriers plan their network convergence strategies, and he believes the vendor is set to win further deals from fixed and mobile carriers alike as SIP becomes the service protocol of choice (see IMS Could Push Carriers Toward VOIP, IMS Tops 3GSM Agenda, and LR Explains IMS).

Liebl adds that Ubiquity has engaged in specific IMS developments with the likes of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) to develop applications such as push-to-talk for mobile operators (see Ubiquity Works With Moto's IMS).

Such developments have laid solid foundations to expand the business as carriers shift towards IP, he claims. "The industry's undergoing a once-in-a-century makeover, and we're in a good position to exploit that opportunity," says Liebl, referring to next-generation network plans by carriers such as BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA).

"We could have stayed private and raised further funds, but there's demand from the markets for this type of offering. This listing will break us out from the pack of small, privately held, VOIP-related companies."

Given its British base and existing relationship with BT, does Ubiquity have any 21CN hopes? Does it have any partners on BT's preferred supplier list? It certainly does. Its longest standing partner is Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), and the SIP firm also has a little publicized reseller relationship with Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (see BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers).

Liebl says the firm has worked directly with BT in the past, but won't state directly whether the company was included in Huawei's or Siemens' 21CN proposals. "BT's 21CN plans have validated what we've been talking about for some time. It's nice to hear it singing from the same hymn sheet."

Ubiquity's planned IPO is also notable for a couple more reasons. First, it will give fellow IP applications server vendors BroadSoft Inc. and Sylantro Systems Corp., both of which have IPO ambitions, an indication of investor support for VOIP-related systems firms (see BroadSoft Joins VOIP IPO Rush and Sylantro Ready to Garnish Public Markets).

Secondly, should the offer be successful, it'll represent another feather in the financial cap of telecom entrepreneur Sir Terry Matthews, the founder of Mitel and Newport Networks. His VC firm, Wesley Clover, floated session border controller vendor Newport Networks Ltd. (London: NNG), another VOIP-related vendor, on AIM in 2004 (see Session Controller IPO Scores Success).

Wesley Clover's wholly-owned subsidiary, Celtic House Investment Partners, is one of a number of companies, including CapVest Equity Partners Fund LP, JK&B Capital, and Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) -- via its acquisition of Newbridge -- that have pumped more than $42 million into Ubiquity to date.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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