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Vendors Unite for Mobile VOIP

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
2/25/2004

CANNES, France -- 3GSM -- The battle is heating up to deliver VOIP systems to the world's mobile operators, with major next-gen infrastructure players pairing up to seduce the wireless carriers with a combination of softswitches and gateways.

And for those mobile operators considering how to plan the transition from circuit to packet voice transport, such partnerships must seem like a London bus -- you wait for ages for one to come along, and then two arrive at the same time (see Motorola Pairs With Sonus and Lucent, Cisco Hook Up).

First off the blocks were Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS). Yesterday, they announced an OEM deal that will see Sonus's GSX9000 gateway pre-integrated with Motorola's SoftSwitch. Although Sonus has its own softswitch, the deal with Motorola gives it an inside track with wireless operators (see Motorola Pairs With Sonus).

The Sonus media gateway would sit towards the edge of the network, between the mobile switching center and an IP backbone to provide the interface between the circuit-switched and packet networks, while the softswitch can be located anywhere on the IP network to provide call management functions.

The new combo is not currently deployed by any mobile operators.

If that pair thought they'd be stealing the VOIP system limelight in Cannes, they were wrong, as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) announced their engagement only hours later.

This pairing involves the combination of Lucent's softswitch and Cisco's MGX 8000 media gateway, an ATM multiservice switch that aggregates radio access traffic and transports voice traffic over IP and ATM networks. The announcement is, in essence, a reminder that the two companies are jointly targeting mobile operators, as they announced a three-year deal to this effect last January (see Lucent & Cisco: Together at Last).

Lucent has changed tack a couple of times on its softswitch strategy, which has led to speculation that it might need to find a partner or even acquire a company like Sonus to improve its position in the VOIP market (see Russo's VOIP Spin Confounds and Is Lucent Sounding Out Sonus? ).

Such speculation was probably not on the minds of Lucent executives last night, however, as the company splashed some of its marketing budget on a party in Cannes. The star attraction? Lionel Richie (soooooooo 1970s). Never mind help in the VOIP market; Lucent is in serious need of advice for its corporate entertainment strategy. Haven't these people heard of The Darkness?

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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