FT Picks Ericsson for IMS
Although neither company has announced the deal, Light Reading believes Ericsson is to supply its IMS Telephony (IMT) systems, formerly known as Engine Multimedia (EMM), to the French incumbent as it rolls out IP telephony services to its DSL customer base, which stood at 3.7 million at the end of June. (See Eurobites: Access All Areas.)
The deal solidifies a relationship announced last year, when the two companies announced a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop IP multimedia services. (See France Telecom, Ericsson Partner on IP Apps and Another French Revolution?)
The deal is also good news for IP Centrex systems firm , which has elements of its BroadWorks technology integrated into Ericsson's IMT system, and for session border controller vendor , which is said to be part of the package Ericsson will deliver.
One source suggests the deal could be worth as much as €100 million (US$120 million), though it's unclear whether such a sum would include integration and support services, and what the length of the contract might be.
Ericsson and BroadSoft declined to comment, while France Telecom and Acme Packet did not return calls and email on the matter.
Acme Packet's border controllers are already working alongside Ericsson's IMT system in Telefónica SA's network. (See Telefónica Deploys Acme Packet SBCs.)
Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie says this is a "massive deal for Ericsson. This establishes Ericsson as the clear leader in the IMS systems market among major telecom operators." Finnie recently authored an IMS report. (See IMS Crunch Time.)
Clearly Ericsson has, at the very least, a compelling IMS proposition for carriers, as it has announced a number of significant engagements and says it has already won more than 27 IMS-related carrier deals. (See Ericsson, Broadsoft Snack on Danish, Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party, Ericsson Provides IMS to Telefónica , Ericsson Grabs Sprint IMS Win, Ericsson Demos IMS, Telecom Italia Picks Ericsson for IMS, and CC Chooses Ericsson's IMS .)
IMS is a standards-based specification for service providers looking to create and deliver multimedia IP services to customers using any sort of device, and is regarded as a major stepping stone towards the goal of IP-based fixed/mobile convergence. While it has its critics, many operators are already basing their strategies around IMS specifications. (See IMS Guide, Carriers Line Up for IMS Test, Telcordia Helps Swisscom With IMS, Cingular's Got Big FMC Plans, and BellSouth: The IMS SuperBowl? for examples.)
While the France Telecom news is clearly positive for the Swedish vendor, it's likely to be a disappointing outcome for others. The carrier, which launched its request for proposal around March this year, narrowed down its choice to two vendors, according to one source. (See Eurobites: CeBIT Schnippets.)
The two were Ericsson and softswitch vendor Cirpack, which was acquired in April this year by Thomson (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453), an existing France Telecom partner. (See Thomson Buys Cirpack.) Earlier this year, Cirpack teamed up with ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq: ECIL), one of France Telecom's incumbent DSLAM suppliers, to provide an integrated system for carriers planning to migrate from legacy voice networks to IMS-based architectures. (See ECI, Cirpack Team Up.)
It's not clear, though, whether France Telecom will leave Cirpack out of the loop altogether. Cirpack's marketing director Fabien Maisl says he can't comment on the subject.
And what of ? Although never publicly admitted by the carrier or vendor, the French softswitch firm is the current provider of France Telecom's VOIP systems, supporting more than half a million users.
Light Reading's industry sources say the carrier needed a large partner to ramp up its VOIP activities, but that NetCentrex, still a relative minnow in the vendor world with a few hundred staff and annual revenues of just over $30 million, is not being phased out of France Telecom's plans. (See Netcentrex Celebrates 2 Mil and NetCentrex Acquires IMS Smarts.)
NetCentrex declined to comment.
The Ericsson deal comes as France Telecom plans an aggressive rollout of VOIP services under the brand Livecom, which it announced this summer. (See VOIP's Hot.)
It also comes as the incumbent faces increasingly intense pressure from broadband service providers like Free, , T-Online International AG's Club Internet, and (NYSE: TI), among others, which have all launched triple-play services including IP telephony.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading