AlcaLu Takes On Acme With SBC Launch

Alcatel-Lucent has decided it's time to go head-to-head with existing session border controller partner Acme Packet

February 3, 2011

3 Min Read
AlcaLu Takes On Acme With SBC Launch

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) will launch its first standalone session border controller (SBC) product, the 5060 IBC-4 (IP Border Controller-4), in March with the aim of grabbing market share in a sector dominated by long-standing leader Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT).

AlcaLu already offers SBC capabilities, but as "decomposed" elements in other IP infrastructure products (where the signaling and media capabilities are housed in separate products -- media gateways, media gateway controllers and IP session controllers).

Now, though, as service providers look to deal with the new and growing security threats that come from their increasing reliance on IP networks, AlcaLu says it's seeing growing demand from operators for standalone SBCs that can be distributed around the network. "There's a drive to get these [SBCs] to the edge of the network again," notes Rich Crowe, director of the vendor's Wireline Core and IMS business.

"Demand is growing at a good clip and we want to be a part of that growing market," adds Crowe, who notes that operators are increasingly saying they don't want to rely on a single vendor for their integrated SBC capabilities. "This is a good opportunity for us."

Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Jim Hodges agrees that there's momentum in the SBC market. "The market is still growing significantly in part due to the replacement of TDM with VoIP. In addition, there are also growth opportunities in the enterprise," says Hodges.

Capitalizing on those opportunities means going head-to-head with the SBC market's established players, including Genband Inc. , Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Metaswitch Networks , and most particularly Acme Packet, the dominant player in this sector with more than 50 percent market share.

And that creates something of a conflict for AlcaLu, as it has a reseller agreement with Acme. So is that relationship now over?

"Our sales efforts will focus on our own product. ... We will OEM if a customer has a specific request," says Crowe.

AlcaLu is targeting carriers of all types and sizes with this new product, and says it's already engaged with a number of operators, including Tier 1 carriers, with a view to imminent trials. It claims it will be the only SBC vendor to offer both integrated and decomposed SBC capabilities once its new product is generally available. The IBC-4, which boasts 4 Gbit/s of media throughput, is designed to support up to 200,000 subscribers. In operation it can handle up to 50,000 SIP sessions and 32,000 concurrent media sessions. It is based on an ATCA platform with four slots (two media blades and two signaling blades), and will be available for access border deployments in March and for peering border deployments in the third quarter of 2011.

Why this matters
The SBC market has, for some time now, been Acme Packet's backyard, with other players such as Genband and Sonus picking up the pieces. Acme's latest financials -- full-year 2010 revenues up 63 percent to $231.2 million (with further growth of around 30 percent expected this year) and net income up more than 150 percent to $43 million -- show how strong it is in this market. (See Acme Packet Reports Q4.)

But with IP network deployments growing, in the mobile as well as fixed line worlds, the SBC market is gaining new impetus: AlcaLu estimates that the SBC market will grow from just over €200 million (US$273 million) this year to more than €300 million ($410 million) in 2014.

And AlcaLu, with its global scale and experience in the VoIP/IMS market (it has 15 deployments for its decomposed SBC as well as numerous other IMS engagements), could prove to be a formidable new rival for Acme and the other established SBC players.

For more
There are plenty of developments in the SBC sector, and even some new entrants:

  • Squire Updates SBC Software

  • Sonus Enhances SBC With Voice Security

  • Acme Packet Supports VoLTE

  • OneAccess Adds SBC to Its Router

  • China Mobile Deploys Acme Packet

  • The New Genband: Day One

  • Acme Intros Net-Net 3820

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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