Quirky QoVox Vaunts VOIP Testers

VOIP tester emerges from obscurity and gets some trial pickup from Time Warner Cable

August 9, 2005

4 Min Read
Quirky QoVox Vaunts VOIP Testers

Boston-based Datameg Corp. (OTC BB: DTMG), an outfit run by a former Tekelec Inc. (Nasdaq: TKLC) VP, Rex Hester, is changing the name of its North Electric Company subsidiary to QoVox Corp. in a move toward boosting its profile in the emerging VOIP testing/QOS market (see Datameg Launches QoVox).

And it sounds like a boost in profile is desperately needed. “We’ve never heard of them at all, in any of their incarnations, and we’ve never seen them in any kind of a competitive situation,” says Brix Networks Inc. marketing director John Ricciardone.

The history of QoVox and its parent is interesting, to say the least. Datameg began life in 1999 after swapping stock with a publicly traded shell company and taking over the ticker symbol.

From the beginning, Datameg has been a company in search of a product and an identity. It first acquired the broadband technology of Florida-based CASCommunications in 2001, but it has since "halted development of its devices… due to a lack of sufficient capital," according to Datameg's SEC filings. The subsidiary remains inactive today.

Also in 2001, Datameg acquired North Electric, which eventually built the NAS (Network Assurance System) 6131, the VOIP test and measurement gear that will be QoVox's primary product. Datameg and QoVox have only eleven employees today but intend to do some hiring this year.

So far, the QoVox gear has had some traction in at least one network trial. The company has placed three of its flagship NAS 6131 solutions into Time Warner Cable networks and is waiting to see if follow-on sales develop. Datameg claims it has a similar relationship with a Tier 1 phone company, but it wouldn't divulge the name.

Other than that, Datameg and QoVox have little visibility in IP testing and measurement circles and the company hasn't booked any revenues to speak of. Between January 1999 and March 2005, the company has a combined net loss of $28.6 million, or 21 cents a share. Though the company has shipped more than $430,000 in evaluation products, it has only converted about $87,000 to invoiced shipments, according to its SEC filings.

But QoVox does have a couple of executives with some telecom background cheering it on. Its founder is Rex Hester, who started Protocol Technologies, a voice signaling company that was bought by Tekelec for $3.5 million in cash in 1988.

On the QoVox board sits 20-year telecom vet Bill Mortimer (see Datameg Adds to Board). Mortimer was general manager of Agilent Technologies Inc.'s (NYSE: A) VOIP monitoring and management division where he brought in a number of marquee telecom accounts.

Hester says QoVox was founded on the notion that today’s telephone calls must jump through more network gateways -- VOIP and PSTN -- than ever before to get to their destination. At each one of those gateways, he says, presents another possibility that the quality of the call can be degraded.

Hester says that call degradation often comes in what he calls “soft faults,” or network problems with no clear cause that can last two minutes or two hours, then self-correct.

“Service providers are spending a lot of money on chasing soft faults; they’re starting to cause a lot of trouble,” Hester says. “There are getting to be a lot of trouble tickets opened, but they never find the cause for them.”

QoVox’s NAS 6131 device aims to address "soft faults" by sitting at various points in a VOIP network and sending voice files across different network routes every few mintues. When the file reaches its destination, another device analyzes it, looking for delay, jitter, packet loss, and other problems.

The new company will compete with such names as Empirix Inc., Brix Networks, and Agilent.

In the near term, QoVox intends to sell its gear to telecom operators, cable operators, and ISPs, either directly or through a network of systems integrators, incumbent equipment manufacturers, and network management service providers.

Hester says the company has been working for several months on a partnership with “one of the largest switch equipment vendors in the world.” But, again, there's no name behind the claim.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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