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Leading Lights 2020 Finalists: Company of the Year (Public)

Even before the onset of the pandemic, the companies that stood out in the next-generation communications landscape seemed to be ones that armed service providers with new approaches to fulfill evergreen enterprise needs, like digital enablement, intelligent bandwidth, broadband infrastructure, security and unified communications.

In all, we shortlisted five companies for their overall performance and influence in the contest period from April 2019 to March 2020. We'll hand the gong to the public company we think stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, makes investors proud and makes employees happy. The companies in the running this year are:

The Leading Lights winners, and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced online, on August 21, during a special video presentation on www.lightreading.com, one month before the start of the Big 5G Event.

Here's a closer look at the companies shortlisted for Company of the Year (Public):

Amdocs
In our last Leading Lights presentation (ah, happier times), Amdocs took home the prize for the best 5G strategy. The company, along with its ecosystem partners, convinced us that it could muster a full range of solutions to address the business and operational challenges that 5G service providers would face. Its inclusion in this category for 2020 shouldn't be a surprise because the company is making good on efforts to have software stacks available for service providers to do everything from network planning and placement to densification and rollout to integration and optimization. In addition to all its 5G behind-the-scenes work, Amdocs is helping SES manage a rather complex set of satellites in two different orbits with a single management platform on a public cloud (Azure).

Ciena
It's sometimes hard to know what to say about a company that has been consistently well-managed and has its products hitting the market at just the right time. Here's how Ciena summed up its own performance: "For the full fiscal year, Ciena again delivered industry-leading growth and profitability, including 15% revenue growth and greater than 50% growth in adjusted EPS. Non-telco revenue grew 25% year over year, led by growth with webscale customers. Ciena's industry-leading portfolio across customer segments and regions, in particular, continues to provide business resiliency and plays a significant role in this strong financial performance." Yep, okay, well go with that.

CommScope
In April 2019, CommScope bought Arris, which had previously purchased Ruckus Networks – a key weapon in the company's arsenal to keep growing in wired and wireless service provider markets. Throughout the contest period, CommScope put itself in a good position to benefit from long term trends (network convergence, fiber access, mobility and IoT), but the company's expenses were also on the ascent. Almost as soon as the ink is dry on compliments written for CommScope's calendar year 2019, the bill came due. We'll look forward to seeing how the company navigates the new landscape of uncertain spending cycles and merging customers, with its new wireless assets fully onboard.

Fortinet
Another runner up from the previous Leading Lights contest makes a good showing in a new year and a new category. We liked the way the company balanced bringing new tech to the table and working with a wide variety of ecosystem partners to help service providers. Pre-pandemic (during its fiscal year 2019), Fortinet's revenue was reported as $2.16 billion, up 20% from the previous year. The company's new products grew during that period, too. In the second quarter of the fiscal year 2019, Fortinet's SD-WAN revenue climbed to $46 million. Later on, it debuted FortiAI, an on-premises appliance using AI to deliver "sub-second detection of advanced threats."

Vonage
Vonage has made nine acquisitions in six years and continues moving toward a cloud-based communications business model, serving contact center and business phone services via the cloud. It's also constantly evolving its communications-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) capabilities, powering things like in-app communications and two-factor authentication. During this Leading Lights contest period, Vonage relaunched some services and simplified its brand messaging to make it more clear that the company can embed communications capabilities into apps, chat, websites, messaging platforms – any platform where a business needs to reach its customers. As conversations move from app to app, for example, businesses need to follow customers along their journey and be ready to respond via the customers' preferred mode of communication. Vonage's full-year revenues were up 13% year-over-year, in 2019.

Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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