BT has started a new round of 21CN vendor engagements, focusing this time on service creation and development capabilities

May 2, 2006

4 Min Read
Ubiquity Leads New Round of 21CN Deals

SIP services platform specialist Ubiquity Software Corp. (London: UBQ) has landed a potentially lucrative deal with BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) to provide the carrier with SIP (session initiation protocol) application servers that will be deployed as part of its £10 billion (US$18 billion) next-generation network project, the 21CN. (See Ubiquity Lands BT Deal.)

What's interesting about this deal is that BT is working directly with a small specialist vendor, and not through one of its eight preferred 21CN vendor partners, Light Reading has learned from sources close to the situation. (See BT Closes 21CN Deals, Touts IPTV and Vendors Sign BT 21CN Contracts.)

BT says that's because the Ubiquity deal is the first in the next stage of the 21CN project. The initial eight vendors were for the initial physical infrastructure upgrade based on core network convergence.

Now, says the carrier, comes the service creation and development stage, which it is calling the "common capabilities" element of the 21CN program. This stage has also been referred to in the past as the Web21C program. (See BT's Learning From Google.)

The third and final stage of the 21CN project is called "customer experience," which relates to the provisioning of new services.

According to BT Wholesale -- the BT division that is building and that will manage 21CN -- Ubiquity is providing a development environment upon which SIP applications can be developed. The vendor has been selected by a team within BT called "Group Portfolio" to support the work being done on common service creation capabilities and product/service development.

These common capabilities comprise a set of reusable, software-based components that can be used as building blocks by SIP service developers to develop applications such as multi-party conferencing. Having a portfolio of reusable components will, says BT, cut development time and costs, and enable the carrier to create a more consistent set of service capabilities and customer interfaces.

The carrier says there will be about 30 common capabilities that range across all products, including connectivity, applications, security, customer environment (interfaces), and underlying service intelligence. It's unclear at present how many vendors will work with BT on this part of the 21CN project: The carrier says it will be revealing and explaining more about the common capabilities program in the coming months.

Ubiquity has been working closely with BT during the past few years on the SIP-based environment that will underpin BT's new VOIP and other multimedia services. The company says it will be deployed across the whole of the 21CN, and expects the open-ended contract to be worth tens of millions of pounds. (See Ubiquity Plans London IPO.)

The scale of the engagement gave the company's share price a boost on the London Stock Exchange today, as it climbed 2 pence, more than 6 percent, to 34.5 pence. It should also give the company's top line a boost -- Ubiquity recently announced 2005 revenues of £7.5 million ($13.8 million) and a loss for the year of £6.9 million ($12.7 million).

Graham Finnie, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, says Ubiquity is not that surprising a choice for this role, as it is "already well established as the number one provider of SIP application servers," a key component in any IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) buildout. (See Ubiquity Moves Closer to AT&T and IMS Guide.)

If Ubiquity is the sole supplier of SIP applications servers, it will have edged out significant competition, including such heavyweights as BEA Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BEAS) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and specialists such as Cantata Technology Inc. (See Who Makes What: VOIP Infrastructure Equipment.)

Finnie notes, though, that it's interesting BT has chosen to engage with Ubiquity directly, and not through a major vendor or systems integrator. "That suggests BT sees Ubiquity as a company that's stable enough to stand and survive on its own two feet," he says.

As for the other common capabilities, Finnie expects these will likely include things such as presence and identity management -- anything the carrier can reuse across different services. "There are lots of small companies in that area, but some big ones, too, such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), which has some very interesting technology in this area."

The news comes as hairline cracks have started to appear in BT's aggressive 21CN timetable, with a senior executive suggesting in an interview with LRTV that the carrier's PSTN may not be switched off completely in 2010. (See BT Says 21CN Deadline Hasn't Moved.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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