Huawei, Ericsson Get a Piece of Comcast's IMS Action

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has awarded key pieces of its IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) core buildout to Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and to Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Cable Digital News has confirmed through multiple sources.

The value of those contracts is unknown, but Ericsson is believed to have obtained the majority of that business, according to Avian Securities LLC senior research analyst Catharine Trebnick.

Ericsson's involvement with Comcast is not a big surprise given its IMS experience, but the addition of Huawei appears to have nudged out Nokia Networks , which was also gunning for a chunk of the MSO's core deployment of PacketCable 2.0, a CableLabs -specified platform that borrows heavily from IMS.

"Huawei came in out of left field," an MSO source says, noting that the Chinese giant was able to buy its way in with heavy discounting. "Until then, it was Siemens and Ericsson fighting it out."

Comcast declined to comment on its IMS build and purported vendor selections. "We don’t comment on rumors or media speculation," a Huawei spokeswoman said, via email. Ericsson also declined to comment.

With Ericsson and Huawei apparently locking in a good piece of Comcast's IMS business, NSN isn't the only vendor to find itself in the position of playing catchup with the nation's largest MSO. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is also eager to grab some PacketCable 2.0 loot, as are smaller firms such as IP Gallery , which is attempting to reenter the North American cable and telecom market. (See IMS Player Tries North America Again.)

An IMS foothold at Comcast is a significant coup for Huawei, which is successfully expanding into North America and has already notched cable deals with Suddenlink Communications (for optical gear) and at Cox Communications Inc. (for the MSO's 3G/4G wireless buildout). (See Cox, Huawei Make Wireless Connection , Is Huawei in at Level 3?, and Huawei Gains Optical Ground in North America.)

Wither Cisco and Cedar Point?
But what does this mean for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Cedar Point Communications Inc. -- softwtich suppliers that Comcast leans on today to power its digital voice service? Probably not much of anything in the near-term.

Comcast, sources say, won't have its PacketCable 2.0/IMS deployment activities well underway until at least mid-2010. Additionally, it's highly unlikely that the MSO will risk making any quick, abrupt changes to an infrastructure that serves north of 6.8 million VoIP subscribers. Instead, industry observers expect any possible switchouts or changes to occur gradually.

Cisco declined to comment on rumors that the company had previously tried (and failed) to sell off its BTS10200 softswich. In fact, it's about to beef up that product line.

Cisco has posted "end-of-life" notices for older releases of its softswitch, but the company is planning to issue a new release of the BTS10200 "in the next few weeks," according to a Cisco spokeswoman.

The current iteration is release 6.0.1, which is focused on cable and "alternative wireline and wireless service providers" and implements "IMS-ready" features, according to Cisco.

Cedar Point, meanwhile, may still end up playing a part in Comcast's PacketCable 2.0 plans. One cable MSO source says Cedar Point's flagship product, the Safari C3, could be made into a next-gen phone feature server for Comcast's future IMS platform.

Derry, N.H.-based Cedar Point, which has a been rumored acquisition target of Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS) (and maybe Ericsson, too) in recent weeks, is working on an IMS/PacketCable 2.0 migration path. (See Sonus Looking at Nortel Assets, Cedar Point and Cedar Point Blazes IMS Path .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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