IMS Player Tries North America Again
It will be far from alone in that pursuit, though, facing off against (or trying to partner up with) a bunch of big dogs, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and Nokia Networks .
IP Gallery's technology operations are based in Israel, but a new division headquartered in Atlanta will focus solely on North America. Heading up things there is David Spear, the company's newly appointed executive vice president. (See IP Gallery Names EVP.)
Spear, a former AlcaLu man, most recently was a top executive at Cedar Point Communications Inc. , a VoIP specialist that's lately run into a rough patch and is believed to be a Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS) acquisition target. (See Sonus Looking at Nortel Assets, Cedar Point, Cedar Point Cuts Staff as Slowdown Bites, and Kabel Deutschland Rings Up Cedar Point.) Spear says he likes that IP Gallery has kept an entrepreneurial footing, despite being founded nine years ago. "I did not want to get into a bureaucratic organization," he says.
Spear says the modular nature of IP Gallery's multimedia architecture will let the vendor win deals on its own, or with partners that are already established on operator networks. (IP Gallery also markets mediation devices that connect the IMS core to the application layer, and it's in the application server business.)
It will start off by demonstrating its latest wares at the CableLabs Summer Conference (Aug. 9-11) in Keystone, Colo.
Missed first VoIP wave
But he is joining a company that missed the boat big time when cable operators and telcos began to deploy VoIP services in earnest earlier this decade. Spear says IP Gallery had the technology to compete but just didn't dedicate enough resources to be successful in the market.
One has to go six years back to dredge up the last time IP Gallery was considered relevant to what was then a budding cable VoIP market. Back then, Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico launched an IP voice system that used IP Gallery's softswitch. The MSO later swapped that out in favor of Cedar Point's Safari C3, a device that integrates the softswitch with other PacketCable network elements. After that, IP Gallery would show its face at the occasional cable show, but was largely off the North American radar.
Spear says the vendor has voice-over-WiMax and SIP-based deployments in parts of Spain, Belgium, Portugal, and Israel with undisclosed operators. For now, the only public deployment it has is with Mexico's Megacable Comunicaciones .
He says IP Gallery is embarking on a "new beginning," and he thinks the company has the technical chops to make a difference as operators deploy IMS and PacketCable 2.0 to blend voice, data, and video applications onto a combination of wireless and wireline connections, reaching PCs, phones, and TVs.
IP Gallery is also interested in developing social media applications that can carry to all those screens, a move that certainly puts it in competition with MediaFriends Inc. (formerly Integra5).
Competition and MSO action
But that just scratches the surface on the competition IP Gallery is faced with. For PacketCable 2.0, MSOs are looking at much larger vendors such as Ericsson, NSN, and Alcatel-Lucent, says Jeff Heynen, directing analyst for broadband and video at Infonetics Research Inc. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), the largest MSO in the land, has already awarded a piece of its IMS business to Chinese giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , according to Avian Securities LLC senior research analyst Catharine Trebnick. (Comcast declined to comment.)
Heynen says IP Gallery probably doesn't have a great shot at winning a huge MSO deal on its own, but allows that the company may find success being integrated into a larger, already established system, and "maybe sneak in at the app layer at some of these accounts."
"Any small vendor trying to get into the Tier 1 cable market has their work cut out for them. They will need a good Tier 1 vendor partner," he says.
Standalone wins at smaller operators may be possible, but those MSOs aren't going after PacketCable 2.0 as aggressively as their larger counterparts are.
And how rapidly MSOs will migrate their networks to a more IMS-centric PacketCable 2.0 environment is unclear. "They're getting closer" to deployments, says Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick. "But I don’t think it's a hot area yet, and certainly nowhere near where Docsis 3.0 is."
Emphasizing that point is Cox Communications Inc. , an MSO that's deploying its own wireless network and has shown interest in developing mobile video applications. "We've trialed IMS," a spokesman confirms. "We're enthusiastic about IMS/PacketCable 2.0… but we're still trying to determine how it might fit into our existing product roadmap." (See Cox Wireless: Soup to Nuts , Starent at Core of Cox's 3G Push, and Cox, Huawei Make Wireless Connection .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News