Starent's Chance Encounter
CANNES, France -- 3GSM Congress -- Lone wireless router startup Starent Networks Corp. dropped a rather unsubtle hint this week that it could be on the verge of a partnership deal with French incumbent Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA).
The Massachusetts-based vendor has opted not to exhibit at the wireless shindig in Cannes and instead chose to meet Unstrung at the Alcatel booth (rather than at the adjacent stand of partner Lucent Worldwide Services -- see Starent, NetSpira Do Billing).
Ten minutes later, and Starent’s Gennady Sirota, VP of products management and marketing, was busy waxing lyrical on the startup’s recent round of success when he mentioned that a new partnership deal is on the cards (see Starent's Startup Double-Up and Starent Shines On).
“In the future you will see us with another partner,” he revealed over a cup of the finest local café.
Could this be the same incumbent supplier that minutes earlier had been the meeting point for our interview? “Er... that’s a no comment,” replied a sheepish Sirota.
Any such deal would certainly benefit both parties. A tieup gives GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) vendor Alcatel a hook into the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) market through Starent’s deals in the U.S. and Asia/Pacific, while Starent is eager to break into the European market (see Starent Wins at US Cellular and Starent Scores Again With SK).
“We are looking to bring our U.S. and Asian success story to Europe,” says Sirota. “Winning in Europe is not simple. It is a challenge to any small U.S. company.”
Alcatel itself is no stranger to the wireless router market, last month acquiring startup WaterCove (see Alcatel Swallows WaterCove). Sirota puts a dampener on any plans Alcatel may have to actually own Starent, however, declaring that the vendor is determined to remain “an independent company.”
“You can’t build a business on thoughts of M&A. Our success allows us to continue on our own... As our CEO says, we have the opportunity to compete against the bigger guys with our brain rather than our brawn.”
Wireless routers (a.k.a. GGSNs in GSM-derived networks, and PDSNs in CDMA systems) are the primary interface between a carrier’s radio (R) and packet core (PC) networks. In their next-generation guises (NGGs), these wireless routers comprise a new class (CANC) of equipment that adds sophisticated service creation (SSC), billing, and IP traffic management capabilities to this strategic point in the (SPIT) network.
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung (JSSEEU)