|The Evolving Telecom Landscape|
GENBAND is recognized globally as a leading supplier in the service provider VoIP market and the engine behind many of the largest communications networks in the world. Their solutions enable the seamless integration of IP-based services, interfaces and features between fixed and mobile domains, giving service providers the flexibility to meet new challenges and expand capabilities to meet emerging subscriber demands.
This position of global IP leadership was earned through aggressive organic growth, unique partnering strategies and bold acquisitions. Equipped with the most comprehensive, standards-based IP switching portfolio in the world, GENBAND enjoys a global customer base that includes 80 of the world’s top 100 telecommunications operators.
Over the past five years, GENBAND has achieved 80 percent compound annual revenue growth and today employs more than 2,200 full-time employees serving more than 600 customers in all parts of the world. With more than 240 million installed IP ports globally, GENBAND enjoys the largest installed next generation networking base in the industry.
Telecom Review felt that our readers would benefit from an in-depth interview with GENBAND President and CEO Charlie Vogt to discuss the changing marketplace and his outlook on the future. Since joining the Company in 2004, Vogt has executed three transformational acquisitions, divested non-strategic assets and grown the company to become the market share leader of a $2.5 Billion industry. Over the past seven years, Vogt’s vision has steered the company from a single product to a global market-share leader, representing a comprehensive portfolio of IP switching, networking and application products and solutions.
Listed below are Telecom Review’s questions and Charlie’s insights on the industry;
TR NA: GENBAND has grown quite a bit over the last few years to become a global leader within the telecom market. Can you please give our readers your thoughts on the current and near term future telecom landscape?
We describe the high level outlook for 2012 with “cautious optimism,” given the uncertain state of the global economy. Regardless of this uncertainty, technology will continue to be the catalyst for continuous innovation and provide fuel for growth for the global economy.
We also see many related trends that are shaping or reshaping different aspects of the global technology industry. For example, the recession has been credited with accelerating the initial corporate adoption of cloud-based services, a growth market we uniquely address with our GENBAND GENiUS and A2 Applications platforms.
We are best known for our products and services that enable network transformation in fixed and mobile voice networks. A large proportion of the world’s voice communications still relies on legacy technologies. Transforming these legacy networks to IP and new cloud-based services is the fundamental foundation that drives growth and opportunity in this decade.
Another growth opportunity in the telecom landscape is network convergence. Operators are looking to reduce costs and increase top line revenue by converging fixed, mobile, and over the top (OTT) domains into a single network. GENBAND products and solutions are focused on enabling this convergence. As an example, our GENCom mobile application allows any wireless device to be used as an extension of your business phone and enables you to reach cloud-based services.
Our employees use GENCom to access all GENBAND unified communications services on a daily basis. We experience firsthand how greatly it improves productivity with tools that otherwise would not be accessible, such as common address books, web collaboration and IM federation. These services can provide much-desired customer stickiness for operators.
In addition to the acceleration of network transformation and convergence, we also see the end users behavior and expectations changing from fixed and predictable usage to “always on” and a desire for new services “anytime, anywhere and on any device”. As a result, service providers are being significantly challenged by unprecedented congestion issues, which are driving a growing landscape of network optimization needs for fixed and mobile broadband.
Any operator will tell you that managing the explosive growth of data and video traffic is increasingly a challenge. We have solutions to help to understand and manage this traffic so that operators can not only provide the best quality of experience for their end customers, but more importantly also enable revenue growth from differentiated and personalized broadband service offerings.
TR NA: What is your vision for the future of the IP switching business?
First let’s define “IP Switching”. In the past, “switching” implied voice switching, and then data, and most recently video – with each type of media requiring its own switching infrastructure. Second, platforms were stuck to the technology curve. As soon as the requirements grew, the platform had to be discarded and a new one purchased. Third, the platform and the applications software were inherently tied together, encouraging proprietary implementations. Ultimately, all of this resulted in high costs and inflexibility to meet operators’ needs.
However, IP innovation and advances in common off the shelf (COTS) hardware technology can change these paradigms. The platform can now be independent of the media, and it now can accommodate changes in the technology curve. Better yet, the hardware and applications can be decoupled via advanced middleware.
We listened to our customers who said “reduce our operating costs”, “simplify our networks”, and “allow the seamless addition of new software and services for our customers”. Understanding the operators’ needs and the changing technology dynamics, we took an ingenious approach to create the GENBAND GENiUS platform.
Over the years, telecommunications technology has been deployed with separate platforms, separate operating systems and separate management systems for the key functions of call control, cloud and hosted applications, session border control, and traffic and policy management. GENiUS is the first of its kind to bring them all together in a universal, IP-based, software-centric solution.
IP applications are easily added to the GENiUS platform via simple software upgrades to the common ATCA hardware and application blades, significantly simplifying network architecture and reducing network costs. Thanks to seamless integration of Nortel and GENBAND assets, we began significant deployments of GENiUS in 2011. Service providers are
monetizing their voice, data and video services whether fixed or mobile. Simple. Sensible. Powerful.
As an operator, providing your end customers with efficient, useful new services should be an exciting and low complexity endeavor. GENiUS delivers that. Based on common ATCA hardware and 40G application blades, GENiUS requires only a single intelligent blade to handle a multitude of network profiles and applications. Let me stress that these blades are configurable by software. This means that an application deployed today can be leveraged tomorrow or ten years from now for another application, whether it was developed by GENBAND, a third party or the service provider - constant re-use and no “throw-aways.”
Some benefits are obvious: operators save on power, floor space, sparing inventory, training and operating costs. This simplified platform also perfectly sets the stage for a converged IMS core. Our GENiUS IMS solution is ideally suited for service providers who don’t want the complexity of deploying separate IMS elements and the burdens of integrating these separate elements into their operational systems and maintaining them on an on-going basis.
TR NA: Can you please tell us where you see the major focus of GENBAND in 2012?
As I mentioned before, we see considerable opportunity in transitioning networks to IP. Over 5 billion mobile phones and slightly less than a billion fixed lines use the old technology. In the case of fixed lines, for example, many of the switches are past their 25 year designed lives and are surviving on borrowed time. That is a lot of valuable customers, and a lot of important revenue, running on relics of a bygone era. Our mission is network transformation, and in 2012 we will continue to help operators advance these networks to IP.
In 2012, we are focused on IP networking, cloud-based applications and virtualization. The increasing pervasiveness of IP is evident in what were once small islands of IP that have now grown to very large islands. In fact, we have some operators and enterprise customers that operate almost exclusively in the IP realm.
The growth of IP networks holds significant ramifications for our Security and Session Border Control (SBC) portfolio, which protects and serves these borders, whether access or interconnect. The SBC market is still young and growing, and with new innovative products, the sky is the limit for GENBAND’s Intelligent SBC portfolio.
It is hard to talk about IP any more without mentioning cloud services. “Cloud” is something we have enabled for years with our A2 Communications Application Server. Look at the way communications have changed in a few years – from simple talking and letter writing to what is now so many things – tweets, instant messages, social networking, email, voice recognition and video calling. Operators need a vision for effectively blending these services, providing added value, and making it seamless for customers. Our GENiUS A2 helps them get there. Lastly, I mentioned enterprise markets. IP technologies enable significant cross-over in the network capabilities needed by both operators and enterprises. That equates to a large market where our products work cost-effectively, and I see more emphasis there in 2012.
TR NA: What are your expansion plans for GENBAND in the next three years?
When we think of expansion, we think of new market segments such as enterprise as well as enhancing our products and services to enable growth in our large segments of fixed, cable, and mobile operators.
We are seeing opportunity around every corner. I have already mentioned the value that our rich products and solutions portfolio provides to operators, but one of our strongest assets is our services capability.
GENBAND has become a global company with a strategic worldwide footprint. We employ about 3,000 full-time employees and contractors globally. We have a vast global services organization with expansive operations supporting customers in over 80 countries.
Operators are looking for thought leadership, IP expertise and experience and this need becomes even greater as their work force ages and complexity increases. Network Transformation requires advanced skill sets and effective tools. We have that. Designing, engineering, securing, and implementing all- IP, converged networks requires state-of-the-art knowledge and experience. We have that. Optimizing networks requires both the platforms and people who understand the challenges in creating and managing efficient, service-differentiated broadband networks. We also have that.
Our services capabilities, our product portfolio, our pursuit for best-in-class platforms – all of this makes us second-to-none in helping our customers move forward and grow. We expand by enabling our customers to expand.
TR NA: What type acquisitions do you see for GENBAND in the next year?
While I cannot provide any specific acquisition plans, we clearly have shown an effective acquisition strategy that complements our vision and organic product development. We like to consider businesses that help us achieve our market, product, and solutions portfolio objectives.
For GENBAND, our product vision and technology thesis starts with customer requirements and market trends. M&A decisions are made based on the following factors: obtaining market-leading technology, expanding our ability to offer complete solutions to our customers, unique expertise, time-to-market, entrance to new markets and customer acquisitions.
TR NA: GENBAND continues to launch new and innovative products and services. Can you please tell our readers more about your R & D capabilities and how you see this enhancing your future?
GENBAND’s product development and R&D roadmap is robust. Our size and scale enables
us to invest over$130 million annually in IP innovation, significantly more than many others in the networking space. This not only sets us out on the edge of the technology curve – a benefit we pass on to our customers – but it also provides us with a strong and growing patent portfolio.
Our GENiUS platform is state-of-the-art, representing a very compelling breakthrough for incorporating future innovation. We have the capability of releasing new hardware within months of it becoming available from our partners.
Our GenWare middleware provides the capabilities that our customers require such as world-class performance, fault tolerance, non-disruptive run time patching and the ability to manage virtualized applications, all pulled together by our integrated GenView management system. The GENBAND GENiUS platform integrates not only our solutions onto one platform, but is open for third party products as well.
Our innovative GENiUS approach shapes all of our product development and is a game changer for GENBAND, our customers, and our competitors, in part because we can now deploy a majority of our portfolio on one platform and have a foundation for delivery of future applications. This includes Consumer Voice and Multimedia Applications, Business Voice
and Multimedia Applications, and Hosted Cloud-based
It is not just about the middleware and applications software, however. It is about the people. Our R&D team has a diverse range of skills and knowledge across so many areas – IP, TDM, security, network management, element management, country variants, operator variants, policy – I could go on. These are not skills you get in just any resume. These are experts in their field. And just like everyone else in GENBAND, our great R&D team is focused on the needs of our customers.
TR NA: Where do you see GENBAND in regard to competition and market share in the years 2012 and 2013?
GENBAND is uniquely positioned, perhaps better than any other company in the world, to take advantage of one the industry’s single largest opportunities over the next decade, which is IP network transformation. As I stated earlier, this is a large and rich market, and we have the right IP switching, networking, and applications portfolios to help operators every step of the way. GENBAND has sustained the number one market position in VoIP switching and media gateways for many years now, a testament to our comprehensive IP Infrastructure portfolio that delivers rich solutions to address transport, control and application layers of the network.
While we enjoy these leadership positions, you will see us enhance market share in SBCs and applications. Both are early markets in many ways with huge upside opportunities for GENBAND. We also look to increase our presence in both the enterprise and traffic and policy management markets.
GENBAND has always been a strong proponent of open standards. In many operator networks, our products operate hand-in-hand with competitor and partner platforms. This approach makes us all stronger and helps operators reach their customer and growth goals. Consistent with this, we have developed a very strong interoperability ecosystem, and this is expanding in diverse forms.
For instance, we have provided APIs to developers and provided them a collaborative testing environment for application development, and the results have been extraordinary. Our first ever GENFuzion Developer Challenge unleashed outstanding innovation and has been a highly effective accelerator for fostering all types of application development for operators to leverage.
We see this open, collaborative effort as an extension of how we treat our customers and how we do business overall. There is considerable challenge and opportunity with IP, and we are here to help you get there.