Lucent Makes Softswitch Push with Telica Buy

By Ellen Muraskin  |  Posted 2004-05-26

Lucent Makes Softswitch Push with Telica Buy

Lucent Technologies has agreed to acquire Telica, which makes the PLUS line of high-capacity voice-over-IP (VOIP) media gateways, signaling gateways and softswitches, aka media gateway controllers.

Telica Inc.s line in some ways complements, and in other ways overlaps, Lucents own Accelerate portfolio for large-scale, carrier VOIP networks.

To enterprise IT and telecom managers, Lucent Technologies Inc.s move–its first significant acquisition since its Pac-Man days ended in 2000–suggests that more carriers will be offering to sell you VOIP-related services soon.

If yours is a business whose Internet connectivity needs might be met by DSL, fractional or whole T1, these might be bundled with IP Centrex service or managed IP PBX services.

Well be talking about IP Centrex more in the weeks and months to come. Traditional Centrex is the choice of companies that wish to leave the PBX function and CAPEX to the telco.

It lets the telephone companys central office switches do all of the local call setup and teardown between extensions on premises (as well as calls to the outside world), while giving employees PBX-style, four-digit numbering plans.

IP Centrex can be set up to work at premises with IP phones or softphones or regular TDM phones, with media gateway adapters.

Click here to read about IBM and Cisco Systems Inc. teaming up to promote VOIP.

Traditional Centrex is fairly limited to the local area served by one central office, or at most by the local exchange carrier; as such, it can give multisite companies the appearance of one PBX, as long as the sites are in the same region. It is also expensive and has lost ground to CPE investment in both circuit-switched and IP PBX.

IP Centrex—running off equipment made by Telica, Lucent, NetCentrex S.A., BroadSoft Inc., Sylantro Systems Corp., Sonus Networks Inc., VocalData Inc. and others—is a more global affair, linking up offices that can even be countries apart, since it runs over separate IP links.

It also typically comes with Web-based administration and end-user tools, which make moves, adds and changes easy, cheap and accessible for enterprise administrators.

IP Centrex also makes Web-based call-forwarding, speed dials and call logs easy for end users. Many such offerings come with Web-based, multipaneled, all-in-one communication portals, combining calling preferences and call logs with voicemail, instant messaging, conferencing, calendar functions and presence awareness.

I first saw these tools and offerings demonstrated to impressive effect by competitive carriers who are no longer with us. (Where have you gone, oh, Exario Networks?)

Many of them choked on overly optimistic network buildout, with their investments in infrastructure and lines far outstripping their human resources to sell, install or support.

This time around, with the traditional regional Bells in the game, the resources will be there, and—Lucent sees–so will the market. A surprising number of competitive carriers are popping up again, judging by the customer wins listed on the sites of companies such as Telica.

Click here to read about a company that leases VOIP infrastructure elements to carriers and large enterprises.

Lucent has had its own Accelerate portfolio of softswitches, media gateways and controllers, but the Telica acquisition buys greater scale and flexibility in the line. It also buys Telicas customer portfolio: more than 50 service providers, with Verizon Communications most prominent among them.

Telicas open, standards-based products and network management systems allow carriers to deliver a wide range of wireless, Class 5 and long-distance Class 4 services, in both VOIP and PSTN/circuit-switched networks.

Next Page: Class 5 switches traditionally supply the enhanced features the calling public has come to know.

Class 5 Switches

Class 5 switches, situated at the local central office—the user end of the switching office hierarchy—traditionally supply the enhanced features the calling public has come to know: caller ID, three-way calling, call blocking, last-call return, call waiting and the like.

Class 4 services link trunks together for aggregating traffic across longer distances and handing off calls between carriers.

Signaling gateways link up an IP-based phone system to the PSTN world, so that things such as caller ID can be delivered in, and things such as 800 numbers can be delivered out to the routing tables that know where such calls terminate.

Click here to read an interview with one of the founders of the SIP protocol, who responds to VOIP security concerns.

In a Monday morning conference call, Janet Davidson, president of Lucent Technologies Integrated Network Solutions (INS), pointed out that Telica has done well both with carrier customers replacing their legacy Class 5 switches and with those "capping and growing" their Class 5 business to extend past the limits of TDM switches.

"Their products give us a more complete, highly scalable VOIP solution and a flexible, open architecture to respond to the many different approaches our customers are taking with the evolution of their networks," Davidson said.

Ron De Lange, vice president of Lucent Technologies Convergence Solutions Group, described a target carrier customer as one who wants to position signaling gateways and media gateways in distributed fashion out of regional hubs, in areas of greatest end-customer density, all controlled by centralized media gateway controllers/softswitches.

Lucent spokesman Michael Alva went into some specifics on Telicas line: The Plexus 9000 Media Gateway simultaneously supports both IP and ATM transport and wireline and wireless applications, critical to Lucents carrier customers.

At 21,500 ports, it also complements Lucents 8,000-port Universal Gateways, as well as the PSAX Multiservice Gateways, which are used primarily in wireless backhaul applications.

"We will continue to support all of these gateways because they remain appropriate for different customer applications," he said.

"The Telica PLUS Signaling Gateway, because it is designed for a distributed environment, complements the Lucent softswitch and will help speed delivery of Class 5 VOIP applications based on the Lucent softswitch."

"The PLUS Media Gateway Controller–which supports 10 times the capacity of first-generation packet media gateway controllers—overlaps our unified softswitch," Alva said. "Going forward, we will integrate PLUS MGC and Lucent Softswitch functionality as appropriate."

Alva also nodded to the importance of interoperability with the phone systems of other vendors, both carrier- and enterprise-directed.

In that regard, he pointed out that the Lucent Softswitch and the Plexus 9000 platform are fully interoperable with other softswitches, trunk gateways and line gateways that support open signaling interfaces including MEGACO, MGCP, SIP, and SIP-T. They also support legacy protocols such as ISUP, TCAP/AIN and GR-303 for seamless integration with the TDM switches.

Check out eWEEK.coms VOIP & Telephony Center at for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.

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