SAN FRANCICO—BEA Systems Inc. Monday introduced a suite of Java-based application development tools designed to make it easier for telecommunications companies to build advanced VOIP (voice over IP), multimedia and wireless services.
The BEA WebLogic Communication Platform , formerly code-named the “DaVinci Project,” aims to take advantage of the rapid growth in VOIP services that is expected to take place over the next few years, said BEA chairman and CEO Alfred Chuang.
The recently announced merger between SBC Communications Inc. and AT&T Corp. is evidence that telecommunications industry is maturing and consolidating, Chuang said. But it is also an indication that the time of telecommunications companies “trying to kill each other off” is just about over, he said.
Their next step will be to develop advanced “new services to put into the market,” Chuang predicted. These services will be based on VOIP, or new more reliable wireless phone services, games, multimedia or new 100Mbit Internet connections to homes and businesses, he said.
All of this will create a rapidly changing and chaotic market where telecommunications companies will offer advanced services to differentiate the value and quality of their services, according to Chuang.
According to the executive, this market shift offers an opportunity for BEA to provide its WebLogic Communications Platform, based on standard technologies, that will make it less costly and less time consuming for telecom companies to introduce new services.
The main component of the suite is the BEA WebLogic SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Server, which is an J2EE application server designed to establish communication paths for voice phone calls, voice conferences or video conferences. SIP is the industry standard for initiating communications links in the IP environment.
Telecommunications companies can use the WebLogic SIP server to build converged voice and data services including VOIP, integrated fixed and wireless services, multi-player gaming, interactive voting and voice and video conferencing.
The other component, which is still under development, is the WebLogic Network Gatekeeper. It is designed to enable communications carriers to define, manage and enforce access and quality-of-service rules for network resources. The gatekeeper is supposed to serve as a single point of reference for essential network services as content charting, mobile device position information, or SMS and MMS message delivery.
BEA started delivering BEA WebLogic SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Server in late January. It will start shipping WebLogic Network Gatekeeper sometime in the spring, according to company officials. BEA did not disclose a starting price for the WebLogic Communications Platform. Company officials said its sales representatives would discuss the pricing structure with each prospective customer.
BEA already works with 50 global telecommunications companies that use the companys Tuxedo middleware platform for billing and operations management systems. Many of these companies talked to BEA about extending the WebLogic platform to support the development of customer service applications, according to Benjamin Renaud, BEAs director of telecommunications, who also headed the development of the suite.
BEA introduction of the WebLogic Communications Platform comes just as telecommunication companies are looking for software technology to speed up the introduction of premium products and services, said Robert Rich, executive vice president for telecommunications and wireless technology with the Yankee Group market research firm in Boston.
Telecommunications companies will look to augment their revenue by offering customers the most-advanced and highest-quality services, Rich said. This trend will be particularly apparent in North America because it still lagging behind Europe and Asia in providing third-generation wireless services and VOIP services, he noted.
The next five years will see a “strong resurgence” in the introduction of new services as the telecommunications industry migrates en mass to VOIP and as it adopts application development and deployment technology like the WebLogic Communications Platform, he said.
In addition, its too expensive and too risky for telecommunications companies to develop their own application development platforms, Rich continued. As a result they will partner with companies like BEA to speed up the deployment of advanced telecommunications services, he said. “Choosing the right partners is critical to success,” he said.
Other companies readying application server platforms similar to BEAs suite include IBM, Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., Rich said. BEA officials noted that it also partners with HP in the field of Web services.