I recently had the opportunity to ask Woody Ritchey, CEO of Reef Point Systems, about the future of IP communications and the challenges his business will face over the next five years.
Reef Point is a provider of IP-based fixed-mobile convergence connectivity solutions that connect devices to networks — and networks to networks — enabling high-quality voice, data, video and multimedia sessions to flow, efficiently, securely and reliably.
Reef Point offers an access-edge-to-peering-edge solution for wireless and wireline operators, which allows them to build IP-based network infrastructure to deliver today's network services and continue building on that same foundation for future applications.
Please outline your new corporate initiatives.
Reef Point develops and delivers flexible, scalable and efficient fixed-mobile connectivity solutions that enable operators to securely navigate the ever-evolving access edge. Reef Point is the first to demonstrate session management across fixed and mobile networks through their Integrated Border Gateway. Additionally, Reef Point introduced the first IP Base Station Gateway. Reef Point's solutions support an “all-IP world”, designed for easy integration. Compliant through and including IMS, they are extensible, upgradeable and future-proof so operators can build networks today and continue building on that foundation tomorrow, without sacrificing performance or reliability.
How is IP communications changing your company's strategy?
Reef Point has been a leader in supporting IP communications since the company’s inception in 1998. The continued and accelerating growth in IP and SIP sessions is driving the development of intelligent connectivity technologies that will enable service providers to deliver and bill for sessions of all media types. Network operators need to be equipped to protect against the inherent security risks associated with exposing the network core to the IP world at the access edge. Our strategy has been to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is available to meet the requirements of today and the future—including IMS.
How has SIP changed communications?
SIP has revolutionized modern communications. Ultimately, SIP simplifies the delivery of communications across all types of applications including voice, data and video, and will continue to enable providers to create new offerings delivered over unified markets.
What is the biggest request coming from your customer base?
Our customer base has consistently requested a simplification and integration of network elements. For Reef Point this has meant creating a network that is more efficient and “open” in terms of both physical deployment and protocol independence. For example, in order to meet the scalability requirements needed today, some operators have added more standard SBCs to their configuration, which has only made their networks less reliable and more difficult to manage. Our networking solutions are access technology independent and are future-proofed for an all-IP environment. Reef Point has taken a more efficient and durable approach towards network integration with their Universal Convergence Gateway (UCG).
How are you answering their demands?
Reef Point meets the customer demand for a simpler and better-integrated network by providing a platform that is protocol and access technology independent. We also provide technologies that enable secure interconnections of IP networks allowing operators to leverage the available and coming capacity. “On Demand” communications, particularly in the media-heavy categories, put increasing pressure on network providers to develop expandable and adaptable platforms able to support a “hyper-connected” world. Reef Point’s Universal Convergence Gateway delivers these capabilities in a single, easily managed device located at the edge of the network
What do you think the future of the market is?
Initially, there will be a transitional period of mixed networks and technologies as fixed-mobile convergence reaches the mainstream consumer. Eventually, all communications will be over IP networks and service providers will need a method to “play well with others” in order to deliver against the demands of a new generation of communicators who want content and communications at anytime, place or device. New business models will need to be developed along with technologies that support those models. Next-Gen Operating Systems (NGOSS) will require real-time, reliable data flows that efficiently feed their software platforms. By doing this, service providers can confidently deliver in a competitive manner while ensuring profitability.
How does the growth rate in the U.S. compare to the rest of the world?
The U.S. will continue to be slower to adopt newer technologies because they’ve invested billions of dollars into existing hardware and software. However, the U.S. has already begun the transition and is driving mergers of fixed and mobile providers as a first wave of a continuing evolution toward mobility and media offerings. While the U.S. has been resistant to the change, service providers are trying to make up for lost time in order to meet the growing consumer and enterprise demands. There will also be international pressure to respond and catch up as new communications technologies create stronger economies and competitive businesses in EMEA, AsiaPac and Latin America.
What do you think of Google and Apple entering the telecom market?
When a player as large as Google enters the field, the bar is raised for all traditional network providers. Their suggested acquisition of spectrum and emphasis on media and content (particularly in the high-capacity areas of video and interactive gaming) are strong signals that they will continue to change the game. The distinctions between the content and the applications we access, and the ways in which we access them, are blurring. Change can be expensive up front, but ultimately it creates new business opportunities for those that are able to adapt. New competition gives consumers and businesses more choices, and more choices will ultimately drive innovation. Innovation will in turn generate new competition that drives value for the innovators. It will only be negative for those who are unable to keep up.
How about Microsoft?
Microsoft has created a situation where its users are reliant upon their applications, particularly Outlook. If they are able to continue to improve their applications and make life easier and enjoyable for their users, they will obviously continue to play a huge role in the future of unified communications. But no company, no matter how large, can survive by standing still. Reef Point will continue to remain very alert to all of the developments happening in the world of software as it converges with networking at an increasingly rapid pace, particularly when concerning user experience.
How will wireless technologies change our market?
Wireless technologies have already changed the market and will continue to do so. Reef Point is watching the world move towards mobility in the form of completely unrestricted communications and computing, and we are developing our solutions accordingly. It is our view that those who provide business users and consumers with tools that improve their lives and increase productivity will win. We are committed to providing those innovative companies with the scalable hardware and software connectivity technologies that are required to deliver against increasingly complex consumer expectations. IP network interconnectivity and the ability to intelligently capitalize on IP capacity will be crucial to the successful evolution of the industry because conventional radio networks will be unable to support the millions of new IP endpoints and rich media services that are coming to market.
How will communications evolve over the next five years?
The communications evolution will continue along the same curve as it has but only faster. At the end of five years, several generations of users will be able to send, receive and interact with information on a continual basis, regardless of where they are in the world. Consumers will be willing to pay premiums for “high definition” services, exclusive content and evolved services. Communications technologies will interact with the way we remain healthy, the way we prosper and the way we think and behave. Services will be shaped around everyday modern life. From our position today, we have only seen the beginning of the “flow.”
What sorts of things will we be hearing about during your presentation at ITEXPO?
Reef Point’s presentation will outline and reveal the “invisible” infrastructure that will support the impending explosion of content, IP endpoints (especially in the mobile market) and rich media. We will also address the pressures that IP mobility will inevitably put on security. A “new economy” will be created that network operators and service providers must be prepared for in order to capitalize on — or even just survive in. The threats of not keeping up are too great for networks not to prepare for now. Those who will be most rewarded are those that maintain the delicate balancing act of being on the edge of innovation while remaining protective of core businesses as the world rapidly evolves.
Why is your presentation a "Can't Miss?"
Reef Point has a passion that accompanies its vision. Our leaders are inspired and are willing to place bets on what will be required in the fixed-mobile convergence future. We will share our take on what it will mean to “play well with others” in the future, and provide our insights on what networks can do now to prepare themselves. Networks will need to be protocol and access technology independent in order to deliver the simplification and integration that our customers demand in addition to the security, service delivery and scalability concerns of IP networks. We will also outline a few of our predictions regarding the new ecosystems that will be created in the networking environment of tomorrow. And, true to our commitment to innovation, Reef Point will analyze the full impact and industry significance of Web 2.0 going mobile.
What do you want the industry to know about your company?
Reef Point understands that the current environment is as much about business models as it is about technology, and our innovations in both fields are garnering validation from major industry players. We are mainly still in trials, but we are seeing dramatic uptake in some of our early fixed-mobile convergence solutions — especially in Pico/Femtocell deployments, and we are engaged with the largest carriers and partners in the world. We will be making some interesting moves in the industry during the next few months that will launch Reef Point out of the lab to the head of the market. We are backed by some very strong investors; JP Morgan’s private equity group, One Equity Partners, and American Capital, which provide us with tremendous opportunities for growth and expansion.
Please make one surprising prediction we will see in 5 years.
So far, carriers have been resistant to the transition to fixed-mobile convergence, but it is widely believed that once one major carrier makes the transition, the rest will follow suit in order to remain competitive. We predict that at least one major Tier One carrier will disappear completely when it fails to, or is unable to, adapt rapidly enough to the actions of the strong, disruptive players in the content delivery space.