I recently had the opportunity to ask Steve Northridge of Ulticom about IP communications, his business and what the future possibly holds for the company.
Ulticom deploys service-enabling communications software for the telecommunications industry with signaling software that enables deployment of mobility, location, payment, switching and messaging services within wireless, IP, and wireline networks.
RT: Please outline your new corporate initiatives.
SN: Ulticom has been the world leader in signaling products with our Signalware platform which supports SS7, Sigtran, SIP and Diameter allowing our customers to focus on the value they bring through the deployment of applications on the carrier grade Signalware platform. New corporate initiatives are centered on our nSignia product line which leverages our Signalware platform to provide gateway functions packaged on a computer platform ready for deployment with no customer development required. The nSignia product line is in response to changing the signaling transport environment combined with the desire from our customers to isolate the signaling component allowing the customer application to be agnostic to the signaling requirements for different deployments.
RT: How is IP communications changing your company’s strategy?
SN: IP communications has become pervasive. Traditionally, SS7 is transported over lower level protocols specifically designed to support SS7. With the advent of Sigtran, the upper level protocols can now be carried over IP allowing services constructed around SS7 semantics to operate without change. Sigtran was the beginning of the IP-ification of telecom networks which was followed by SIP and Diameter protocols. It can be used to carry out functions formerly handled by SS7. As a result of this shift toward IP based protocols in the core network, Ulticom has been a strong supporter of Sigtran, SIP and Diameter by offering support for these protocols alongside our support for traditional SS7. Recognizing the needs of our customers to deliver services in traditional SS7 networks, IP networks as well as hybrid networks, Ulticom’s strategy is to provide products to enable communications over and between SS7 and IP networks to allow our customers to focus their applications and value proposition.
RT: How has SIP changed communications?
SN: Due to the flexibility and extensibility of SIP, it has been employed for various types of session management as well as data communications. The extensibility provides flexibility but it may also create further complexity and interoperability issues. SIP is used by end users in the network, as well as among core network elements, breaking down the inherent isolation of the core network based on protocol differentiation through the use core protocols such as SS7. On one hand a common protocol from end-to-end allows communication between end users and core elements, while on the other hand it can create security concerns and require mitigation through the insertion of specialized security elements such as session border controllers.
RT: What is the biggest request coming from your customer base?
SN: Our customers want to be able to reliably deploy their applications in different networks without being concerned about the specifics of the protocols required to allow their services to operate.
RT: How are you answering their demands?
SN: We address the demand to reliably deploy their applications in different networks by providing our Signalware highly available middleware product with support for SS7, Sigtran, SIP and Diameter as well as broad support for country specific variants. In addition, our nSignia gateway products allow the customer to develop their applications for one protocol, such as Sigtran SUA and then deploy on various SS7 networks without concern for protocol interoperability of the signaling transport. Specific customer requests are handled as a part of our business strategy to be viewed as a signaling partner and not just a signaling vendor.
RT: What do you think the future of the market is?
SN: From a signaling perspective, the trend is definitely toward IP. However, some of the movement has slowed due to the difficulty justifying the expense combined with the availability of traditional equipment. As a result, I believe we will see more hybridization of networks with the growing need for solutions that allow the economical inter-working of components from traditional and next generation networks.
RT: How does the growth rate in the U.S. compare to the rest of the world?
SN: With a large installed base, the rate of growth will be slower than in some emerging markets. In general, the growth rate in the future will be led by APAC, Europe and then the U.S.
RT: What do you think of Google and Apple entering the telecom market?
SN: I believe Google and Apple are early sign posts regarding the future of the telecom market. Apple’s iPhone’s advertising has a very clear message “not the watered down internet… just the Internet” indicating that services in the future will most likely come from over the top providers and not the telecom companies. Google also has been vocal regarding the upcoming 700Mhz auction by sending an open letter to the FCC requesting that this spectrum be open. Both Apple and Google represent chinks in the telecom “Walled Garden” and point to a future where a telecom operator and ISP are indistinguishable.
RT: How about Microsoft?
SN: Microsoft traditionally has not been present at the core of the network. Microsoft’s recent activities have primarily been seen in the IPTV area and through the promotion of their Connected Services Framework. With the movement to IP and services coming from outside of the network, Microsoft should be able to capture a significant market share in these arenas.
RT: How will wireless technologies change our market?
SN: As wireless technologies progress to support increasing bandwidth and mobility, the consumer will expect the same services regardless of location and movement. This will require effective facility and bandwidth management to ensure the customer’s quality of service.
RT: How will communications evolve over the next five years?
SN: The movement toward IP will continue with Internet Service Providers playing a larger role in traditional telecommunications.
RT: What sorts of things will we be hearing about during your presentation at ITEXPO?
SN: The influence of the IT industry on telecom will impact everything from how information is transported to how applications are constructed and services delivered.
RT: Why is your presentation a “Can’t Miss?”
SN: My presentation will provide a realistic assessment of where we are heading and the pragmatic options that can be pursued to deliver telecom services in the future.
RT: What do you want the industry to know about your company?
SN: Ulticom is a leading signaling provider to many network equipment providers worldwide. Our Signalware platform provides highly available SS7, Sigtran, SIP and Diameter protocols allow our customers to focus their attention on the successful development and deployment of their applications and services while relying on Ulticom as their signaling partner. Our nSignia product line provides gateway functions packaged on a computer platform ready for deployment with no customer development required. nSignia configurations are available to support SS7 to Sigtran as well as SS7 to SIP and Diameter.
Ulticom has development and support centers in the U.S., France, and Singapore with sales offices throughout the world.
RT: Please make one surprising prediction we will see in 5 years.
SN: A non traditional player will gain a greater than 10 percent of the telecom market.