Bigger Genband gets to focus more on wider business opportunities

Genband might have quadrupled by swallowing the much bigger Nortel Carrier VoIP and Application Solutions Business (CVAS--essentially soul of the bankrupt telco vendor) but it's still an innovative small-at-heart Texas-based telecommunications equipment vendor.

Company executives delivered that message over and over (and over once more for good measure) during a day-long Perspective 2010 presentation to selected media and analysts in suburban Dallas.

Charlie Vogt, Genband"There's a lot of opportunity. It's a pretty big landscape and our biggest challenge right now is to make sure we're seeing all the opportunities. Genband is innovating; we are growing and we are global," President-CEO Charlie Vogt promised.

All the company execs talked the telco talk; that annoying mix of buzzwords and acronyms that lends an insider's nudge-nudge, wink-wink feel to any presentation. Genband has consolidated most of its products into software and middleware and bunched it all under the telco-appropriate umbrella GENiUS platform, an all-IP Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (ATCA) bundle of developed and acquired technologies.

There is no avoiding the fact that the company's surface life revolves around telco; adding Nortel only adds products and people to that focus. But beneath that surface, Genband sees a telecom future that is not strictly telco-based but blends service providers of all ilks and all categories with content and applications providers, all driven by IP and software and middleware.

Femtocells and wireless, not necessarily part of the big iron heritage of such telecom heavyweights as AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), both of whom sent representatives to sit on a customer panel, fall into that new era. And video, for everyone, "is being reshaped by the Internet," said CTO Fred Kemmerer.

That reshaping is also happening in another traditional big iron industry: cable, where IP, based on the maturation of broadband and DOCSIS standards, is keeping pace with the general industry metamorphosis.

"We don't talk enough about cable. We think that's an interesting market for a lot of reasons. You're going to see a renewed interest in Genband participating a lot more actively in that sector," said Vogt, who estimated that about 10 percent of Genband's business comes from cable (compared to 25 percent from mobile and 65 percent from traditional telco carriers).

Genband already had cable VoIP customers but it picked up a gaggle more when it devoured CVAS. The company now estimates it is the leader in cable VoIP with a 22 percent market share and it's keeping an eye on where cable is merging its IP-based voice, video, data and even wireless plays.

"Content creators (not part of the typical Genband customer mix) are going to become a lot more powerful. The end user communities and consumer electronics communities are embracing this big time," said Kemmerer.

Fred Kemmerer, GenbandDespite the wild hopes of individuals on each side, neither content providers nor service providers run the show.

"The carriers recognize the importance of the over-the-top community," Kemmerer said. "We, as an industry, are just in our infancy trying to figure out ... how to properly share."

This provides a ground floor opportunity for the vendor with an end-to-end solution that meets the needs of both sides of the equation.

"Carriers are going to need to court the big development communities. We have to help our carrier customers get to where the developers really are," Kemmerer said.

The inference is that those "carriers" are among the 65 percent who are telcos. Kemmerer said that two of the three top developer spots have been assigned by most observers to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and that the third, if Genband can help, will be a service provider.

It needn't be a telco but it need be a player that will embrace a future where tailoring Internet-based content to a single individual will guarantee service provider success.

"The whole model is simplified platforms and customized applications," Kemmerer said. "Once you've spent the time (as a user) to get your service really tailored ... you're not going to switch carriers. This is going to be all about building infrastructure that the end user can use and customize."

While it's easy for Genband to focus on the majority of its customers while developing its future vision, the company has rarely taken the easy way. The Nortel CVAS acquisition, for instance, was expensive and seemingly doomed to failure.

"In nine months we're going to fully integrate a business that most of you figured was going to kill Genband," Vogt said. "We're doing a lot better than we anticipated."

And, he emphasized, the company is doing a lot more than anyone anticipates or can figure out. Hidden behind massive NDAs and the usual veil of secrecy with which the cable industry shrouds itself, work is going on with cable mobile and wireless plays as well as finding ways to fight subscriber cord cutting with sticky unified platforms, said Kemmerer.

The cable opportunity is there and waiting if the bigger Genband can continue to be as flexible as the smaller one had been.