CounterPath, Metaswitch Partner to Mobilize Unified Communications

With unified communications still a sometimes disjointed affair, two major players have teamed up to develop an integrated solution they say will simplify the business of taking UC to desktop PCs and out into the mobile arena.

Headquartered in Great Britain, Metaswitch Networks has carved out a niche with its scalable carrier systems solutions and related software. CounterPath, based in Vancouver, B.C., claims a portfolio of over 260 carrier and enterprise customers for its communications software solutions, which include desktop and mobile phone clients and fixed/mobile convergence servers—one targeted at the enterprise, one at telephony service providers.

With their latest announcement, the two companies have said they will work together to create a seamless, integrated UC solution based on their mutual strengths.

The effect should be most readily apparent in the realm of mobility. By bringing UC to the mobile arena, CounterPath’s technology can extend to Metaswitch users the ability to access mobile voice, text, multimedia messaging, and video via a single phone number.

That ability to meld the wireline and wireless telephony realms could have significant business impact, according to CounterPath vice president of product management Todd Carothers.

He points for example to the familiar scenario of an agent in the field who conducts the bulk of business via mobile device. Customer data resides on that device and when the agent leaves the company, all that data flies away with him.

Now create a single number, a wired phone that acts as one with a mobile device. All calls come and go via the wired line, “so that when that agent does leave, they can’t take all those customers with them,” Carothers said. “Whoever owns that phone number is the one in control, and that’s what we are bringing to the wireline operator.”

The net effect will be “a fast, cost-effective way to equip their employees in the office and in the field with tools that enhance their productivity and availability,” Metaswitch CEO Kevin DeNuccio said in a statement.

This new mobility should be accomplished through the tight integration of both partners’ technologies. When it’s done, Carothers said, it could change the fundamental business landscape that exists between mobile and landline carriers.

“Right now everyone thinks the mobile operators have won: They own the spectrum, they own the devices,” Carothers said. That might have been true briefly, but new advances—including the move to merge wireline and mobile communications—are changing the equation.

“In fact, mobile architecture on the end point has opened up enough to accommodate other applications, including mobile VoIP, which competes directly against the mobile providers,” Carothers said. “Now people can say ‘call my wireline number’ with confidence, because it is going to have the same reachability, the same capability, operating on the mobile device.”

Depending on how that call gets handled, whether as voice or data, mobile carriers may or may not be included in the revenue stream. Carothers noted, though, that the mobile carriers have an interest in convergence, since the net effect will be more calls passing through more mobile handsets. “We turn the Internet into the world’s largest roaming network for them,” Carothers said.

However these variables may shake out, the incorporation of convergence technology into Metaswitch networks should create new opportunities. “In the future, our capability will enable Metaswitch to deal more effectively with the wireless providers,” Carothers said.

As the partnership evolves, the resulting solution will be branded with the Metaswitch name in order to enable existing customers to easily acquire the technology as part of the overall Metaswitch package. “They want to buy from a single vendor, and this makes it easier for them,” Carothers said.

The sales effort will also come from Metaswitch, where a strong in-house sales team already is driving over $134 million in annual sales with an annual growth rate of 33 percent, according to the company. CounterPath won’t be doing any direct selling but rather will focus on its core strength of product innovation, relying on its partner to bring the technology to market.

“For CounterPath the strategy is always to scale and grow through channels, and we believe Metaswitch is a new channel that will take us into places that we couldn’t get to by ourselves,” Carothers said.

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