Vendor Network Architectures�Part XXIV: CopperCom, Inc.

CopperCom, Inc., of Boca Raton, Florida, has been in the switching business since 1992, targeting the market of Class 5 and Class 4 service providers. CopperCom is part of The Heico Companies, a private equity company that has acquired a portfolio of over 40 companies in its 25 year history. Heico is a large organization, with annual revenue in excess of $2.5 billion, and over 8,000 employees.

Heico has adopted a “buy and hold” philosophy when purchasing new firms, and looks for companies that can grow and prosper in their respective industry sectors. Heico looked at the telecommunications industry in 2003, and anticipated a rebound after the technology bubble burst in early 2000. In addition, they looked at the switching market, and concluded that most switching vendors were targeting the larger Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) and the International Post Telephone and Telegraph administrations (PTTs), and largely ignoring the smaller Independent Operating Companies (IOCs) that nevertheless comprise a significant share of the marketplace. CopperCom was identified as a firm that had the best management and technology to successfully address the IOC marketplace, and was therefore brought into the Heico fold.

One example of the IOC market is a telco in Missouri that chose CopperCom equipment to replace their legacy switch – with a capacity of just 4,500 lines. Without too much thought, a similar scenario could be played out across the United States, where rural and smaller service providers are looking to solve the same challenges faced by their larger urban cousins: addressing their customers’ needs for next generation services such as high speed data and video, while generating new sources of revenues to finance these capital equipment upgrades. CopperCom’s products are tailored to the needs of these rural providers, with systems that can accommodate as few as 100 subscribers, but grow to support 200,000 subscribers when equipped with both centralized and remote systems.

CopperCom’s flagship product is called the Converged Switching Exchange, or CSX., which is designed to deliver an enhanced set of residential class, custom calling and business services over both packet-based and circuit switching-based network infrastructures. By supporting both legacy interfaces and features, plus advanced Internet Protocol (IP) services, services providers are able to leverage the existing Class 4/5 features, such as E911, CALEA (Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law which enables the wiretapping of digital networks), and LNP (Local Number Portability, which was mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996), while migrating to a packet-based network.

The CSX includes capabilities for both signaling interworking and bearer interworking, which allows the service provider to offer services to both circuit-based and packet-based subscribers, and then interwork those services. The signaling interworking assures that calls can be established and disconnected between dissimilar networks, while the bearer interworking assures that the customer’s transmitted information (voice, data, and so on) undergoes the appropriate format conversions. For example, customers served by analog centrex, IP centrex, and VoIP via xDSL can all be served from the same CSX switch. To enable this flexibility, the CSX is equipped to handle both the legacy signaling protocols, such as the Primary Rate Interface (PRI) and Channel Associated Signaling (CAS), and the next generation protocols, such as the IETF Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and the ITU-T H.248 and MGCP protocols.

The CopperCom CSX architecture is comprised of two key elements: the CopperController softswitch and the CSX media gateway. The voice-over-packet signaling and voice-over-packet bearer (information) transport are decoupled. All signaling, network management, and billing functions are handled by the CopperController, while the bearer transport functions are handled by the media gateway. This architectural separation will allow the CopperController to evolve into a multimedia session controller for video, and an application session portal for advanced feature servers and media servers. Softswitches without this architectural decoupling would not be able to achieve this flexibility.

Further details on the CopperCom architecture and products can be found at Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ architectures.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved

Author’s Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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