Heavy Reading
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

VOIP: A Comprehensive Competitive Analysis of Softswitches

As the telecom recovery begins, incumbent telecom carriers face severe challenges, including the continued loss of telephony lines and minutes to wireless operators, the need to accelerate broadband rollouts in the face of new competition from cable companies, the regulatory mandate to unbundle local loop elements, and new long-distance competition from specialist VOIP carriers.

Incumbent telcos need new VOIP infrastructures to meet these challenges, and they now have the knowledge and spending power to start buying and deploying them as they migrate from aging Class 5 circuit-switched networks to a packet-switched infrastructure. The key element in any VOIP infrastructure deployment is the softswitch – the call-control component of a distributed-telephony or multimedia-switching solution.

VOIP: A Comprehensive Competitive Analysis of Softswitches is the most detailed and comprehensive analysis of softswitch equipment undertaken to date. In two key product categories – distributed softswitches and integrated softswitches – the report delivers granular information, in matrix format, on every important aspect of functionality and performance of each vendor's offering.

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More than two dozen tables, encompassing more than 2,500 data points, enable detailed feature-by-feature comparisons of 20 different integrated and distributed softswitch products from 16 manufacturers. In total, product survey information is presented for 23 different manufacturers, including 13 public companies and 10 private companies.

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Products are compared across a wide range of feature and performance specifications, including the following:

Chassis/server size and weight
Power consumption
Calls set up per second
Maximum simultaneous calls handled
Access media gateway equipment required
Trunk media gateway equipment required
Scaleability
Architecture support
Protocol support
Policy server support
Interoperability
Switching and broadband QOS features
Codecs and signal processing features



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The report includes a detailed analysis of how softswitches and other VOIP products are used in different scenarios and maps out how VOIP architectures are evolving, identifying technology choices facing carriers and discussing the pros and cons of different approaches.


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Key Findings

Key findings from the report include the following:

Large incumbent carriers are under increasing competitive pressure to migrate from Class 5 circuit switches to softswitches. This pressure will guarantee VOIP's long-term success in the carrier market. For incumbents, the main drivers for migrating to VOIP are to increase revenue and average revenue per user (ARPU) by deploying new services, to replace obsolescent circuit switches, and to lower operating expenses through site consolidation and headcount reduction. Together, these drivers make the migration to VOIP a must for carrier survival.

Vendors are jeopardizing the short-term success of VOIP by not presenting a clear and cohesive vision regarding products and architectures. There is still no industry-standard definition for a softswitch, with several competing and conflicting voice-over-packet architectures now being advanced. The lack of clarity won't prevent carriers from beginning their migration from Class 5 TDM circuit switches to VOIP, but it could affect the timing of planned migrations.

The lack of industry clarity surrounding softswitches may create future interoperability and regulatory problems for carriers – and create survivability problems for softswitch vendors as well. Operators cannot wait for large-scale interoperability to be proved, so they will choose two or three vendors and force them to interoperate to get the business. This forced strategy will put smaller softswitch vendors at a huge disadvantage.

A continued lack of clarity in voice-over-packet architectures will prolong the lifespan of integrated Class 5 replacement switch products. Products that integrate Class 5 and softswitch functionality offer a quick replacement or greenfield opportunity, are cost-effective, and are very attractive for CLECs in particular regulatory environments, such as the U.S., which favor facilities-based competitive voice services.

Integrated softswitches are especially critical for smaller, newer vendors. Integrated products represent a foot in the door to the incumbent carrier market, or even a Trojan horse that can later open up and expand to take over a larger share of the network.

Vendors that have been using their installed base of Class 5 telephone switches to sell extortionate software upgrades could be in for a big and unpleasant surprise in the softswitch market. The market for softswitches will be much more fluid than that for Class 5 switches. That means carrier customers will have more freedom to use products from different vendors. Suppliers won't be able to count as heavily on after-sale software revenues from the carrier market.

The future network cost and service revenue implications of picking a mediocre Class 5 migration vendor are enormous. Incumbent network operators of all sizes will be prepared to bite the bullet, cap their legacy systems, and migrate to a multisource solution with new vendors, rather than make a long-term commitment to a supplier with a less-acceptable product.

Incumbent operators' insistence on major-vendor interoperability for multisource solutions will favor Chinese vendors. The major Western vendors have fallen over themselves chasing plum contracts in China that require them to interwork with equipment from Huawei, UTStarcom, and ZTE. These three vendors can now move into Western markets with an excellent set of interoperability credentials.

Report Scope and Structure

VOIP: A Comprehensive Competitive Analysis of Softswitches includes complete competitive analyses for 20 different softswitch products, including the following 16 integrated softswitches and four distributed softswitches:

Integrated Softswitches Analyzed:

Alcatel 1000 Softswitch
Cirpack SuperNode
Cirpack SuperNode B
Huawei SoftX3000
Marconi SoftSwitch XCD5000 Call Agent
Nortel Networks CS 2000
Nuera ORCA SSC
Open Telecommunications openCallAgent
Samsung SSX5000
Siemens Surpass hiE 9200/ with hiX
Siemens Surpass hiE 9200/ with hiG1600
Sonus Insignus
Telica PLUS MGC
UTStarcom Call Server
Veraz Networks ControlSwitch
ZTE/ZXSS10 SS1b

Distributed Softswitches Analyzed:

Cirpack LEN
MetaSwitch VP3500
Sentito Neo Services Switch (NSS)
Telica Compact Softswitch

This report is structured as follows:

Section II presents a taxonomy of softswitches, including key distinctions between distributed and integrated products and the role of softswitches in carrier migration from Class 5 circuit switches.

Section III analyzes softswitch network architectures, focusing on key distinctions between architectures now being promoted by different standards groups.

Section IV offers an overview of VOIP network applications and market drivers.

Section V presents a comprehensive competitive analysis of distributed softswitch products, with feature-by-feature comparisons for 17 different products from 15 manufacturers.

Section VI provides a competitive analysis of integrated softswitches, focusing on available products from four leading manufacturers.

Section VII offers a detailed analysis of how distributed and integrated softswitches can be deployed by carriers to ease the transition from network designs based on Class 5 circuit switches.

The report is essential reading for a wide range of industry participants, including the following:

Telecom service providers: How have VOIP architectures evolved to meet your needs as you migrate from a Class 5 environment to a packet-based network? Which type of softswitch best meets your immediate and long-term needs? How do today's products compare for the features and performance specifications that are most important to you? Which suppliers are best positioned to deliver the optimal Class 5 migration strategy?

Softswitch suppliers: How do your products compare with the competition? What are the specific strengths of your product line that will resonate with prospective carrier buyers? Are there potential weaknesses in your product that need to be addressed?

Investors: Which equipment makers are in the best position to capture market share in this important telecom industry sector? Which startups are delivering the technology that will gain market traction with carrier buyers?

VOIP: A Comprehensive Competitive Analysis of Softswitches is published in PDF format. A companion report, VOIP: A Comprehensive Competitive Analysis of Media Gateways, is also available.

LENGTH: 68 PAGES
PRICE: $3,495
GRAHAM BENISTON
Analyst at Large, Heavy Reading
Graham Beniston is an associate of Heavy Reading with over 25 years' experience in the telecom industry. During that time, he has worked in all narrowband and broadband technologies. His expertise includes IP over ATM, IP VPNs, mobile IP, IP satellite networks, and IP traffic management...'s team of analysts and a leading authority on next-generation telecom technology. He has 12 years' experience researching the optical networks and broadband networking markets...
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KEY FINDINGS
Incumbent carriers are under increased pressure to migrate to VOIP services
Lack of standards could harm the short-term prospects for VOIP deployment
Smaller suppliers are at risk because of uncertainty over equipment standards
Integrated softswitches are the most promising product sector for VOIP startups
Incumbent vendors won't be able to count on after-sale revenues with softswitches
The ramifications of choosing a mediocre softswitch platform will be severe for carriers
INTEGRATED SOFTSWITCHES ANALYZED
Alcatel 1000 Softswitch
Cirpack SuperNode
Cirpack SuperNode B
Huawei SoftX3000
Marconi SoftSwitch XCD5000 Call Agent
Nortel Networks CS 2000
Nuera ORCA SSC
Open Telecommunications openCallAgent
Samsung SSX5000
Siemens Surpass hiE 9200/ with hiX
Siemens Surpass hiE 9200/ with hiG1600
Sonus Insignus
Telica PLUS MGC
UTStarcom Call Server
Veraz Networks ControlSwitch
ZTE/ZXSS10 SS1b
DISTRIBUTED SOFTSWITCHES ANALYZED
Cirpack LEN
MetaSwitch VP3500
Sentito Neo Services Switch (NSS)
Telica Compact Softswitch
DELIVERABLES
Full analysis of VOIP market and technology development

Complete competitive analysis of 20 different softswitches from 16 suppliers

More than two dozen product comparison matrices, yielding more than 2,500 comparative data points

Full analysis of VOIP architectures and standards efforts

68 pages of survey analysis
LENGTH: 68 PAGES
PRICE: $3,495
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