NXTcomm08: GenBand, a profile in unexpected success
When Charlie Vogt took over as president and CEO of what was then known as General Bandwidth in 2004, he announced a strategy for making the company a dominant player in the media gateway business that included expanding its product set, increasing revenues and developing partnerships with other equipment makers. Over the course of the last four years, Vogt has executed on that strategy successfully enough to make GenBand, as the company is now known, the number one media gateway provider globally, in terms of trunk ports shipped, according to Infonetics, and the global market share leader for wireless VoIP media gateway ports shipments according to Synergy Research Group.
Vogt and GenBand have achieved that status through some unusual and creative means that have positioned the company as the media gateway partner to major telecommunications equipment manufacturers led by Alcatel-Lucent, for both wired and wireline services, as well as Nokia-Siemens and Nortel on the wireline side and Motorola and now NEC on the wireless side.
That creativity included acquiring some assets that other companies didn’t necessarily value and using them to create a media gateway product portfolio well-positioned to enable service providers to manage the wireline transition to all-IP services as well as wireless VoIP and now femtocell deployment. Those assets included Siemens’ DCO switching business and open interfaces to its EWSD switches, Tekelec’s switching business including assets from two previous Vogt employers, Santera and Tacqua, and most recently, Nokia-Siemens’ SURPASS hiG fixed line trunking media gateway product line. The NSN deal cemented GenBand as media gateway partner to Nokia-Siemens Networks, while as part of its agreement, Tekelec wound up as a GenBand investor.
“You have to look at management – Charlie knows how to make a deal,” said Jeremy Duke, analyst with Synergy Research Group. “He has a track record. But to be able to work partnerships and deals with so many different vendors like Siemens, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia and to make it work that is quite the diplomatic feat.”
Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for VoIP and IMS at Infonetics Research, likens Vogt’s strategy at GenBand to that of a private equity firm.
“This is a strategy I haven’t see from other vendors and to me it is very similar to a private equity strategy – grabbing assets, turning them around and building a strong position,” Teral said. “GenBand, from day one they have that in-house crew looking at ways of building a strong company from assets they can grab at a very fair price.”
The analysts agree that GenBand has been able to take what seemed like unwanted assets from other companies and mold them into the industry’s broadest media gateway portfolio.
Vogt came to GenBand fresh from his CEO job at Tacqua and immediately launched his strategy to become a dominant media gateway player. GenBand had invested heavily in its G6 media gateway product but was not yet seeing the revenues to reward that investment.
“The first thing we had done in 2005 was begin to look at how we could align the G6 with the various OEMs that were out there and the logical players were Alcatel, Nortel, Ericsson, Siemens,” Vogt said. “We set about taking our access gateway and being able to align it with their softswitch architecture.”
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