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Stoke scores big debut with DoCoMo contract

NTT will be the first operator to commercially deploy the start-up’s multi-access gateway

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For a small wireless startup looking for its first commercial contract, a deal with Japanese mobile titan NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:DCM) might have seemed beyond reach. But wireless gateway maker Stoke has felled the giant on its first attempt, revealing that DoCoMo will be the first operator to deploy its mobile-access IP gateway. Stoke is now hoping to ride the prestige of that win to contracts in Europe and North America.

There's a catch, though: Stoke can't say what DoCoMo plans to do with it. While DoCoMo gave Stoke permission to discuss the million-plus-dollar contract, said Dan McBride, director of product solutions and marketing for Stoke, the startup is forbidden from discussing the services for which DoCoMo will use the gateway. Considering the breadth of DoCoMo's operations and the flexibility of the Stoke Session Exchange 3000 (SSX-3000) gateway, the possibilities are numerous.

Founded in 2004 in Silicon Valley by former engineers from Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), Motorola (NYSE:MOT) and a host of other IP and wireless vendors, Stoke set out to build an open IP gateway that combined the ability of wireless gateways to manage millions of subscriber sessions and the ability of IP routers to manage billions upon billions of packets. Most platforms in the market were industry-specific, McBride said, focusing on either the control-plane needs of a voice-centric wireless market or the bearer-plane needs of the data-centric IP world. McBride said Stoke recognized that those needs would converge as mobile broadband took off, a prediction being born out long before the advent of 4G.

"Mobile operators are hurtling toward a train wreck in mobile broadband data growth—LTE isn't coming soon enough," McBride said, referring to the 4G technology long-term evolution. "We designed a gateway that is fundamentally different from the gateways of the wireless world and the routers of the IP world, which can support both millions of subscribers as well as the sheer volumes of IP traffic."

The SSX-3300 is designed to function as multiple gateways, offloading any manner of IP traffic off of the operator's wide-area radio access network. Stoke is positioning it as a mobility anchor that can follow customers as they move between business and home WLAN networks, femtocells or other public and private access points. The gateway can function as an access service network (ASN) gateway on a WiMax or WiFi network, a security gateway that tunnels and firewalls traffic, and as a dedicated fixed mobile convergence (FMC) gateway supporting specific protocols such as unlicensed mobile access (UMA).

Though Stoke wouldn't reveal what the specific applications DoCoMo will run over the gateway, the operator has an extensive array of networks, which the SSX-3000 could link together. In addition to its primary 3G wideband CDMA network, DoCoMo runs a nationwide WiFi hotspot network, a satellite phone service, and enterprise mobile PBX services running off in-building networks—all of which could be linked back to the 3G core in an FMC solution. DoCoMo is also launching one of the world's first LTE networks next year, which by definition will be an all-IP network. The gateway could be used to support an expansive network of femtocells or other access points connected back to the 3G and 4G cores through the Internet.

McBride said DoCoMo will deploy multiple gateways immediately, completing the first phase of its mysterious open-IP project by the end of the year. Several other operators are trialing Stoke's gateway in North America and Europe, but McBride is betting that the exposure from such a high-profile win will convince other operators to turn their trials into commercial deployments.

"God, I hope so," McBride said. "One thing the operator industry understands is that DoCoMo is, if anything, a thorough organization. … The fact they could have chosen anyone for this contract, but they picked Stoke, points to the holes in other vendors' portfolios."

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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