Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sprint kills two birds

There is little doubt in my mind, that someone woke up at Sprint one morning and looked at their current position and strategy and thought:

  • Launched iPhone, check,
  • Introduced all-you-can-eat unlimited data plan, check,
  • Launch 4G, check, 
  • that feels pretty good... 

That is until someone must have asked "Who are our suppliers of mobile internet technology who we will be relying on to grow drastically our capacity and services while reducing our costs?".

The answer was probably, "the same vendors whom we have relied on for 2G and 3G, Openwave and Ortiva Wireless"... Well, the market had changed and as the execs looked at the viability of their current suppliers, they probably accelerated their exit by selecting a new vendor. Sprint has been rumored to have selected Bytemobile last month, after a short evaluation. 

As you have seen, Ortiva got scooped up by Allot, a good operation for the vendor who has been wanting to expand their offering for the last eighteen months. The company was looking for good technology, at a low price, and that is exactly what they got. 

Ortiva Wireless has been one of the first pure play video optimization vendors, focusing on transrating and dynamic bit rate adaptation. A narrow field that allowed it to focus and execute well technically, on a few deployments, but lacked the breadth to challenge vendors with a more complete offering. The company never got the critical mass to grow organically fast enough, and when the news hit, last month, that Sprint, their largest customer was looking at alternative vendors for 4G,  the investors, who have put in over $40m in equity and convertible debt decided to look for alternative growth strategy. Allot had been in the market for a while for a video optimization vendor and the deal was concluded in a few weeks, for less than $16m.

The following week, Sandvine announces a joint video optimization  deployment with Mobixell at nTelos. Bytemobile had already started communicating (here) around policy-based optimization at mobile world congress, with Openet.

As for Openwave, if you have followed the saga (here), you will  not have been surprised to learn that after a few weeks of due diligence with a couple of possible suitors, the company decided to continue licensing its patent portfolio under the name "Unwired Planet" while divesting its product divisions split between Openwave Messaging and Openwave Mobility to Marlin Equity Partners for $55m.It is too bad that the strategic relationship with Juniper did not develop into an acquisition, but it is hardly surprising, considering Openwave's market share and technical results in video optimization.

Meanwhile, as Comviva, NSN, OnMobile, and Huawei enter the segment with their in-house and OEM'd technology, Alcatel Lucent, Amdocs, Cisco and others have selected partners for VAR and OEM and are actively participating in vendors' evaluations. 

These subjects and many more at the Mobile Video Optimization forum in Brussels June 12-13th. I am the show's official blogger and will chair day 1. I am looking forward to seeing you there.

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