NextPoint deal points to IBG's rise

This week’s merger of NexTone Communications and Reef Point Systems into NextPoint Networks represents the strategic and technological intersection of two companies whose network elements—the former’s session border controller and the latter’s security gateway--are neighbors in the IP Multimedia Subsystem architecture. The resulting combined product, NextPoint’s Integrated Border Gateway (IBG), is timed particularly well to a progressing consolidation of IMS elements into fewer, more functionally rich platforms. But, it also might appeal directly to the MultiService Forum’s requirements for a session border gateway element.
“The MSF wants a session border gateway, and that’s what the IBG is,” said Woody Ritchie, the CEO of NextPoint and former CEO of Reef Point.
The MSF’s session border gateway requirements were published around the spring of 2006, and about six months later, NexTone and Reef Point began working together. The companies first demonstrated the concept behind the IBG last June at NXTcomm in Chicago, and showed of the prototype IBG product itself at in October at VON in Boston, so the merger was almost a formality.
Some reports that have followed the merger announcement hinted that NextPoint Chairman David Walsh, who had been chairman of NexTone, was the common denominator that brought the two companies together. Wals also was with the private equity unit of JP Morgan Chase, which had invested in both companies separately and led a $20 million financing injection into the merged company. However, Ritchey said Walsh didn’t come to NexTone until months after the two vendors began working together.
“This is something that carriers wanted us to do,” Ritchey said. “They said that if we worked together it would simplify things for them.” He added that BT had tested the prototype IBG.
The IMS market has faced some delays and slower-than-anticipated adoption of some network elements, but Ritchey said the IBG fits into an SIP-based service environment. Just recently, Telecom Italia showed that carriers can be interested in moving to SIP services before IMS when it launched a SIP-based fixed-mobile converged service.
Major IMS vendors also will be watching. As IMS architectures continue to consolidate into fewer boxes, Ritchey acknowledged that the IBG itself could get subsumed into a larger vendor’s IMS technology blueprint.