Alan Weissberger Start-Ups

2013 Telecom Council TC3 Part 1: Start-up Pitches and SPIFFY Award Winners


Telecom Council Carrier Connections (TC3) – the Telecom Council’s annual summit- was held Sept 18-19, 2013 at Juniper Networks in Sunnyvale, CA. The event provides an opportunity for start-ups, network equipment vendors, and application developers to interact with telecom carriers (telcos) and global network operators.  In addition, several carrier-vendor success stories were were told in a panel session format, moderated by Telecom Council Chairman Derek Kerton.

Investor Forum Meeting:

During day one (September 18th) of the two day TC3 summit, several “investment ready” start-up companies presented their value propositions to an Investor Forum panel panel that consisted of the Venture Capital division of carrier, equipment and semiconductor companies.

The Nokia Ventures representative stated that “the mobile industry is heavily disrupted and (as a result) there will be many new opportunities in the next few years.”  Among the strategic areas of interest to Nikia: security, cloud, mobile, data centers, and video.

Here’s a very brief summary of selected start-up company pitches:

Whitenoise Labs:  Very strong encryption scheme with key lengths > 1060 bytes, produced via random number generator.  This secure text encryption and decryption software.was referred to as “Infinite One Time Pad.

Pie Digital:  Connected home call center and end user solution.  Broadband Service Providers (BSPs) lack tools to see past residential gateway (RGW) and offer home user support.  Fully integrated platform discovers the devices behind the RGW.  “Field trial with one carrier is a win. Very high CSR satisfaction rates.”

Ethertronics: RF front end using “active antenna system” that is able to dynamically respond to continuously changing wireless environment.  Interaction between antenna system and wireless modem along with end to end performance optimization was said to provide for a better user experience.

Saisei Networks:  Flow-based network visibility and policy control appliances. “These innovative virtual appliances are designed to deliver next-generation application intelligence and granular policy control to maintain and improve carrier and enterprise network health. SDN controlled, their NFV solutions improve link utilization, provide real-time analytics, and deliver application protection.”

StreetLight Data:  Contextualizes anonymous location data (from cellular towers and GPS devices) to measure consumer mobility patterns for a place.  “This next generation geospatial data can help brick and mortar retailers, and planners, transform the way they make decisions.”

Playphone:  Connects mobile users to a global gaming network.  “Live with AT&T, VZW, Sprint, Claro-Brazil, Telus, Rogers.”  Mobile games were said to be the largest part of smartphone ecosystem. Mobile game store comes pre-loaded on devices sold by carrier partners.

Readypulse:  Aims to turn Instagram photos into mobile apps (SaaS).  Monthly subscription fee from brands and retailers.

Wefi Inc: Key innovator in mobile data collection and analytics.  Customers include Cricket Wireless, TW Cable.  SDK for mobile apps comes pre-loaded on devices sold by carrier partners. End users don’t pay for this capability.

Radio Gigabit (Russia):  MM Wave wireless backhaul with beam steering capability. Advanced radio technology for next generation mobile networks includes smart lens antennas beamforming and DSP.  “Will be the next big thing in small cell backhaul.”

SPIF Meeting:

The second September 18th panel was the Service Providers Investment Forum (SPIF), which was the predecessor organization for the Telecom Council.  Over the last few years, global carriers have come to Silicon Valley in search of innovation and doing things that haven’t been done before. The SPIF panel members included AT&T, Sprint, BT, Telefonica, Orange, and Singtel Innov8 Ventures.

The presenting start-up companies were Guavus, Keypoint Technologies, Devicescape, Altobridge, 2600HZ, Calient Technologies, Jamcracker, Innopath Software, and Jolata.

We’ll only comment on Calient, which was one of the hottest Silicon Valley start-ups in 1999-2000 during the optical network boom. At that time, the company was said to be a leader in pure optical (photonic) switching.  More than eight leading optical networking vendors invested over $4.5 billion dollars into photonic switching, with most of that being Nortel’s $3.25 billion acquisition of Xros Networks (which was soon shut down). It was in this environment that Calient was able to raise $400 million to build a fab and deliver its first systems for the “all optical network” that was a very hot topic then.

Today, Calient finds its biggest opportunity in a “SDN Hybrid Data Center,” which consists of traditional Ethernet/IP switches that are augmented by the Optical Circuit Switches (OCSs) that Calient makes. Calient claims that traditional Data Center networks don’t scale well and consume huge amounts of power. The new Hybrid Data Center combines strengths of packet/frame switching for short or bursty traffic and OCS’s for on-demand, large or persistent flows. Examples of the latter include: scheduled events like VM (Virtual Machine) migration or Map Reduce; real time events like breaking news videos.

Calient’s OCSs are built from 3D MEM that use mirrors to move and switch optical paths from input port to output port.  Current product is a 320 x 320 port OCS which draws less than 45 watts of power and has less than 1.8 dB insertion loss. It was said to use SDN management (?) and control (Open Flow?) planes.

At the conclusion of the presentations, Telecom Council president Liz Kerton asked the carrier representatives to raise their hands if they planned to follow up with at least one of the companies. All six hands went up, which was a first for a SPIF meeting.  Ms. Kerton said that there was an average 80% “followup rate” from the carriers at typical SPIF meetings.

SPIFFY Awards:

The final TC3 day one event was the SPIFFY awards- the Council’s annual innovation recognition ceremony where SPIFFY members recognize entrepreneurs helping to improve the telecom industry.  Hundreds of start-ups were reviewed by over 25 SPIF members throughout one year (June 2012 through May 2013), but only seven were selected for awards.

The winners of the 2013 SPIFFY Awards are:

  • The Edison Award for Most Innovative Start-Up goes to SIGFOX.
  • The Ground Breaker Award for Engineering Excellence goes to Jibe Mobile.
  • The Graham Bell Award for Best Communication Solutions goes to Range Networks.
  • The San Andreas Award for Most Disruptive Technology goes to SmartThings.
  • The Core Award for Best Fixed Telecom Opportunity goes to 2600hz.
  • The Zephyr Award for Best Mobile Opportunity goes to Quixey (mobile app search engine).
  • The Prodigy Award for the Most Successful SPiF Alumni is Violin Memory.
  • The Fred & Ginger Award for Most Supportive Carrier goes to Orange for the active role of their Silicon Valley-based team in supporting telecom entrepreneurs.

President of Telecom Council, Liz Kerton said proudly of the 25 SPIF carriers and the 100+ startup presenters:

“A great year for innovation in telecom; we all applaud these winners for their contributions to the future of our industry. The Telecom Council looks forward to presenting many more telecom companies to the industry in the coming years.”

Up Next:

TC3 Part 2 will cover the likely strategic goals for the next FCC Chairman, especially Spectrum Policy.

Related Article:

Telecom Council TC3 Wireless Session Quicktakes & Highlights: Sept 18-19, 2013 at Juniper Networks in Sunnyvale,CA  

Author Alan Weissberger

By Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger is a renowned researcher in the telecommunications field. Having consulted for telcos, equipment manufacturers, semiconductor companies, large end users, venture capitalists and market research firms, we are fortunate to have his critical eye examining new technologies.

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