Networking and Telecom Giants Push IP Convergence

IP convergence has been touted as the next big wave for quite some time. Throughout 1998 and during the early months of 1999, it has failed to take off. But the situation may be changing.

In mid-March, Microsoft Corp. announced its most significant foray into IP convergence yet, unveiling a number of partnerships and technology agreements with several high-profile industry vendors. Then a flurry of IP convergence-related activities occurred during April. It appears that networking and telecommunications vendors are following hot on the heels of Microsoft’s lead and betting that the demand for converged voice and data solutions will materialize sooner rather than later.

Accordingly, industry players such as networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. and telecommunications leaders Nortel Networks ( and Ericsson ( have been looking in early April to shore up their portfolio of IP convergence-related technologies by acquiring smaller companies with key enabling technologies.

Cisco Systems reached an agreement in mid-April to acquire GeoTel Communications Corp. (, a provider of software solutions for enterprise call centers. According to Cisco, the GeoTel acquisition will allow it to create a software platform that customers can use to rapidly deploy voice applications based on open Internet standards.

On the telecommunications side, Nortel Networks has long been known as a provider of advanced PBX and other voice-related technologies. But in early March, Nortel Networks joined with Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Co. to promote IP convergence solutions on the Windows NT platform. In mid-April, Nortel Networks continued its aggressive maneuvering by announcing its plans to purchase Shasta Networks Inc. (

Nortel Networks expects to combine its existing Intranet Services technology with Shasta Networks’ IP services management technologies to deliver solutions that will help telecommunications carriers create value-added IP services.

Ericsson had been a relatively quiet force in the networking space, but in early April the Swedish telecommunications giant catapulted itself into the IP convergence mainstream by making two technology-related acquisitions. Ericsson purchased both Torrent Networking (, a developer of network routers and switches used by Internet service providers, and TouchWave Inc. (, a telecommunications manufacturer that specializes in IP-based PBX solutions.

But all these maneuverings in the IP convergence space are moot as long as existing network transport and quality of service problems remain to be worked out, explains Lisa Pierce, director of domestic telecommunications strategies at the analyst firm Giga Information Group (

"What we’re talking about right now is that until we have really, really good transport services, nothing else matters much, and all of these other [IP convergence] issues should be set on the backburner," Pierce concludes. "If we’re talking about one network to do voice, data or video, we really have to think about very solid transport services. Because if you want a single network to carry everything and you really want to intermingle that traffic, you’ve got a lot of work to do."

Hopping into the Convergence Market

  • Cisco acquires GeoTel to offer software that enable easy deployment of voice applications based on Internet standards.
  • Nortel joins with Microsoft and HP to Promote IP convergence on Windows NT.
  • Nortel buys Shasta Networks to enable telecommunications to create value-added IP services.
  • Ericsson buys Torrent Networking, a switch and router provider, and TouchWave, an IP-based PBX company.