Start-up's plan portends new carrier services –

WESTFORD, MASS. -- Siemens' Unisphere Solutions this week will lay out an ambitious plan to offer hardware and software that supports integrated voice and data services.

The company's Service Ready Networking roadmap is aimed squarely at carriers, but enterprise network customers could be the ultimate beneficiaries in the form of new complex services from service providers.

Siemens created Unisphere by spending $1.1 billion for technology from Castle Networks, Redstone Communications and Argon Networks. The guiding idea behind the purchases was for Siemens to grab a beachhead in the rapidly expanding U.S. converged-network equipment market.

Service Ready Networking is intended to integrate circuit-switched, IP or ATM networks, according to Lisa Allocca, Unisphere's vice president of solutions marketing. Combining resources from these separate networks can produce groundbreaking services.

An example might be a voice service that forwards a call from one number to another after four rings. If no one answers at the second number, the service takes a voice mail message using an interactive voice response system. The actual message is then sent as an audio attachment to an e-mail.

Unisphere gear would tap into the public phone network for the call forwarding, then into a packet-telephony network's voice messaging system when no one picks up the phone. That same packet network would also send the e-mail attachment.

But Unisphere has its work cut out. Lucent, which sells voice and data switches to most U.S. carrier networks, has developed a similar softswitch architecture.

Being able to offer all network elements from edge to core is something Unisphere has not addressed, says Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., a technology assessment firm in Voorhees, N.J.

Competitive local exchange carriers (CLEC) would be most interested in Unisphere's gear, according to Christopher Nicoll, an analyst with Current Analysis in Sterling, Va. CLECs could build sophisticated services by drawing on the existing resources of other carriers.

"Unisphere doesn't look at IP-based carriers or circuit-switched carriers, it looks at both worlds," Nicoll says.

Since Unisphere was announced as a company in March, it has picked up from Siemens 200 engineers with expertise in IP telephony, service and network management and metadirectories.

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