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June 28, 2006

Carphone Warehouse Goes Next Gen with Sonus

By Erik Linask, Associate Editor,
Internet Telephony magazine

The communications world is changing rapidly and carriers and service providers are realizing that the differentiator is not going to be access — the key is in the applications and the services that they can offer their business and consumer subscribers.
While cost is always a factor, especially for business customers, at a growing rate, decisions are being based on what a subscriber gets — ROI, as it were. Businesses are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of packet-based telephony and consumers also are becoming more interesting in the benefits to be gained.
In the United Kingdom, British Telecom has recently announced its plans to migrate its disparate systems onto a single IP network. But legislation also mandates — and BT has agreed — that the region’s largest carrier will allow last mile access to local service providers via its local loop. In other words, it will allow providers that wish to offer their IP-based services the access to so. By the end of 2006, an estimated two to three million lines are expected to have been unbundled.
One UK-based provider, Opal Networks, a subsidiary of Carphone Warehouse, is making the most of this opportunity. Carphone Warehouse is a �3 billion telecom retailer offering voice services to consumers, which began as a wireless provider that then bought Opal Networks to operate as a wireline company. It now runs some two billion minutes over its network each month and is looking to acquire additional smaller European telcos to better position itself in the market.
In order to complete its migration to an all-IP network, Opal has selected Sonus Networks for a complete next-generation network solution as part of a multi-million dollar deal between the two firms. By leveraging Sonus’ IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert) (IMS)-ready architecture, which includes the full set of UK primary line residential call features, Carphone Warehouse will be able to leverage Opal’s new Sonus-based network to deliver a unique value proposition to residential customers throughout the UK. In addition, by deploying Sonus’ industry-leading infrastructure, Carphone Warehouse is positioned to be a leading next generation telecommunications provider.
“Recent regulatory changes are transforming the competitive landscape, and Opal Telecom is one of the first service providers to fully embrace the opportunity. The Sonus solution allows Carphone Warehouse to deliver a high quality residential service with today's UK call features, but more importantly, the solution provides the foundation for future multi-media and wireless services,” said Hassan Ahmed, chairman and CEO, Sonus Networks (News - Alert).
“The telecommunications environment in the United Kingdom is currently undergoing a massive overhaul, creating a significant opportunity for new players like Carphone Warehouse to challenge British Telecom’s market position,” said Teresa Mastrangelo, principal analyst with Broadbandtrends.com.  “Selecting Sonus as the foundation for its network will help Carphone Warehouse capitalize on this tremendous opportunity by deploying a highly scalable carrier class network quickly and efficiently.”
Opal will deploy the entire suite of products that drives a next-generation communications, moving to what would be considered Class 5 in the United States. Opal’s deployment will include the ASX Access Server, GSX9000, PSX Call Routing Server, SGX Signaling Gateway, and the Sonus Insight Management System, all of which combine to deliver a primary line residential voice service with enhanced capabilities while supporting the stringent demands for reliability and telecom-grade quality of service and scalability.  
“Our investment in a Sonus-based network will allow us to offer our customers an enhanced voice service with the same or better service quality than our customers receive today,” said Neil McArthur, managing director, Networks, Opal Telecom. “We are confident that by selecting Sonus as the foundation for our next-generation network, we are deploying the platform that will enable us to successfully support our customers now and into the future.”
Once complete, the new Opal network be able to reach nearly 70% of the population in the UK and will be one of the most sophisticated telecommunications networks in the world — as well as the largest Sonus-based residential network.
“We’re very pleased to have been selected,” said Bert Notini, president and COO at Sonus. “It is a sign of things to come and, in that market, the UK, Opal and Carphone Warehouse will really be defining the next round of subscriber voice communication.”
Carphone Warehouse already offers its TalkTalk phone service, which has been growing at a torrid pace. Since its launch in 2003, more than 2.6 million people have signed up and, since the company announced the UK’s first free broadband service in April of this year, more than 340,000 new subscribes have signed on.
“What they’re essentially saying is the transport is free,” explained Notini. “Forget about the access; getting broadband access is not what anyone should be paying for. What you should be paying for is the services delivered.”
Voice is one of those services and, going forward, the IMS architecture of the Sonus solutions will allow Opal to roll out new rich media products and services as they are ready.
“So, they sort of change the value proposition, which is consistent with the notion that, in a packet-based world, it’s all about the services,” Notini continued. “So, what you’re seeing is the front end of a fundamental transformation in the way communication really works, where everyone has gotten over the fact that having railroad tracks matters. Now, it’s a matter of what’s on the track, and that’s why this is so exciting.”
Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY. Most recently, he was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication. To see more of his articles, please visit Erik Linask’s columnist page.

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