Tatara Systems, a leading provider of a pivotal component for 3G CDMA femtocells, has recently been acquired. We wanted to understand more, and spoke to both companies about the move. We wanted to know if Taqua are as committed to femtocells, whether the business strategy will change, and whether this is a sign of Tatara’s success or failure.
Where do Taqua come from?
The company has carved out a niche by developing and selling IP based landline telephone switches to the smaller US telephone companies. The so-called Class 4 and Class 5 switches used to form the backbone of voice telephone services, providing public voice services from local telephone exchanges. Taqua offer a cost effective replacement based on modern SIP and IP technology, matching all the features found in earlier switches.
The company has had an interesting history, being bought by Tekelec in for $95M in 2004. The Taqua operation became part of a switching division within Tekelec that was sold to Genband in 2007, but the Taqua management team simultaneously bought their way private again and was only part of Genband for 1 day. After the management buyout, Taqua continued winning business in Class 4/5 replacement switches , including Nsight in Wisconsin and GCI in Canada. Almost immediately after regaining their independence, Taqua began to develop wireless capabilities within its flagship product including media gateway, media gateway controller, and MRF functionality. This will be brought to market as part of Taqua’s small cell solution portfolio.
Taqua also develops and sells a non-line of sight (NLOS) wireless backhaul product that utilizes licensed spectrum to enable the low cost, rapid deployment of picocells/metro-femtocells and other small cell devices in environments where a traditional cell site deployment is impractical and/or there is no wired or microwave backhaul available.
A reminder of where Tatara fit in
Tatara also developed their own IP based softswitch, but had targeted the larger Tier 1 mobile operators. They were very active in development of the 3G CDMA femtocell standards, defining the Femtocell Convergence Server which they brought to market. To my knowledge, they are the only supplier of this class of product which is now commercially live in Sprint’s network and supports all new femtocells shipped. 3G CDMA femtocells from both Airvana and Airwalk are actively supported, althought Samsung's 2G CDMA femtocells aren't because they doesn't comply.
When I spoke to a Sprint representative about this last year, he indicated that they will continue to support existing 2G Samsung femtocells on their network for those who have bought them, but won't be selling or buying them anymore. They have switched across to 3G femtocells, and mandate the standard interface, so until Samsung choose to develop their product to comply then they won't be a supplier.
They’ve also worked with 3G UMTS femtocell companies. Although the industry chose to go down a different architectural route, creating the Iu-h interface rather than using SIP, Tatara worked with Ubiquisys to demonstrate this approach is also viable. I understand this even got as far as a customer trial.
So how will the combined company address the femtocell market
In addition to continuing to develop, market and support its Femtocell Convergence Server and T7000 femtocell solution for tier 1 and tier 2 operators, Taqua is also considering support for a relatively new concept. They will work with third party hosting companies who would host the solution as a managed service for smaller operators.
This approach should allow many of the smaller telcos to consider deploying femtocells, which are just as valuable to their customers as elsewhere.