Counterpath’s new strategy

Counterpath has an enviable incumbency in the PC soft-phone market. Their eyeBeam soft phone is licensed by numerous service providers and PBX manufacturers. But the soft phone business is not enormous, so Counterpath is looking to use its leadership in the soft phone business as a beachhead into the fixed-mobile convergence space. Fixed-mobile convergence comes in two flavors: service provider and enterprise. So last year Counterpath made three acquisitions to fill in the spaces of a two by two matrix, with enterprise and service provider on one axis, and client software and mobility controller server software on the other.

Counterpath bought FirstHand for its Enterprise Mobility Gateway (EMG) and Bridgeport Networks for its service provider Network Convergence Gateway (NCG). It already had client software for service providers covered with its eyeBeam software. It bought NewHeights for its enterprise client software, a softphone with PBX features to complement the more consumer-oriented eyeBeam phone. These two soft phones have already been integrated by Counterpath into their new Bria softphone. It remains a challenge to get the soft phones and the two gateways working together seamlessly. It will also be a challenge to gain market share in the mobility gateway market.

Most mobility gateway vendors tend to focus on either service provider or enterprise customers, but Counterpath is not unique in having gateway devices for both. Tango Networks claims this as the differentiating feature of their solution; Tango’s two devices were designed from the outset to work together and complement each other. Counterpath must integrate two products with independent pedigrees. The NCG that came from Bridgeport is a pre-IMS solution. When a call comes in for a cell phone, the NCG can decide whether to ring the cell phone, a soft phone on a PC or both. The EMG that came from FirstHand is an enterprise mobility controller similar to RIM’s Ascendent product.

Neither of the two Gateways provides “true” FMC, namely the ability to run a call over Wi-Fi to a dual mode cell phone; this is presumably in the near future. The NCG fields calls to a cell phone number and directs them to a PC in the enterprise, while the EMG fields calls to the PBX and can route them to a 3G cellphone via a VoIP connection. What’s interesting about this particular solution is that it uses the 3G data connection for the VoIP call, rather than using the regular cellular voice connection. According to Counterpath the QoS (latency, jitter, packet loss) on the 3G data connection provides equivalent call quality to a cellular voice connection.