Taqua: the company with the feet first exit strategy

Or, if you prefer, why Signalling Interworking is a strategic platform for voice call continuity.

The scene: a bland hotel lounge in London, about a week ago. Coffees are bought and brought.

“We could have taken $20 million from a private equity company last December, but we didn’t want it. This is a company where our exit strategy is death or retirement – everyone in this company has been around the industry, and we formed this company with the idea of it being the last place we will work.”

So speaks Frederick Reynolds, a man whose personal history includes time spent as VP marketing of Genband and who worked briefly at Tekelec (Tekelec acquired Taqua in 2004 and made a “textbook terrible job of integration” according to Reynolds) before GenBand bought Tekelec’s switching systems business that included the ex-Taqua assets. A subsequent MBO of the former Taqua business from GenBand saw Reynolds move to become VP of Marketing at Taqua as we know it now.

So Taqua, which counts Troy Aiken and Head of Greenway Investments and major Republican Party supporter Gerald H Stool amongst its backers, is not short of sources of funding, if required, according to Reynolds.

Across from Reynolds sits John Hoadley, Wireless CTO, a man with his own wireless past: including spells as Wireless CTO and then VP of 4G Ecosystem at Nortel. Hoadley explains some of the relevance to mobile network services of Taqua’s interworking technology.

Taqua Wireless is a company that sits comfortably in the “do what” space in mobile networking. What does it do? Its convergence servers provide signalling interworking between an IP core and a circuit switched environment.

The essential benefit is to be able to provide service continuity across domains – in other words to be able to have the same service across 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi. That means you must have service synchronisation and parity between legacy circuit switched networks (3G voice and SMS sits in the CS domain), packet cores and the IMS (VoLTE and VoWifi). Taqua says that as operators move from providing this parity through deploying CSFB, SR-VCC towards full VoLTE, its signalling interworking provides the most cost means of securing this cross-domain service parity, and therefore the user experience.

You can support CSFB by going in and upgrading all your MSCs to be able to support the SGs interface to the MME. Or you can take a centralised approach, which sets up an interworking function in the core to act like a middleman between the MMEs and MSCs. This is what Taqua does, with its CSFB Interworking Solution.

It acknowledges that to date some centralised approaches have led to long call set-up times, but it claims that its optimised solutions have improved performance substantially.

With SR-VCC, Taqua’s centralised convergence server appears as a VLR to the circuit switched core, allowing 4G devices access to access 3G core features provided by the CAMEL/Intelligent Network. Voice calls that are originated on the VoLTE/VoWiFi IMS core are handed off from the IMS core network to the 3G Circuit switched network.

Switch upgrades are expensive, we’ve learnt that.

It learnt this trick when it developed a small cell core integration solution for CDMA small cells in line with 3GPP2 specifications. Unlike W-CDMA small cells, CDMA small cells require translation at the call flow level between their SIP-based signalling and the macro network’s systems. A convergence server contains a VLR and makes the small cell look to the network like an MSC.

Using that interworking functionality, which it delivers through its T6100 Convergence Server, to support service continuity in pre-IMS LTE voice environments is what Taqua is proposing. T6100 is an application server operating as a SIP-MSC/IWF, while in IMS networks, it operates as a SIP Multimedia Telephony Application Server (MMTEL) coupled with a IP-SM-GW for messaging.

Hoadley said that one key application of this interworking function will be where the 4G supplier is different to the 3G vendor.

“Switch upgrades are expensive, we’ve learnt that, and especially so where the 4G vendor is chosen because it has provided financial incentives to the operator – so the 3G vendor has some commercial blocking incentive. There’s also still quite a lot of old legacy equipment out there from vendors that have exited the market. Operators are still running those switches and need to support those. We’ve been brought in in quite a few of these sorts of instances,” Hoadley says.

But it’s not just about different vendors, operators will clearly need voice continuity solutions across different domains for a while to come – and few will have contiguous LTE coverage even after a few years of launch. Operators will also want to use the investments they have made in their existing IN systems.

That’s why Taqua felt able to turn $20 million away, preferring instead to see the offer as external validation of its existing strategy. At least that’s what Reynolds claims, over another coffee.