Sir Terry’s SBC Company Meets Its Demise

Do you remember the heady days when session-border controllers were all the rage, the market for them taking off like a rocket?

No? Neither do I.

That’s because the market for session-border controllers (SBCs) never did take off — not like a rocket, nor like anything else upwardly mobile. Instead, the SBC market stagnated, like a fetid pond. A market developed, yes, but it wasn’t huge, it spread slowly, and it’s most prominent independent players never became industry giants.

Acme Packet is the only SBC startup to grow into something remotely resembling an industry notable.

Now, though, Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group and his counterparts at Infonetics Research think there’s reason to be optimistic about the SBC market.

That newfound prosperity, if it arrives, will be too little, far too late for Newport Systems, an early SBC entrant that never made the big time, though it was publicly listed. Unlike Acme Packets, Newport focused on carriers rather than enterprises. That might have been part of the problem. Many carriers have resisted SIP trunking because, as Kerravala explains, it cuts into revenue derived from traditional trunking services.

Regardless of whether carriers or enterprises buy SBCs now, Newport will not benefit from the expenditures. That’s because Newport Systems is no more.

The death notice has just been filed and published, but Newport had been moribund for a long time. Bankrolled by Sir Terry Matthews — co-founder of Mitel and founder of Newbridge Networks — Newport came out of the gate with promise, then fell behind and stayed there.

Newport had cash-flow problems in 2006, slashed payroll in July of 2008, needed to be bailed out by Matthews that same summer, failed to find a buyer, and was delisted from London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) early this year. Newport suffered a lingering death.

Sir Terry will be disappointed and saddened, of course — he named the company after the town in Wales where he was born — but he’s not the type to wallow in misfortune.

Among the aphorisms attributed to Sir Terry are the following:

“I take a spoonful of concrete with my cereal … You will hate me if you take me on, because I will be there long, long after you have gone.”

. . . .

“The secret of building a successful firm is to hire good people and put them under pressure – and I’m very good at that.”

Newport is gone, but Sir Terry isn’t dead yet.

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