COMPANY PROFILE: ip.access
Business Weekly was first to the punch in reporting the expansion via a new Indian office for Cambridge technology company ip.access. CEO Stephen Mallinson shared what he called the “roller coaster ride” of heading up an ambitious tech company with Business Weekly counterpart, Tony Quested.
IT has taken 10 years for ip.access to become an ‘overnight sensation’. Like all good things, this is a business constructed from the bottom up – and built to last.A decade in development is hardly an oddity in Cambridge technology circles. Some of the very best – the cluster’s global trailblazers – have followed a similar roadmap.The encouraging aspect for ip.access is that the time has clearly come for the latest incarnations of its technology – notably in new-generation telecoms protocols with its femtocells targeting 3G, 4G and beyond. The company was very much pico-centric in its early days but is now operating in a ‘femto-zone’ of rich potential across three continents – Europe, North America and Asia.ip.access is a leading manufacturer of cost-effective picocell and femtocell infrastructure solutions for GSM, GPRS, EDGE and 3G. These solutions bring IP and cellular technologies together to drive down costs and increase coverage and capacity of mobile networks.Most of its customers use the company’s 2G picocells (nanoGSM) but ip.access is now deploying newer 3G femtocell technology with Cisco/AT&T and other customers. It says there is massive potential worldwide for 3G femtocells and picocells; Dell’Oro recently forecast a $4 billion market by 2014.Massive growth in mobile phone usage in India prompted ip.access to set up a dedicated R & D centre in Pune where it expects staff numbers to multiply at a rapid rate in the next 12 months.The facility will initially have 10-15 staff but headcount is expected to grow to 40 dedicated R & D engineers by the end of this year and double to 80 in 2011.India is becoming a major market for the company’s picocells and femtocells. Mobile phone usage is growing rapidly and the mobile operators can use the company’s picocells to add network coverage and extra capacity very quickly in office buildings, business parks, and even for rural coverage. ip.access has signed a second operator – not yet announced – in addition to Bharti Airtel and reports active interest from several others. Its contracts are for ongoing supply across India, not a one-off purchase. Today it is deploying 2G picocells but the company’s 3G picocells and femtocells will be used in future now that India has auctioned its 3G spectrum licences.ip.access already sells its products to mobile network operators and system integrators worldwide, including T-Mobile, Cisco, AT&T, SFR, Bouygues, Telia, Tele2 and about 50 others. Its research and development work will continue to be done in the UK and India, but the company has sales and support offices around the world.Earlier this month the company announced it had won a contract with leading Indian operator Bharti Airtel to supply its nanoGSM picocells for deployment across the country. The picocells will be used to boost both in-building coverage and capacity within business premises and other busy indoor locations throughout India. ABI Research ranks ip.access as the world’s number 1 picocell vendor; its nanoGSM and nano3GTM picocell solutions provide 2G and 3G coverage and capacity for offices, shops and (using satellite backhaul) passenger aircraft, ships and remote rural areas. nanoGSM is the world’s most deployed picocell, with live installations in more than 50 networks around the world and growing. ip.access is also the company behind the multi-award winning Oyster 3GTM femtocell technology, which dramatically improves the user experience for 3G services at home. Oyster 3G is the core femtocell technology in AT&T’s 3G MicroCell. CEO Stephen Mallinson revealed that the company had initially looked at China as, like India, it has a burgeoning middle class and an insatiable appetite for mobile phones.On the downside, control of China’s telecoms market is in the hands of a small and protectionist elite.Mallinson said: “We decided it just wasn’t the right market for us to tackle. It’s not English speaking and is one of those territories that is difficult to do business with, despite the apparent scale of the market. We looked for territories with better opportunities and India was paramount among them.”He said the last few months had been tremendously exciting for the company as it consolidated its operations in the US and opened up in India. “We have been successful in America for some time but operated out of a Regus building in Seattle. Now we own our own office with our very own front door and name plate and have ended up with bigger space for less outlay. We now have 20 people based in Seattle.“We’ve stayed pretty faithful to our original business plan and have developed the company and our markets while keeping tight control of costs. We are on track to break into profit within the next 12 months – perhaps sooner.”It is not just geographical territories that provide ip.access with capacity for future growth. There is sufficient headroom in its potential technological advancement to suggest opportunities within fresh telecoms protocols as user volume grows.Mallinson said: “The focus in our business is two-fold; one is territory-related and the other is on the technology. Obviously the whole femtocell segment presents us with fabulous scope for onward development and taking technology upgrades into the new cellular standards is very much part of our roadmap.“We now employ – directly and indirectly through contractors – around 200 people and if I tell you that three-quarters of those are engineers it will say a lot about our commitment to technological advancement. “We’ve scarcely had time to draw breath in recent months. Like every other CEO in the tech sector, I have experienced momentous exhilaration at one moment and horrible downsides at other times – it really is a roller coaster that we ride. But I have to say it is one, very exciting journey all the same.”• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Stephen Mallinson CEO, ip.access