Future is Orange for Openet

21 Nov 2002

Irish software developer, Openet Telecom has signed a potentially highly lucrative three-year framework contract with French-owned mobile operator, Orange SA.

The deal is seen as effectively giving Openet a licence to sell its FusionWorks mediation software into each of Orange’s 22 national networks. Discussions have already opened with a number of them, according to Katherine Lucey, director of marketing communications.

“We are in active discussions with a number of Orange’s largest affiliates with a view to closing some business in the very near future,” she commented.

Openet Telecom won the contract following a year-long due diligence process involving more than 12 mediation vendors. FusionWorks was judged the best using a number of criteria.

Lucey said the framework agreement amounted to “a very strong statement of intent from Orange that this is what it is going to deploy. At the local level it would be expected that corporate due diligence would hold some weight.”

While unable to supply any revenue estimates, Lucey stated that the value of mediation software deals with operators typically falls in the multi-million euro category. Assuming that Openet manages to close some deals over the coming months, the Orange group will become one of its largest customers, “depending on what other business comes to fruition,” she said.

Mediation is the process by which network operators collect and aggregate customer usage data and therefore provides the basis for the all-important billing function. Two weeks ago, Openet launched a new mediation product, Active Charge, that allows operators to supply all types of services to all customers. Where most mediation products supply data after an event, such as someone buying a ringtone using their mobile, Active Charge works in advance of it. “This feature tells users how much something is going to cost before they buy it and tells operators that user X is about to spend a certain amount of money on the transaction,” Lucey explained. Among other things, this allows the operator to block a customer with a bad credit rating from making a purchase.

Such pre-event functionality is seen as crucial to allowing operators to roll out new data services such as media messaging services to pre-paid, as well as post-paid customers.

A privately owned company, Openet received second-round funding of US$20m from Benchmark Capital, whose general partner and former CEO of Esat Digifone, Barry Maloney sits on Openet’s Board.

Openet’s customer base includes both mobile and fixed network operators, such as AT&T in the US, TMN in Portugal, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) in Italy and EsatBT, here in Ireland.

By Brian Skelly