The Sigma question in Ceon lights

While some of the largest players such as IBM and Accenture have provided a service delivery platform or two (IBM for Sprint and India’s Bharti Airtel, Accenture for Turkcell), a strike force of small independent software vendors (ISVs) has been crafting and deploying SDPs for broadband operators. And some of IBM and Accenture’s fellow heavyweights not only have taken notice but have taken out their checkbooks to bring some of that upstart-developed goodness home for the holidays.

In early October, Convergys, formerly known as Cincinnati Bell Information Systems (CBIS) and a long-standing leader first in customer care & billing and more recently in (customer) “relationship management,” announced it is acquiring Ceon. As discussed earlier in this space, Ceon has been one of the capable competitors to Sigma Systems in the broadband service fulfillment market with its Ceon Product Control Center. Convergys is combining this tempting new fare with its Infinys platform and serving it up as Convergys Enterprise Product Management Solutions. The offer is designed to help service providers more effectively manage product lifecycles across all network domains, shortening time to market for new convergent offers and hiking quality while reducing the cost of managing a large product portfolio-or in its words, to “construct, manage and deploy a layered catalog that includes the full technical and commercial definition of products and services.” At least one service provider,, formerly known as Nordisk Mobiltelefon and still known that way if you go by its URL, has deployed the new system.

Earlier in 2008 another capable competitor to Sigma became another acquired competitor. After a string of other acquisitions, B/OSS kingpin Amdocs took its most important step toward becoming a broadband-ready provider by acquiring JacobsRimell. Integrating the service fulfillment mini-mite into its software suite means Amdocs, like Convergys, now has a CRM+SDP one-two punch for delivering and managing converged services.

Also in 2008 another Sigma nemesis, Axiom, was acquired by Comptel to position Comptel to capitalize on the converging IP service trend, and to leverage Axiom’s strong market presence in EMEA and APAC, spurred partly by the ISV’s partnerships with systems integrators such as Atos Origin and TietoEnator. At the time of the acquisition Axiom had 35 customers including BT, Telecom New Zealand and Singtel.

Which begs the question: When all around it are being snapped up by bigger fish, why does Sigma remain as the only ISV that matters in the broadband SDP space, almost resolutely so? (C-COR, which at one point spiked a blip on the radar, is now playing a post-acquisition supporting role inside broadband equipment provider Arris Interactive. Sigma itself took another competitor, Alopa, out of the market by acquiring its broadband software assets in 2006.) Maybe Sigma has a bad taste in its mouth from its last venture into life-as-the-acquired: In 2002 it was bought by broadband equipment manufacturer Liberate in that company’s attempt to emulate the hardware + software machinations being tried at that time by its colleagues in the telecom equipment sector including Lucent and Nortel. Then, when Liberate ran afoul of regulators and heads began to roll out of the executive suite, Sigma was “liberated” to resume life as an ISV. Or maybe there’s a lingering market perception that Sigma is something of a one-note regional player itself, in that all of its customers save one (Telus) are cable MSOs and the vast majority are located in North America.

I predict that as the ADP (acquisition delivery platform) continues to accelerate the consolidation of smaller firms with great technology into larger players we’ll soon be talking about a new corporate address for Sigma to call home. Does the word “soon” build the ultimate fudge factor into that statement? Absolutely. After all, it’s the holidays.

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