Nine wireless network companies to watch

Smarter smart phones, beyond the BlackBerry and exploiting XML

Tango Networks

Founded: October 2005

Location: Richardson, Texas

What it offers: Tango Abrazo, an appliance with software that links almost any existing mobile phone with any enterprise voice system, whether legacy TDM or IP PBXs or hybrids. The enterprise box has to be talking with a companion Abrazo in the carrier's network. No client code is needed, nor a wireless LAN connection, nor VOIP, although Abrazo supports it. Cell phones are registered and provisioned on the appliances, which talk to each other during the call set-up phase using a Tango SIP-based protocol. Actual call control is handed off to the enterprise PBX, which can, for example, take what started as a cellular call in one office and redirect it over a corporate leased line to a remote office. The mobile phone becomes, and behaves like, an extension on the PBX.

In August, Tango announced support for IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), the foundation of emerging advanced carrier services. But the product continues to support a wide range of legacy carrier architectures and protocols.

Why it's worth watching: A flock of start-ups and big players are getting involved in this move to fixed-mobile phone convergence. Tango says rivals typically only mimic the PBX services, whereas the Tango appliance makes full use of those on the PBX itself. Also, there are no limitations on the type of phone (or PBX) supported: some rivals require the use of smart phones that have a Wi-Fi adapter, and VOIP. The claim: Whatever cell phone you have "just works" with the corporate phone system.

Management: Co-founders are Doug Bartek, CEO, and Andrew Silver, CTO, who also developed the product and proposed the company and product names. Bartek's background is in consulting for high-tech start-ups, including his own, a communications semiconductor company called MicroTune that went public in 2000. Silver worked previously for Nortel, voicemail vendor Comverse, and Ericsson, always in wireless telecom.

How it got its start: Silver says he could never figure out why he couldn't just connect his existing mobile phone to the corporate voice system already in place. So he created Tango to do that.

How company got its name: It was Silver's idea. "Abrazo" is Spanish for "embrace," the opening move of the famous Tango dance, which brings two partners together, in this case the mobile network and the enterprise phone network. Silver admits to being able to dance, but not very well.

Funding: US$25 million in Series A funding, completed in February; investors are Motorola Ventures, Nortel, Signature Capital, TWJ Capital, and Meridian Capital

Who's using the product: In trials with several tier 1 mobile carriers on several continents, along with beta tests at select enterprise sites.

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