Securing the lineInterComms talks to Finbarr Ring, Chief Executive Officer Global Mobile Encryption (GME) and Richard Straub, Chief Executive Officer of MediaCrypt AG, about the two companies’ work together on secure voice communication over wireless and fixed networks.
Finbarr Ring has over 20 years experience in the Telecommunications and Information Technology sectors. He helped found Global Mobile Encryption (GME) as a start-up venture in August 2002. He joined GME from SITA, the USD1.5bn global service provider to the airline sector, where he worked as Vice President and Sales Director at the company’s headquarters in Geneva. Previously, he worked as Director of Operations for Jetphone, a joint venture between BT and France Telecom providing in-flight telecommunications services. He has also worked with KPMG as a management consultant and held various management positions with BT in the UK. An Irish national, Finbarr holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration.
Richard P. Straub is a 22-year veteran of managing sales and marketing for international high-technology companies. He joined MediaCrypt in 1999, after 17 years at Compaq/Digital Equipment Corporation, where he was a member of the management team and held a range of senior management positions, including such international posts as Director Sales/Marketing for the Operations Management Services Division Europe, Director of the Desktop Operations Management Practice and Internet Operations Management Practice for Central Europe, Northern and Southern Europe. In the early and middle 1990s, he was responsible for the Digital’s participation in The Open Software Foundation (OSF) and X/Open Company, Ltd. He was elected chairman of X/Open’s Marketing Manager Group in 1992 and nominated to X/Open’s Open Systems Requirement Board in 1993. Straub is also co-author of the ‘Open Systems Handbook – A Guide to Building Open Systems’, published in 1994 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE). He studied Business Management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Q: Why was GME formed?
Q: You’ve selected the IDEA algorithm for you products. Why was that?
MediaCrypt is attractive to us for reasons other than the performance of the product itself. We went through a testing process looking at algorithms to find one that fitted well with our specific needs. Not only do MediaCrypt provide you with an algorithm and the theory behind the algorithm but they also provide excellent implementation codes, an extensive test suite so we know the implementation works in the final product. Another vital factor for GME is that they also have a particular emphasis on product evolution. MediaCrypt have decided that they want to make IDEA’s development as flexible as they can for customers. In the future their ‘Fox’ project, will allow licensees such as ourselves, the ability to come up with a customised version of the algorithm but still retain the benefits of having proven algorithm beneath it. We have a very open working relationship that helps identify other opportunities for collaboration.
Q: How did IDEA start life?
IDEA did not come out of MediaCrypt’s ‘kitchen’. It was developed by Ascom in the early 1990s and was the first encryption algorithm for PGP. At that time it was considered to be a very elegant solution in terms of its design and the way it looks at encryption. It is small efficient and secure, which is important. It is a very mature and well studied encryption technology and is extremely solid. It is not known to have ever been cracked. So like a good wine, which improves with age, IDEA has been around for a while and people really trust it.
The IDEA algorithm is also supported by peer review. It is a published algorithm. Although, you may know the formula it does not help in solving the encryption. Proprietary algorithms are not always disclosed. The fact that IDEA is a public encryption algorithm shows how confident we are in its security.
Q: Who are the current users of IDEA and what do they use it for?
Q: What are the basic issues in encryption for secure voice applications?
Q: What does GME estimate to be the size of the market for secure communications?
Q: What are the issues for a company entering this market?
Q: What is the road map for GME products?
With the three products we have available we satisfy three networks: the PDA for access over GSM and PSTN network, the PSTN goes over the analogue public network, Gateway provides an encryption solution over IP and analogue. For the PDA we will also be launching a CDMA version.
The encryption software is embedded in the body in all the encryption software and hardware held in the body of the PDA. The PDA does not have any inherent network connectivity; this comes via a plug in Compact Flash card. A GSM Compact Flash card allows you to make and receive calls over GSM network. You can do that in the clear or encrypted. If you plug out the GSM Compact Flash card and put in a CDMA Compact Flash you can make and receive calls over a CDMA network. Similarly if you put in WLAN connection you can make a VoIP call over wireless LAN. We have launched it with a PSTN and GSM capability. Over the next 15 months we will add CDMA, Bluetooth and Wireless LAN. We are also looking to extend PSTN into support for ISDN.
We also have an interest and we have spoken to a number of equipment providers in providing satellite solutions as well. We are looking to launch a satellite product around the middle of 2005.
Q: What is the regional focus?
Our main focus is the Middle East, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe though we have begun to enter the South American and Far Eastern markets also. There are already a number of established encryption providers solutions within Europe who primarily manufacture and sell within their home markets. We are looking for markets without an indigenous encryption manufacturer and consequently will be primarily export driven.
Our distribution strategy is to sell through local distributors who have a track-record of successfully selling into our target markets. One of the major disadvantages we have found in the existing market is that there is very little local support for these types of products. We want our customers to have all the benefits of having a local company that support them quickly and in their own country. We have now signed up distributors in Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East.
Q: What makes you different from traditional suppliers?
Because of our business model we can deliver a product to market in 18 months compared with the norm in the industry which is anything between three and five years. The products we are selling now have 2003 technology and we are building them to last.
Our distribution partners are a vital part in delivering the level of service that has so far been missing in the marketplace. We have invested heavily in ensuring that our distribution partners deliver customers with the level of service necessary to allow customers to purchase our products with confidence.
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