Columbia's Sourcefire Inc. sells customized software that detects potential intruders trying to break into private corporate databases. LCC International Inc. of McLean builds and maintains wireless networks. And TeleCommunication Systems Inc. of Annapolis provides instant messaging service for wireless telephones. Inphonic Inc., a Washington company, is an online reseller of wireless phones.
In addition, a small cluster of WiFi companies, which offer wireless Internet connections, has appeared in the Washington area. District-based DC Access, Baltimore-based Oneder LLC, and Germantown-based RapidDSL & Wireless all offer some flavor of the service, which is aimed at giving small business or residential customers access to a high-speed wireless Internet connection without going through a traditional cable or phone company. Others cater to a narrower audience. Reston-based LinkSpot Networks Inc. offers wireless connections in RV parks around the country. Most of those are small companies that have yet to generate a profit but they say their subscriber base is growing.
William G. McGowan, shown here in 1979, moved MCI to 17th Street NW to better lobby the government to open long-distance calling to competition.
(Douglas Chevalier -- The Washington Post)
An Entire Industry Downsized Employment and venture capital funding is down sharply from the Washington area telecom industry's peak.
_____Venture Capital News_____
InPhonic Shares Debut, Gain (The Washington Post, Nov 17, 2004)
Contracting Pioneer at Ease (The Washington Post, Nov 1, 2004)
Venture Capital Picks Up From 7-Year Low (The Washington Post, Nov 1, 2004)
Ruckus Seeks to Raise a Digital Community (The Washington Post, Nov 1, 2004)
The Buyout Business Has Changed, and So Has Frederic Malek (The Washington Post, Oct 25, 2004)
Venture Capital Section
Another area expected to experience rapid growth is phone service over the Internet. That field is now dominated by Vonage Holdings Corp., a New Jersey company. Many of the big phone companies, including MCI, Verizon Communications Inc., and AT&T, are also moving into the Internet phone business, as are cable giants like Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp.
But some local companies are also making an aggressive play for this business. McLean-based Primus Telecommunications Group Inc. offers Internet phone service. Qovia sells products that monitor Internet phone systems. And Vienna's SunRocket Inc., started by former MCI executives, was recently launched to offer consumers Internet phone service.
Many other companies have been carving out smaller niches. For instance, Nexus Innovative Systems, Rivermine Software and Vibrant Solutions Inc., all based in Fairfax, sell software to help businesses audit and manage their telecommunications bills.
Others, like Reston-based XO Communications and Talk America Holdings Inc., sell local and long-distance service in competition with the large phone companies. MCI, even in its diminished state, continues to be a major player.
One of the biggest drivers of the local telecommunications industry today is the surge in federal dollars to telecommunications firms for writing communications software and designing networks. This money has gone, not only to giant defense contractors like Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., but also to hundreds of smaller companies, like Apogen Technologies in McLean.
"Around the [Capital] Beltway there are at least 500 companies that are doing some work with the government, doing telecom," said Thomas, of Claris Capital. That has helped cushion the blow caused by the telecom bust.
As some companies, such as MCI, continue to struggle with massive losses, others like LCCI, have started to make a comeback.
"If you asked me what happened to telecommunications in the area, I'd say that it's regrouping," said John Siegel, a partner at Alexandria-based Columbia Capital. "You have a lot of extremely talented people in this market. That's why I think there's an opportunity here."