Openwave Platform Ups Space, Nixes Spam

E-mail is often considered the application that keeps Internet customers glued to their service provider, and Openwave Systems Inc. says its new platform is stickier than ever.

Openwave, which provides e-mail systems for 62 percent of North American broadband providers — including Cox Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable, Adelphia Communications Corp., Verizon Communications and BellSouth Corp — will debut its new Email Mx Version 6.0 platform today.

The upgrade adds stronger spam and security controls and boosts message capacity five-fold — elements broadband providers increasingly need to grow their customer base while fending off the hacker hounds, according to John Elliott, Openwave's director of product management.

In particular, anti-spam systems are now the hot-button item among operators, as nuisance messages and e-mail attacks increase.

With so-called "spam houses" using more sophisticated tools to flood networks with nuisance e-mail messages, the upgrades are a necessity, Elliott said.

The MX6 platform allows the operator to create dynamic lists of known harvesters — programs that roam the Web looking for fresh e-mail addresses to forward to spam houses — and the chronic spammers they serve.

"As fast as we think of ways to beat harvesters or spam attacks, they come up with new ways to do it," Elliott said. "Our customers are hard targets when it comes to e-mail and spam attacks. The interest is to make it impossible for anyone to make any money from spam here."

For the first time, the MX6 anti-spam system also will allow e-mail customers the ability to override these spam settings provided by the operator.

That element is just an option in the MX6 program — and the added filter process will increase system costs.

So it is likely operators will maintain a configuration that lets e-mail customers screen out more e-mail, rather than allowing them to override the preset spam blocks. In the end, it is more of a policy decision than a technology issue.

"Operators have never had that ability previously, and there will be costs associated with it," Elliott said. "So we will see how the system administrators enable this."

MX6 also provides a fivefold improvement in the amount of e-mail that can be managed and stored by providers' systems. And it adds software that will allow providers to port voice mail systems into the e-mail, thereby increasing bundled voice and broadband data offerings.

Openwave also counts the former AT&T Broadband as a client, but that contract is in question given its merger with Comcast Corp. For now, Comcast is not releasing information on its e-mail vendor choice.

"AT&T is a customer and we certainly would like them to remain a customer, but no decision has been made as yet," Elliott said.