Next Generation Communications Blog

March 2009

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Alcatel-Lucent Announces Rich Communications Platform

Alcatel-Lucent continues to evolve their rich messaging/unified communications strategy. Today the company announced the Rich Communications Manager, a platform designed to deliver what the company calls, "a Web 2.0 experience with enhanced Web messaging, providing an online web interface for subscribers to manage their communication needs."   The solution lets users retrieve, view, respond to, and forward voicemails, SMS, MMS, emails, and fax from a Web-based portal.   The solution allows users to view all types of messages in a single converged message queue and also eliminates multiple logins, user interfaces as might be required by various messaging applications.   Rich Communications Manager also targets service providers, giving them the tools they need to improve and simplify how their end users communicate by integrating different services in a single portal.

On Optimizing Wireless Networks

The IP transformation is upon us.   As the lines between work, home life and entertainment blur, consumers are increasingly subscribing to services they can personalize on whatever communications device they choose. Wireless broadband data services are an integral part of this equation, enabling end users to place calls and access the Internet with their wireless devices, connect with their office networks over secure links, download music and videos, and take advantage of a host of location-based services that give them access to home, work and entertainment from anywhere and at any time.   A recently published article discusses this emerging trend. As wireless broadband comes down in price and more subscribers sign up for these services, there is justifiable concern that the growing data traffic will have adverse affects on a service provider's network.   Enter Alcatel-Lucent.   The company offers a solution, in the form of its Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Wireless Network Guardian (WNG), which is designed to enable service providers to monitor their networks and identify wireless network resource usage resulting in better network performance management.   To learn more about this solution or to get more insight into the trends that are driving the need for such solutions, please read the article, Optimize Wireless Networks for Data.

Exploring The IPTV Opportunity

This week, Alcatel-Lucent announced support for the multimedia application environment for the Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV platform, called the Microsoft Mediaroom Presentation Framework.   Service providers can now combine Alcatel-Lucent's digital media suite of products, including the Multimedia Content Manager and Interactive Media Manager, with Microsoft's IPTV platform with an eye toward increasing ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and generating new revenue streams by offering personalized multimedia, on-demand offerings, and compelling interactive advertising services.   In a recent article published on the Next-Generation Communications community titled IPTV Business Strategies - A Perspective, Nick Lochrin of Alcatel-Lucent's Professional Services Business Division explains the pressures that service providers face to drive revenue growth as well as the opportunity that services like IPTV hold in store. The article provides a perspective on positioning IPTV within an overall market strategy and business model to increase the likelihood of commercial success.   Writes Lochrin:   Service providers with extensive broadband access networks have an opportunity to increase value from these investments and derive competitive strength.   Service providers have opportunities to leverage competitive strengths. Established providers have significant assets in established relationships with customers for broadband services, and large scale investment in customer service, billing and mass technology management.   Of course there are numerous risks that service providers face when deploying any new service, however Lochrin believes that for operators who take the time to think through a coherent strategy the positives outweigh the negatives:   For service providers that carefully consider the business models, risk sensitivities, and overall strategy to maximize competitive strengths, there is an opportunity to compete effectively and grow shareholder value.  

Service Providers Continue Outsourcing Trend

The trend towards service providers outsourcing the responsibility for managing their networks is rolling along, according to a recent article, Carrier Outsourcing In Full Swing.   In addition to deals between Vodafone/Ericsson, and Orange/Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent announced an outsourcing contract with BASE, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dutch operator KPN, which entails end-to-end responsibility for all network operations and rollout for BASE's network, an item, which we covered in this blog.   But just to drive the point home, the outsourcing trend is being driven in large part by the macroeconomic environment.   As TMC's Gary Kim writes:   One of the primary reasons to use third-party services has been to improve the bottom line. Typically, outsourcers can provide a given function at lower fixed cost than a service provider can do with its own staff. The bulk of third-party services deals have involved the divestment of activities that drive up operational expenses, notably in areas of operations, administration or customer care.   The current economic climate is acting as an accelerant to the process as service providers seek to boost profit margins while lowering operational expenditures.   Of course, the benefit to telecom gear makers like Alcatel-Lucent and others is clear, as they find themselves on the receiving end of these outsourcing contracts.

Managed Unified Communications

A recent article from Alcatel-Lucent's e-zine Enriching Communications discusses the idea of managed unified communications (UC) services and the emerging market opportunity for these evolving solutions.   According to the authors of the article, Managed Unified Communications Empowering Dynamic Enterprises, UC is in the throes of an evolution.   "What started with few services such as contact lists, presence and telephony available from the desktop," the authors write, "has expanded to include enhanced services such as rich business telephony, any messaging and any conferencing, available on any device, including fixed phone, PC, mobile phone or dual-mode phone."   The authors believe that, "UC must extend beyond users' PCs, fixed or mobile phones communicating over a corporate or cellular network. It must deliver communications and web communication capabilities in real time whatever the user is doing and wherever an employee needs communication -- in a colleague's office, on a train, at a hotel or customer site in another country -- using the devices and applications that are convenient to the end user."   It is precisely that element of mobility that adds to the ubiquity of UC and makes it a valuable tool for the end user. And yet the need for mobility is driving a shift away from an enterprise premises-based solution towards a managed environment, supervised and administered by a service provider.   There are a number of benefits to this approach, including the ability for the enterprise to let go of the reins, to get out of the communications business and to refocus their energies on their core business, while freeing their employees to roam untethered and be more productive while lowering the total cost of the overall solution.   Alcatel-Lucent offers a portfolio of Managed Unified Communications solutions designed to enable service providers and enterprises alike to benefit from this business environment.   For more information, or to listen to a podcast on harnessing the power of unified communications, click here.

RFID Opportunity Grows

In a recent article, touchatag: The Interactive Advertising Opportunity, the author cited industry research that highlighted the opportunity that exists in the RFID space.   Analysts estimate that the market for RFID network, software and services will increase over a five-year period from around $1 billion in 2008 to over $6 billion in 2013 (IDTechEx). Strategy Analytics projects that in 2012 around 250 million NFC phones will be sold and that in 2017 over 1 trillion RFID labels will be tagged. According to ABI Research, the RFID market is expected to generate $9.7 billion by 2013.   Well, ABI Research has updated their numbers and is now calling for total revenue earned from RFID transponders, readers, software and services to top the $5.6 billion mark this year, according to the latest market data from ABI Research practice director Michael Liard.   The research study, titled RFID Annual Market Overview, portrays the market as fragmented, but Liard says, "...despite some project deferrals and terminations, there will be market growth."   According to Liard, "...the RFID market continues to be worthy of cautious optimism in the near to mid-term."   These numbers underscore the opportunity for application developers.  A recent article, Developers Key to Success of touchatag Project, further explores the opportunity for developers to leverage solutions such as Alcatel-Lucent's touchatag, to create exciting new applications.

touchatag Gives Application Developers Opportunity to Innovate

touchatag is an online Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) service that enables developers and Web-savvy consumers to create innovative one-touch applications which connect everyday objects with online applications.   The key word to note for today's exercise is "developers," or more correctly, application developers.   The touchatag Developer Network was launched to give these developers an opportunity to create innovative touchatag applications.   Borrowing a concept from previous partner programs and developer communities, the touchatag Developer Network was created to address a simple and well understood fact; namely that no team of developers could ever hope to create every possible application that would make use of touchatag.   Rather, according to developer relations manager Ted Haeger, "The community exists to provide developers with economic opportunities and programming interfaces so that third party innovation can run far and wide."   A recent article entitled, Developers Key to Success of touchatag Project, discusses these opportunities and offers some market projections as well as highlighting several "showcase applications" that have already been created using the core elements of the touchatag solution.   As the author states, application developers, "...can easily and quickly deploy countless applications, limited only by their collective imagination."  

China Unicom Chooses Alcatel Lucent Shanghai Bell for Next-Gen Wireless

Chinese consumers want their next-generation wireless services and they want them now. Advanced mobile services like media streaming, ring back tones, video sharing and high-speed Internet access are all in demand, and Chinese service provider China Unicom has tapped Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell, Alcatel-Lucent's flagship company in China, to deploy advanced 3G W-CDMA networks in 14 Chinese provinces to help users gain access to these next-generation communication services.   Initial network deployments are planned for the cities of Tianjin, Baoding, Wenzhou, Taizhou, Guiyang and Guilin with completion expected by May, 2009.   Alcatel-Lucent will provide approximately 11000 Node B (Base stations), its Home Location Register (HLR) data base system, as well network maintenance and optimization services in 14 provinces.   One of the key benefits of deploying this equipment is the smooth migration path to fourth-generation wireless, which promises to enable China Unicom to evolve towards 3G/HSPA+ and 4G/LTE.   Last month Alcatel-Lucent was chosen among a select group of primary network vendors for its initial LTE network deployments in the United States.   Utilizing their existing spectrum, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone have been field testing 4G LTE networks in Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio, and Northern New Jersey in the United States, as well as in Budapest, Dusseldorf, and Madrid in Europe. These field trials have demonstrated download rates of 50 to 60 Mbps peak speeds. Utilizing its recently acquired 700 MHz spectrum, Verizon Wireless hopes to expand its 4G trials this summer, with the goal of commercially launching its LTE network in 2010.  

BASE Jumping in the Benelux

BASE, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dutch operator KPN, is the third largest of Belgium's three mobile telecommunications operators with roughly 24% market share, which translates to approximately 3.4 million subscribers.   Today, Alcatel-Lucent announced an outsourcing contract with BASE, which entails end-to-end responsibility for all network operations and rollout for BASE's network.   According to the announcement, the contract covers the operations of the BASE mobile network in Belgium, comprising approximately 3,000 sites. It also involves the transfer of around 29 BASE employees to Alcatel-Lucent.   The decision to outsource operations to Alcatel-Lucent was driven in part by a desire to focus on what BASE does best, that is marketing their service offering and growing their customer base, while leaving the network operations responsibility to an experienced partner like Alcatel-Lucent.   According to BASE CTO Heinrich Lakatha, "This contract will produce synergies that enable us to further concentrate on marketing our services throughout Europe. We selected Alcatel-Lucent based on their history of being a trusted partner over the years and given their global experience in network outsourcing."   The deal is another example of Alcatel-Lucent's move into the services business.   Said Paul Depuydt, vice-president of Alcatel-Lucent in the Benelux, "This important contract with BASE reinforces Alcatel-Lucent's position as a strong and competitive managed services provider. It is significant not only for its value, but also because it confirms our ambition to diversify our business into the services domain and the mobile operator customer segment."  

Alcatel-Lucent Brings Next-Gen Communications to Emerging Markets

Even in the midst of a global economic downturn, the use of technology to gain access to information is still a key differentiator that shrinks the globe and enables entrepreneurs to succeed. Communication -- be it voice or a data application like e-mail or IM -- is a differentiator that many in the Western world take for granted, but the competitive advantage that secure communications and productivity increases might afford users is still a new frontier to many in the developing world.   Alcatel-Lucent announced a pair of deployments this week -- one in Tunisia and one in Mongolia -- that will bring the benefits of enhanced communications and increased productivity to customers in those nations.   In partnership with Research in Motion (RIM) and regional service providers Alcatel-Lucent is bringing the BlackBerry service to those locales. At launch, TUNISIE TELECOM will offer its customers the BlackBerry Pearl 8100, BlackBerry Pearl 8120, BlackBerry Curve 8320, BlackBerry 8800 and BlackBerry Bold 9000 smartphones as well as service on BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Internet Service.  

  Based on its distribution agreement with RIM, Alcatel-Lucent will leverage its strong local presence in the region to provide TUNISIE TELECOM the end-to-end implementation, launch, and on-going support for delivering the BlackBerry solution to the Tunisian market.   And working with RIM and Mobicom, Alcatel-Lucent is leveraging BlackBerry smartphone-based solutions to offer residents of Mongolia mobile access to a wide variety of business and leisure applications on the move, enabling access to e-mail and the Web, as well as the ability to make phone calls, send and receive text and picture messages.   At launch Mobicom will offer customers the BlackBerry Bold smartphone as well as service plans for BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Internet Service.  

More Good News for Alcatel-Lucent

Recently we noted that Alcatel-Lucent was enjoying a measure of success in the Enterprise PBX space, with Infonetics reporting that Alcatel-Lucent realized PBX equipment revenue gains in Q4, growing 13% sequentially, as compared with the general market growth of 1.1%   Well it seems that the company is enjoying growth on the Service Provider side of their business as well.   Alcatel-Lucent announced that, according to data from Dell'Oro, it has considerably strengthened its market position in the Service Provider Edge Router market segment. According to Dell'Oro, in the second half of 2008, Alcatel-Lucent continued to grow in the edge router segment - gaining more than three percentage points to reach 17.6 percent market share - while the other top-three vendors either dropped significantly or were flat.   The report authors attribute Alcatel-Lucent's success to growth in consumer IPTV and Internet services, increased Internet traffic - particularly video - evolution of mobile core and backhaul networks to IP, and an expanding market for Ethernet and IP VPN services.

Alcatel-Lucent Delivers Service Enablement Platform

Carriers are always on the lookout for ways to better serve their customers and, let's face it, generate more revenue. Alcatel-Lucent today announced a solution that will enable carriers to do both via a new directory server that will serve as the centralized real time storage platform designed to enable carriers to leverage subscriber data to enhance service quality and reduce time to market for new revenue generating services.   According to the official news release, Alcatel-Lucent announced the 8661 Directory Server, a high-performance service enablement platform for the creation of personalized Web 2.0 and communications services over wireline and mobile networks.   The solution, developed by UnboundID Corporation and sold to service providers exclusively by Alcatel- Lucent, acts as a centralized real-time storage platform for subscriber data. The 8661 is network independent and is able to simultaneously enhance a variety of services including mobile media, entertainment, social networking, advertisement and productivity applications through the centralization of personal, identity, and privacy preference user information - securely and in real time.   According to Peter Mottishaw, Principle Analyst, OSS Observer, "Alcatel-Lucent's 8661 Directory Server complements the Alcatel-Lucent Subscriber Data Management portfolio and will allow communication service providers to rapidly create highly personalized applications. Directory services are becoming increasingly important to the creation and delivery of personalized services and an area where service providers can add value. By bringing to market a high performance Directory Server, Alcatel-Lucent is in a strong position to bridge the subscriber data divide between the network and IT domains."   For more information visit Alcatel-Lucent online.

Alcatel-Lucent Exec Sees Return To Profitability

According to French newspaper Les Echos, an Alcatel-Lucent executive is optimistic that the telecom equipment maker will see a return to profitability by the latter part of next year.   Paul Tufano, the company's chief financial officer was quoted in the paper as saying, "Regarding net income, we expect to return to profits during 2010, most likely in the second-half of the year."   Back in December company CEO Ben Verwaayen unveiled Alcatel-Lucent's strategic plan, which called for working closely with Alcatel-Lucent's service provider, enterprise and application partners to -- as Verwaayen said -- "innovate, collaborate and partner... to stimulate a sustainable business model for the industry that will fuel innovation and the capital investment required to expand the overall web experience to more people and businesses."   At the time, company officials offered a break-even forecast in terms of operating profit in 2009.   As TMCnet's Greg Galitzine wrote in the December piece:   In 2010, Alcatel-Lucent is targeting to achieve a gross margin in the mid thirties range and an operating margin in the mid single-digit range, and looking ahead to 2011, the goal of the company is to achieve a gross margin in the mid to high thirties range and an operating margin in the mid to high single-digit range.   Alcatel-Lucent received a measure of positive news from an R. W. Baird recommendation upgrade, from Neutral to Outperform. A recent Barron's article quoted the analyst team at Baird, who believe the risk/reward profile is attractive.   Alcatel-Lucent's balance sheet is probably the biggest concern for investors, but we believe its complexity has deterred investors from analyzing it in detail. Our analysis suggests the company's liquidity position is not overly concerning and balance-sheet risks may be overestimated by the market.   Alcatel's cash position is in reasonable shape and will receive a welcome injection of net cash in the second quarter when the company sells its stake in [European military-tech firm] Thales for 1.6 billion euros.

Alcatel-Lucent Enables WiMAX Deployment in Spain

Alcatel-Lucent is committed to the emerging fourth-generation of wireless. And they seem to like Spain as a venue for making 4G-related news.   Last month in Barcelona, Alcatel-Lucent made the headlines when Verizon Wireless named them to a select group of primary network vendors for its initial LTE network deployments in the United States. The company also announced a new LTE software module in Barcelona.   Today Alcatel-Lucent announced a WiMAX deployment with Iberian broadband communications service provider Iberbanda, a provider specializing in serving the nation's rural areas (the plain, in Spain, if you will...).   Iberbanda has deployed its first pilot network using Alcatel-Lucent's WiMAX 802.16-e (Rev-e) wireless broadband technology.   To showcase the new technology, a specially equipped bus is driving around Iberbanda's R&D center in Malaga testing mobile Internet access and other services such as voice over IP (VoIP) or video surveillance. This pilot is designed to validate simultaneous use of a WiMAX network by a variety of applications.   According to the official announcement, Iberbanda's bus is equipped with WiMAX CPE with WiFi functionality so that multiple devices can be connected en route. The CPE is connected to a WiMAX base station enabling Internet access at 18 Mb/s download and 3 Mb/s upload speeds.
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