Alcatel Eyes the Enterprise

Telco equipment provider Alcatel is now highly interested in embracing enterprise network customers as well.

LAS VEGAS -- Though a strong worldwide supplier of equipment to telecommunications carriers, Alcatel is highly interested in supplying equipment to enterprise network customers as well.

That was the message delivered by Serge Tchuruk, Chairman and CEO of Alcatel in a keynote address at the spring NetWorld+Interop conference here.

"We are very committed to the North American enterprise market," Tchuruk told the audience.

Key to addressing enterprise network needs is Alcatels pitch as a unifier of LAN and WAN networks via IP-based equipment. One building block application that Tchuruk cited several times was voice over IP, which he described as particularly well-suited to CTI (computer telephony integration) applications.

Tchuruk said Alcatels IP-based PBX can gracefully transition non-IP networks to IP-based ones. That will mean customers will not need to use "forklift upgrades" to move their networks to IP, he said.

He also pointed to DSL as an opportunity for growth, noting that only a small fraction of homes and businesses worldwide have broadband Internet access. In several weeks, the company will announce a new PBX that includes DSL support.

The company is also active in the LAN switch arena and will ship an Omniswitch product that supports Gigabit Ethernet switch later this year. In 2003, the company plans to ship an Omniswitch that supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

In a press briefing after his speech, Tchururk admitted that VoIP quality is not high in all instances. "VOIP quality is not yet at the level I would like it to be," Tchuruk said, adding that it suffers most when the network bandwidth and architecture are not optimized for it. Integration services can help with this need, he said.

Alcatel is in fact increasingly relying on services, which are now 10 percent of the companys business and are growing the fastest of any worldwide line of business.

Of national markets worldwide, China is growing the fastest and Alcatel will announce in the next several weeks a $2 billion deal with that country. Currently, Alcatel has 4,000 employees working in a research and development facility in Shanghai.

In North America, Alcatel will increasingly rely on partners to reach small and medium-sized businesses. The company is currently working with Verizon.

Although planning for growth, the company is recovering from the worst year within recent memory in the network equipment market. Tchuruk said the company had to write off $1 billion in inventory last year due to a decline in business of 5 percent.