Partners Ponder Future of Alcatel/Lucent Channel

Alcatel and Murray Hill, NJ-based Lucent Sunday announced the $13.4 billion stock deal, which had been anticipated since the two telecommunications companies confirmed merger talks on March 23. The combined company will have approximately $25 billion in revenue.

The companies are not yet providing detail on how the proposed merger would impact their channel strategies, an Alcatel spokesperson said.

With Lucent's focus on wireless service provider equipment, the merger ups Alcatel's ante in the carrier infrastructure market.

Several solution providers said they expect the merger's impact on their Alcatel enterprise business to be positive and that it does not likely signal diminished focus on Alcatel's enterprise efforts.

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"If anything, the merger may help us in other aspects, having a stronger presence in North America with Lucent. I think this is going to be a plus on the 'more recognition' side," said Ron Goodband, COO of Advance2000, a Buffalo, NY-based Alcatel partner. Advance2000's Alcatel sales are growing 20 percent to 40 percent each quarter, driving by VoIP and Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop, he said.

Current Lucent partners said the combination of Lucent's wireless portfolio and Alcatel's lineup of access products makes a strong offering for the carrier market.

However, Lucent partners are approaching the merger with more caution. Lucent has a small channel effort that has seen cutbacks over the past year, while Alcatel is not known for the strength of its channel, Lucent partners said.

"Alcatel is not exactly a channel-friendly company, so that concerns us," said Maggie Petro, vice president of services at Solunet, a Lucent partner in Miami, Fla.

Solunet has a good relationship with Lucent, but recent downsizing in the vendor's channel support infrastructure did have a negative impact for the partner, Petro said.

"Alcatel is not known for being friendly to the channel, at least in our space, the service provider space. And Lucent is only marginally friendly to the channel," said another Lucent channel partner, who asked not to be identified. "We have a good relationship and a tight relationship with Lucent, but with the combined entity, I have concern about their supporting any channel going forward," the partner said.