Alcatel-Lucent is wireless-future agnostic

Suspicious senators and congressman said they would keep a close eye on the Alcatel-Lucent merger because of national security reasons: Lucent operates the Bell Labs, where much hush-hush work for the U.S. government is being done. The Bush administration has approved the merger deal, but with strict conditions regarding the access by non-U.S. personnel to secret research and technology. Leading legislators, always uneasy with the deal, said they would follow the work of the joint company for any sign of lack of compliance.

Wireless customers should follow the merged Alcatel-Lucent for other reasons, namely, which side in the heated debate over next-generation mobile communication networks will the company be choosing. Except that Mary Chan, president of the new company, says she will not be making any choices. "One thing is certain," Chan said, "with the next generation, we're going to see all-IP networks capable of providing voice-over-IP and high-speed data throughput."

The point is, Alcatel-Lucent is well positioned in both the cellular and wireless camps, so Chan says that the company intends to be a leader on the convergence front by offering IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) technology as "a fundamental architecture for service transformation." The convergence, it appears, will aim to bridge what in the cellular universe is called LTE (for Long-Term Evolution), with the wireless camp-championed 802.16e.

Chan says that the differences between the two approaches have less to do with technology and more with the type of operator that prefers the one or the other. In either case, "ubiquitous coverage will be a key success factor," Chan said. Should we read "ubiquitous coverage" as an indication of Chan leaning, if ever so subtly, toward 3G? Only time will tell.

For more on Alcatel-Lucent:
- see John Blau's InforWorld report