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Alcatel to get its channel in order

Networking vendor looks to sign national and regional partners

As networking and communications equipment manufacturer Alcatel sews up its merger with Lucent Technologies, its channel team has been regrouping all of its channel plans from previous acquisitions under a central program.

The two companies hope their plan to create a combined global communications solutions provider selling wireless and wireline products as well as services will be wrapped up before the end of the year. A name for the new entity, to be headquartered in Paris, has yet to be announced.

According to Gino Siciliano, director of channel markets for Alcatel Canada, the company — which originated in France back in 1898 — has been built on acquisitions, including Newbridge and Xylan. Alcatel in French stands for Société Alsacienne de Constructions Atomiques, de Télécommunications et d’Electronique.

All of the acquired business units continue to operate their own separate channel structures. But now Alcatel will bring all of those channel teams and programs under one umbrella.

“One channel program enables all of our VARs and VADs to have access to the whole portfolio,” Siciliano said.

Alcatel partners have been stuck selling data, edge and core switches or voice products. This was tough on them, Siciliano said, because of the products’ low margins.P>

Now the channel partners can offer end-to-end solutions with Alcatel optical gear or access gear, he added.

“When the Lucent deal is complete we will be able to go from Layer 1 to Layer 7 and with a high carrier-grade solution. Now we have high margin solutions instead of playing the me game,” he said.

According to Wintergreen Research Inc., Alcatel is uniquely positioned to address the evolving communications networks. However, reducing customer churn is a priority, it said in a recent report. Giving service providers the tools to stay ahead of customer demand is what Alcatel brings to the table, its analysts said. Alcatel’s IP activities relate to technology and deployment with VPLS, thus providing a viable solution for managed communications services that increases revenue, reduces costs and will ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Alcatel’s existing channel program will cover IP, optical networks, access and networking lines, wireless transmission products, which includes its microwave equipment. The new channel structure will also include the company’s enterprise solutions division, which is made up of networking infrastructure and communications services.

“Really this is a gathering of all solutions into under one roof and partners can now sign up to all or one of these product divisions.” providing they meet the business plan requirements,” Siciliano said.

Besides the business plan requirement, the partners will get co-op and marketing funds. Siciliano also said the Alcatel channel plan will be competitive to others in the industry. “Anything in any other channel program we will have it,” he said.

Siciliano is trying to push as much as he can into the channel through a senior company official. In the past, partners had to talk to too many representatives, a strategy he admitted did not make sense.

The next step for Alcatel Canada is to figure out the number of VARs in its selection process. “We want to get up to speed and we also want to land some national VARs,” he said.

The company is also looking at signing managed services providers.

“Our goal is not to get our name plastered on (partner’s) Web sites. We are not going head-to-head with Cisco. Really, if we can nail down a couple of large nationals like Compugen and Xwave we’ll get some of those regional guys too,” he said.

The opportunities for channel partners will be in four vertical markets: healthcare, education, public services and utilities. “We are looking for regional VARs to help us grow our base there,” he said.