Alcatel buys Telera for VoiceXML in call centers

Alcatel SA plans to buy Telera Corp., a California company specializing in VoiceXML (Voice Extensible Markup Language) systems, to add self-service features to the live call center systems developed by Alcatel's contact center subsidiary Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc. The Paris telecommunication equipment manufacturer has agreed to pay US$136 million in stock for Telera, based in Campbell, California, it announced Wednesday.

Under Alcatel's control, Telera will at first work on voice self-service systems, the market for which Alcatel said it expects to grow to $600 million by 2005. Alcatel said it plans to integrate these systems with existing live customer assistance products developed by Genesys, which is based in San Francisco.

The technology would bring Web-based, self-service applications to telephone users with technology that is expected to lower the cost and complexity of installation. Traditionally, call centers run by enterprise customers or service providers have had to develop two independent systems -- one that end users could use to access over the Web and another that could be used to access data by telephone.

Possible market opportunities that arise with a system that can be accessed by phone or the Web include services for end users such as automated product support and order tracking.

Telera's Voice Web Application Platform can be deployed either in customer premises equipment or as a carrier network service. One of its largest customers, Qwest Communications International Inc., will continue to work with the newly merged companies, said Prem Uppaluru, Telera's chief executive officer said during a conference call with press and analysts Wednesday.

Alcatel said it expects the deal to close in July, subject to approval by Telera's shareholders and regulators.

Also in July, Genesys is expected to release its first call center product that incorporates Telera's technology. Also planned are additional products that will combine technology from Telera, Genesys and Alcatel, the companies said.

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