Alcatel Melds Networks into Transparent System

Alcatel has come up with a platform it says will simplify complex communication network systems. Launched in Hong Kong this week, the Alcatel 4400 Internet Protocol Private Communications Exchange (IP-PCX) is part of Alcatel's "transparent convergence" vision. It aims to improve operational efficiency, while providing seamless integration of voice and data, fixed and mobile communications.

"We see a growing trend among customers worldwide to move away from traditional voice-dedicated infrastructure to the increased used of integrated networks," said Ziad Chehab, Alcatel's regional director for Greater China.

"This trend is expected to follow in a sophisticated market like Hong Kong and it points clearly to the need for powerful convergent networking [systems] which make sense as the technology is better, smarter, and cheaper," he said.

"Alcatel's vision extends beyond multimedia convergence. We want to unify different media and technologies and enable coexistence of different applications," added Gerard Vaquant, operational marketing voice and data solution manager.

"We recognize that the heart of every multimedia user tool-kit is the PC and telephone. We want to offer mobility as well, while maintaining one network and one management system," he explained.

The IP-PCX works with Reflexes, a range of IP-enable digital phones which are directly connected to the LAN through an IP plugware. "The Reflexes range, which incorporates DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology, also offers capability for on-site mobility," said Vaquant. "If someone calls my GSM and wants to be transferred to another person in my company, I can't do it. But if I use the DECT phone, all I have to do is press the person's name and it will go through."

Vaquant added that end users will always be accessible to customers and colleagues via a single phone number. "This sets a simplification trend in the industry, which has, until now, equipped employees with at least two numbers: an office one and a mobile one."

The IP-PCX network is further enhanced when voice-enabled PCs, with call handling features, are linked to the network. "The IP-PCX allows the transition to one platform that manages voicemail and faxes, as well as e-mail," Vaquant said. "This means an ability to combine message tools on the desktop, with one familiar interface -- the e-mail package on a multimedia PC."

According to Vaquant, the blending of multimedia becomes straightforward using voice-to-text and text-to-voice technology. He added that it becomes possible for end users to "listen" to e-mail and fax titles, as well as routing them to nearby fax machines.

Another feature of Alcatel's IP-PCX is its Web Call Center, which allows customers and agents to "surf and talk" together. "Direct voice contact with an agent can be initiated by the customer, via the Web with a multimedia PC," explained Denis Spitz, consultant at Alcatel's Call Center Competent Center.

"In addition to management, tracking, routing, distribution, and value-added front-office applications, the Alcatel Web Call Center also allows an agent to navigate Web pages with a caller, pushing information to the customer," he said.

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