3Com Announces CommWorks-Related Plan

3Com Corp. today announced plans to fill out its CommWorks architecture for telecommunications service providers through the purchase of a unified messaging vendor and a partnership with a DSL (digital subscriber line) provider.

3Com plans to buy Reston, Virginia-based Call Technologies Inc. for US$90 million in cash and stock, said Irfan Ali, senior vice president and general manager of 3Com's carrier systems unit, speaking in a teleconference today. The networking company also said it has formed a strategic partnership with Copper Mountain Networks Inc. to add DSL (digital subscriber line) access concentrators to the CommWorks architecture.

Helping carriers build enhanced IP (Internet Protocol) networks has become one of the most successful business segments for 3Com and the fastest growing company unit behind its Palm Inc. subsidiary, Ali said.

Unified messaging is a key service that carriers want to offer because it gives users access to their voice, fax and e-mail messages across any network using a telephone, PC, handheld computer or any other device.

"The overall proposition of unified messaging is to give users a single entry point into the network and allow them to receive their information from that single entry point in any method they desire," Ali said.

3Com has worked with Call Technologies, which is three years old and has 105 employees, for the past eight months. The company develops unified messaging and operational systems and support software for service providers, which gives carriers automated management of service delivery and back-office processes.

3Com announced the CommWorks architecture for global service providers in September of last year with a focus on IP telephony, saying the architecture was designed to enable an orderly transition to a feature-rich packet network.

In January of this year, 3Com announced the first set of CommWorks service offerings, including fax-over-IP, Internet call waiting and Net calling cards.

The company also said at that time that it would expand the definition of CommWorks into a full-fledged architecture.

3Com is now in the process of rolling out unified messaging at most major carriers, Ali said. He declined to name the customers, but said specific announcements will be made in the coming weeks. Future phases of CommWorks will enable call centers, directory services and voice VPN (virtual private network) services.

It's likely that 3Com will roll out CommWorks first to customers who have already deployed the company's Total Control 1000 platform, Steve Byars, principal analyst at Current Analysis Inc., a telecommunications research firm in Sterling, Virginia, said in a phone interview today. But customers will want to know when 3Com plans to deliver CommWorks on Total Control 2000, a platform that the company announced in January, but hasn't yet thoroughly described, Byars added.

Jack Havas, chief executive officer of Call Technologies, said during today's teleconference that unified messaging has emerged as the most important application within the network, spurred on by the additional bandwidth provided by large backbone providers like MCI WorldCom Inc.'s UUNet subsidiary and ISP (Internet service provider) PSINet Inc., the availability of DSL, and by standards that make it possible for disparate systems to communicate.

Under the terms of 3Com's partnership with Copper Mountain, 3Com will deliver DSL concentrators for deployment in service providers' central offices, along with supporting network management elements. The announcement builds on an existing relationship between 3Com and Copper Mountain for the delivery of end-to-end DSL solutions.

Until now, the CommWorks portfolio has consisted of products for dial-up, wireless and cable access, Ali said. What has been missing was DSL.

"Today, I am pleased to announce that we have filled that hole through a strategic partnership," he said. "It completes the definition of the CommWorks architecture."

3Com, in Santa Clara, California, can be found on the Web at http://www.3com.com/. Call Technologies, in Reston, Virginia, can be reached at +1-703-995-2000 or found on the Web at http://www.calltechnologies.com/. Copper Mountain, in Palo Alto, California, can be found on the Web at http://www.coppermountain.com/.

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