7:05 AM -- Speculation about a potential merger between Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Nokia Solutions and Networks has increased again recently as both vendors try to restructure their way out of trouble. AlcaLu CEO Ben Verwaayen has countered that speculation this week as he discusses his company's current challenges. (See Alcatel-Lucent: Too Little, Too Late?)
But for those interested in NSN's future, you should check out the excellent analysis of potential suitors by Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Patrick Donegan. He argues that of all the possible partners -- including Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Samsung Corp. -- NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) is the most likely to make a move. There are a number of reasons why that makes sense. (See Who's Going to Buy NSN?.)
Donegan makes a great case for NEC from a macro-economic, cultural, historical and technology perspective. But, digging a bit deeper, there's another reason the NEC/NSN combination makes sense -- it's to do with Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT).
Modern communications equipment vendors can't get by with just great network equipment any more. They need a services (consultancy, systems integration, managed) element, strength in telecom software and IT systems (OSS, BSS, cloud platforms and so on) and global reach and scale.
The strong market leaders, Ericsson and Huawei, have recognized this -- that's why Ericsson acquired Telcordia. NSN also believes this: Its renewed focus is on mobile broadband systems, professional services and Customer Experience Management (CEM), an increasingly important strand in the SPIT sector.
But NSN's broader SPIT story lacks breadth, especially in terms of a broad OSS, BSS and cloud services support systems portfolio. As a major IT/cloud systems vendor, NEC would be a great parent to help NSN be a stronger IT transformation partner to communications service providers (CSPs).
And in building the telecom software side of its portfolio, NEC has shown an appetite for acquisitions. In June 2008 it bought OSS firm NetCracker for US$300 million and subsequently merged it with its existing telecom software assets to create a SPIT giant. Then a few months ago it splashed out $449 million to add billing, customer care and revenue management capabilities to its portfolio by acquiring Convergys Information Management. (See NEC to Buy Convergys Unit for $449M and NEC Shells Out $300M for NetCracker.)
NEC also has a strong mobile backhaul product line that would fill a hole at NSN, which sold its backhaul unit as part of its restructuring process. (See DragonWave to Buy NSN Unit.)
And it's a leading force in one of the most exciting areas of networking development -- software-defined networking (SDN). (See NEC Enhances OpenFlow-based SDN Fabric.)
There are, then, a number of factors that favor a NEC/NSN tie-up. As Donegan points out, such a move would "take a marked break in NEC's corporate culture," but as he also notes, stranger things have happened.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading