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Is AlcaLu Eyeing Thomson?

9:00 AM -- Europe's hot gossip is that Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) has been talking to its fellow French firm Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453) about an acquisition of some telecom-related assets.

AlcaLu, according to talk among those in the know, is said to be most keen on Thomson's expertise in the residential gateway and set-top box field.

Both companies, as you would expect, say they don't comment on rumor and speculation.

But while there's no solid evidence of a deal at present, the reliability of the source suggests this is a hot tip.

Whatever the nature of any such discussions, it's known that AlcaLu is on a mission to make itself a strategic supplier of customer premises equipment (CPE) to the world's major carriers. Those carriers need increasingly sophisticated equipment located in people's homes to help manage new fixed and wireless services such as IPTV and in-home 3G.

AlcaLu already has a position in this market, with its investment in home gateway firm 2Wire Inc. and a relationship with Sagem Télécommunications SA , but it's believed to want more. (See AlcaLu Goes Femto and 2Wire Inc..)

Thomson has emerged as a key supplier of integrated multiservice gateways to major carriers as well as one of the market's most formidable set-top box vendors, and has the technology and market position to help any major telecom vendor put together an interesting access network package that goes beyond the pavement and into the living room. (See Thomson Unveils New Gateways, Report: Home Gateways Triple, and Thomson Hits Milestone.)

AlcaLu is keen on end-to-end integrated systems, as it proved again last week with the launch of its META system for wireless backhaul. (See AlcaLu Targets Wireless Backhaul.)

The thing is, Thomson's telco assets aren't restricted to CPE -- it also owns one of the most deployed IPTV middleware platforms, SmartVision, and a mature and widely deployed softswitch product that it brought on board with the acquisition of Cirpack. (See Thomson Boasts IPTV Success, France Telecom: 'More IPTV, Please', Thomson Wins IPTV Deal, Cirpack Hits 6M Lines, and SFR Picks Thomson for FMC.)

Would Thomson sell just part of its telecom-related business? Or would any suitor have to take the whole package? We may find out soon enough.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Scuttlebutt Editor, Light Reading

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