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Despite layoffs, Alcatel gearing up for 3G

Telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel Corp. may be cutting its worldwide workforce by 20,000 jobs, but executives said the firm has no intention of cutting plans to establish seven new third-generation (3G) labs in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe at several million dollars each.

The Paris-based telecom giant plans to establish what it calls ''3G Reality Centers'' in Korea, Japan, Australia, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands by mid-2003, according to John Lipp, Alcatel Asia-Pacific's director of business development for mobile Internet. Alcatel already operates five such centers in Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Portugal and Sweden. ''Of course we hope to generate positive energy around our infrastructure and applications,'' Lipp said.

Alcatel officials describe the 3G Reality Center program as a worldwide initiative designed to provide Alcatel and its partners-including local content and applications providers and handset suppliers-with live end-to-end environments for the development, validation and testing of advanced mobile applications and data services.

The centers are designed primarily for developers building 3G communications, entertainment and business applications, said Lipp. Alcatel ultimately hopes to attract mobile phone operators to the labs, where its own products and upcoming General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and 3G services will be showcased, he said. The centers support developers working with 2.5G/GPRS, EDGE, and 3G/UMTS.

The company launched its first Southeast Asian 3G Reality Center earlier this month, in Malaysia, at Alcatel's Kuala Lumpur office. Alcatel's Asia-Pacific spokesman, Lim Seng Jin, called the Asia Pacific region is ''a real hotbed for proving the viability of 3G mobile applications and services.''

Visitors to the Kuala Lumpur center can experience 3G communications with voice in circuit mode, as well as data and high-speed video images in packet mode, including Web browsing and file transfer protocol, video casting, gaming, video streaming and video on demand, Jin said. These facilities run on the latest Evolium 3G equipment and solutions, leveraging Alcatel's expertise in Global System for Mobile Telecommunications (GSM), GPRS and Enhanced Data Rate for GSM (EDGE) technology, as well as ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) and Internet Protocol (IP) technology.

According to Jin, the company is taking a ''long-term view'' with regard to its 3G investments. ''Our network of 3G centers are necessary as we are confident that mobile broadband will be a key driver of telecommunications services in the future.''

In Europe, Alcatel has launched centers in Malmo, Sweden and Cascais, Portugal. Additional launches are planned in the coming weeks in Rijswijck, The Netherlands; Paris, France; Vimercate, Italy; and Stuttgart, Germany.

Alcatel announce the latest round of job cuts last Friday, which came on top of 30,000 job cuts previously announced for 2001 and 2002. By the end of 2003, Alcatel's global workforce is expected to drop to 60,000 from 113,000 at the end of 2000, according to Reuters.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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