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Alcatel bets on relationship with US carriers

– Alcatel-Lucent’s decade-old ties with carriers AT&T and Verizon Communications should help the unprofitable French network-equipment vendor fend off European rivals’ attacks looking to steal U.S. market share, according to its global sales chief.

Relationships with U.S. clients, which have held on despite six years of failed restructuring efforts at the Paris-based vendor, were bolstered by a multibillion euro loan deal Alcatel-Lucent signed in December, said Robert Vrij, global head of sales and marketing.

“There is a high mutual dependency and these actors view us as extremely important to them,” Vrij said last week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “They weren’t sitting on pins and needles, but they cheered pretty loud when we got an injection of capital. It gives them comfort, and it gave us a boost.”

As carriers in Europe hold back spending, equipment vendors have looked outside Europe for growth. In the United States – which accounted for about 40 percent of Alcatel-Lucent’s sales last year – demand for wireless gear is boosted by the race to upgrade to speedier networks, making long-standing relationships vital.

Alcatel-Lucent “aren’t just suppliers, they’re really partners,” said Nicola Palmer, vice president in charge of the network for Verizon Wireless, last week at the convention. “To have the success that we’ve had with LTE you really have to work in lock step with your suppliers. We’ve had great success and we’ll continue to work very closely with them.”

Alcatel has supplied Verizon through its second-, third-and fourth-generation technology rollouts, as well as the development of long-term evolution, or LTE, networks that allow faster data speeds, she said.