Alcatel-Lucent was set to launch an initiative Monday to help kick-start the LTE (Long-Term Evolution) market, though its far-reaching ambition suggests rival Cisco Systems may be the ultimate target.
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Alcatel-Lucent will join with Samsung Electronics and other vendors to form the "ng Connect" program. It's designed to foster new user experiences made possible by high-bandwidth networks, said Derek Kuhn, vice president of emerging technology and media at Alcatel-Lucent.
"This is all about what next-generation connectivity can bring to the user," Kuhn said.
Vendors involved in the program will cooperate on a case-by-case basis to jointly develop new applications that can work on certain types of networks, or to make new applications work in labs as demonstrations for service providers.
Through ng Connect, vendors will be able to identify areas where they can collaborate, and those efforts should help in getting applications to market sooner, Kuhn said.
An initial focus of the program will be LTE, the next generation of network technology expected to be embraced by most mobile operators.
Fittingly, Alcatel-Lucent plans to unveil its own end-to-end LTE infrastructure offering at the conference. Trial deployments of LTE should come later this year, though broad rollouts aren't expected until 2010 or 2011.
But the initiative's scope goes far beyond LTE to include subsequent generations of mobile networks as well as GPON (gigabit-capable passive optical network) and wired technologies.
According to Alcatel-Lucent, the vision spans consumer media and entertainment, enterprise collaboration and health care, automotive connectivity, digital signage and cloud computing.
The combination of mobile and fixed networks is key to some ideas that ng Connect may push forward. For example, a system that continuously monitors a patient's vital signs could provide the best possible data to doctors while the patient stays at home, Kuhn said. Such a system would span multiple types of infrastructure, including personal-area and wide-area networks, he said.
As another example, a combination of social networking and entertainment could span wired and wireless broadband connections at home and on the road, letting consumers share their playlists, music and video from anywhere, he said.
Cisco has laid out similarly broad visions in positioning itself as the vendor that can bring together home, business and carrier networks to power rich new experiences.
Kuhn said Alcatel-Lucent has the broadest portfolio of any networking company, spanning wired networks and mobility. Cisco does not have a cellular network portfolio like Alcatel-Lucent's, though it has recently entered the market for WiMax, a LTE rival.
Alcatel-Lucent and other telecommunications vendors have found themselves up against Cisco in recent years as the Internet Protocol giant's scope has expanded.
At the same time, consolidation among carriers leaves competitors scrambling for fewer customers.
But Kuhn emphasized partnerships in making future visions into realities.
"We can't boil the ocean, but we can focus on certain areas," Kuhn said. "We acknowledge that the best way to achieve some of the goals we've laid out is to work and collaborate with partners."