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By International Calling Cards

Big Hats In The Internet Telephony Ring

The past year has seen datacom and telecom heavyweights like Lucent, Cisco, and Nortel all vying for leadership in the new world of converged voice and data communications networks. Indeed, the above companies have made major announcements and marketing pushes about the future of their converged voice and data network strategies. A casual observer may not realize the sheer volume of companies that have thrown their hat into the Internet telephony ring --  as product suppliers, network service providers, resellers, developers, and consultants.

Siemens And 3Com Alliance
If you dial down all the hype, noise, and other distractions in the industry you realize that one of the most important recent announcements waded slowly downstream making nary a wave. The announcement I am referring to concerns an alliance to create new Internet telephony products between Siemens and 3Com. The significance of this announcement lies in the significance of its partners -- Siemens is a truly major player in global telecommunications and 3Com is one of the most respected names in data networking with one of the broadest product lines available. 3Com is especially strong in the corporate Ethernet market selling hubs, switches, and NICs.

The goal of the Siemens/3Com announcement is twofold: lowering overall corporate telecommunications costs while paving the way for new converged multimedia business applications. I would expect unified messaging, video conferencing, collaborative computing, and enhanced call control applications to be on the not-too-distant horizon. The newly released products will be part of the Siemens HiNet product line as well as the3Com SuperStack II and CoreBuilder product lines. Undoubtedly, we will soon see a voice/data switch among the offerings of this joint venture.

Related Mergers And Acquisitions
This announcement of collaboration comes on the heels of so many related mergers and acquisitions among a host of telecom and datacom companies. Examples include PBX manufacturer Comdial purchasing Internet telephony gateway company Array Telecom; data networking company Cisco purchasing both voice/data switch manufacturer Selsius Systems and programmable switch manufacturer Summa Four; and Nortel purchasing Bay Networks for $9 billion.

Since the above list constitutes a who's who of datacom and telecom players (competitors of 3Com and Siemens), you can expect Siemens and 3Com to be in the process of discussing a merger or acquisition. As the major networking players are all slowly being absorbed, a closer relationship between 3Com and Siemens seems like a defensive necessity rather than a merger of convenience.

Regardless of whether an acquisition takes place or not between Siemens and 3Com, Lucent is rumored to be looking for acquisitions in the data networking space. I wouldn't be surprised to see Lucent acquire Ascend, Cabletron, and/or Fore Systems in the near future.

The number of Internet telephony and convergence-related announcements is mind-boggling. As time progresses, so do the options available to take advantage of this exciting new technology that saves money and increases productivity through new and enhanced services. To keep up with the morass of opportunities, look to TMC's free newsletters covering both Internet Telephony and CTI to keep you posted on all the major announcements happening in the industry.

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