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Alcatel-Lucent unveils Google Voice-killer

Date: 3/30/2009 3:08:12 PM

Alcatel-Lucent today unveiled what it called its answer to Google Voice – a platform that not only matches the converged communication features newly offered by the search giant but also allows telecom service providers to leverage their own unique advantages to one-up over-the-top (OTT) providers.

Alcatel-Lucent’s new Rich Communications Manager, being demonstrated this week at the CTIA trade show, applies desktop concepts to integrated communications through a Web portal that lets mobile and landline users drag and drop a variety of content -- such as photos, video and text -- across voicemail, SMS, MMS, email, fax, calendars, and address books. Like Google Voice, it also provides a visually converged message queue and converts voicemail to text. A later release will include a Web phone, the vendor said.

Google Voice, a rebranded and expanded version of the search giant’s GrandCentral unified communications service, launched earlier this month. The free service includes single-number follow-me Internet calling, visual voicemail, text-message routing, voicemail transcription and simple conference calling.

While the RCM is designed to arm telecom service providers with features similar to Google Voice’s, Alcatel-Lucent believes its customers can also wield their natural advantages as carriers to out-do Google and its kind. For example, unlike Google, carriers using RCM don’t have to assign users a new phone number and re-route calls from the old number to the new. And carriers have information on their customers’ location as well as identification authentication capabilities that OTT providers don’t have.

“Service providers don’t have to pay anyone or integrate with anyone to get [customer location information],” said Ray Colbert, Alcatel-Lucent’s director of rich communications marketing. “And they have a level of security that people can count on. You don’t have to worry that callers aren’t who they say they are, and they’re getting through and spamming you. There’s ways [for OTT providers] to get around that, but it takes a lot of work to [achieve] what service providers have natively because their subscriber pays their bill.”

At the same time, the RCM could help carriers partner with OTT players as well, Colbert said. At the CTIA show this week, the vendor is demonstrating RCM’s potential to handle communications mash-up ‘widgets’ (“Call them widgets, call them applets, portlets,” Colbert said) designed to interface with third-party applications such as Facebook and MySpace. So developers can create, say, a Facebook ‘module’ for the RCM.

“It can be used to compete with or cooperate with [OTT providers],” Colbert said.

However, unlike Google Voice, Alcatel-Lucent’s RCM must be integrated with carriers’ billing and back-office systems to work. The vendor is selling RCM as software-only or bundled with hardware or licensed and hosted software-as-a-service.

In addition to Telefonica, Alcatel-Lucent has already sold the RCM to a tier-two North American carrier it hasn’t yet named.

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