Key equipment suppliers:
Despite recent attempts to recover high-flier status by targeting the enterprise, 3Com remains strongest in the middle tier, mostly in Europe. Its well-rounded product set covers all but the very highest end of the market and it has formed a valuable joint venture with Huawei, the Chinese networking vendor that is giving Cisco a run for its money in Asia.
Alcatel is one of the few global suppliers catering to both carriers and large corporates. The French-owned company, with sales of e12.5 billion, has seized on the IP integration market, offering a range of equipment including hybrid time division multiplexed (TDM) and IP exchanges, enabling a staged transition to a pure IP world. Also strong in call centre integration technology.
Avaya was spun out of the US telecoms giant Lucent to focus on corporate customers, rather than telecoms carriers. With annual sales of some $4 billion, it now concentrates on providing equipment for integrated IP and voice networks.
Cisco is the 'gorilla' of data networking. It is dominant in almost every important division, from high-end routers to low-end access devices. Estimates suggest that more than 90% of all packets sent across the Internet today are routed by a Cisco device. Revenues in fiscal 2004 were $22 billion. Cisco has a vision of "the intelligent network", in which the network, rather than any centralised application, is able to autonomically carry out activities such as security, routing and integration.
Concentrating on just one market – carrier-class routers – has earned Juniper revenues of $375 million from less than 50 customers. But its strategy is now broadening out into corporates and its ambition is growing. It is leading an alliance to develop systems that can differentiate between different types of traffic, enabling better quality of service depending on customers' needs.
As well as being the leading mobile handset manufacturer, Nokia also supplies businesses with networking equipment for data synchronisation, security, private branch exchange (PBX) to global system for mobile communication (GSM) connectivity and 'machine-to-machine' (M2M) applications. It is also investing in next-generation networking wireless technologies such as Edge, and in November 2004, it said it completed the world's first mobile IPv6 voice call.
Nortel's corporate image has been tarnished by financial irregularity and management shakeouts, but its product line is strong. Forrester rates its convergence strategy – a slower migration, taking advantage of its many installed PBXs – above Cisco's. Catering to the full spectrum of service providers, enterprises and SMBs, it provides wired and wireless equipment, and services.
Siemens Communications offers the complete telecoms works, from corporate networking equipment and integration services to carrier backhaul and mobile handsets. Its flagship HiPath OpenScape product is bringing fixed-wireless convergence to the enterprise, reinforced by the merger of its internal mobile and networking equipment divisions.
Integrators and services
In spite of placing it in the "leader" section of its 2004 network service providers 'Magic Quadrant', Gartner analysts say AT&T remains a potential takeover target as revenues decline in its main market, the US. But its European service offering has increased in the last two years and IP-based remote working is a particular focus.
BT Global Services
BT's £520 million acquisition of Infonet has edged it to the front of the network services market in Europe and put it on a par with Equant and former partner AT&T globally. With a 57,000km IP network, BT offers managed services to top-end multi-site organisations worldwide but it remains strongest in the UK.
HP is another major systems integrator. Although it offers some hardware components under its ProCurve and ProLiant brands, most come from partners like Cisco and Nortel. In the main, its networking services are part of a wider infrastructure management package which also encompasses security, servers and storage.
Although IBM once made a full range of networking equipment, today it is primarily an integrator and a project manager – with a vital ally in Cisco. IBM's enterprise penetration and track record has made it a trusted partner for building mission-critical networks and supplying network management and development software.
UK-based Omnetica was formed in 2002 out of some of Siemens' network integrator businesses and in November 2004 announced its acquisition by Kingston Communications, which offers carrier services, enterprise voice and contact centre services. The new company will have revenues of £508 million and around 2,900 employees in the UK, France, Italy and the US.
After exiting Chapter 11 in April 2004 with a purged management, MCI is a strong player in IP-based services. However, balancing rampant cost-cutting with good customer service remains a challenge. Gartner predicts it will be acquired by the end of 2006.
Equant's scale – 9,500 people across 165 territories – is impressive as it seeks to grow its network outsourcing and professional services business in the face of declining service revenues. Ranked sector leader by Gartner, it claims two-thirds of the world's largest companies are customers. Equant is owned by France Telecom.
Other key networking players:
- Vtesse Networks