Alcatel-Lucent History

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Alcatel-Lucent Timeline

Alcatel-Lucent History

The formation of Alcatel-Lucent in 2006 created the world’s first truly global communications solutions provider, with the most complete end-to-end portfolio of solutions and services in the industry. Alcatel-Lucent transcends national borders, with an extensive, well-balanced global presence in terms of resources and revenues, and one of the largest and most innovative R&D capabilities.

At the Origin of Telecommunications

Alcatel-Lucent has been at the forefront of telecommunications since the birth of the industry in the late 19th century. The company’s roots span two continents and encompass two early pioneering companies — La Compagnie Générale d'Electricité (CGE) and the Western Electric Manufacturing Company.

Western Electric began in 1869 when Elisha Gray and Enos N. Barton started a small manufacturing firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. By 1880, the company had relocated to Chicago, Illinois, and become the largest electrical manufacturing company in the U.S. Western Electric was noted for its production of a variety of electrical equipment, including the world's first commercial typewriters, telegraph equipment and Thomas A. Edison's electric pen. In 1881 the American Bell Telephone Company — founded by Alexander Graham Bell and forerunner of American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) — purchased a controlling interest in Western Electric and made it the exclusive developer and manufacturer of equipment for the Bell telephone companies.

La Compagnie Générale d'Electricité (CGE) was formed in 1898 by French engineer Pierre Azaria to compete against AEG, Siemens and General Electric. Based in Alsace region of France, CGE was an industrial conglomerate involved in various activities such as electricity, transportation, electronics and telecommunications. CGE would become a leader in digital communications and would also be known for producing the “TGV” (train à grande vitesse) high speed trains in France.

In 1925, Bell Telephone Laboratories was created from the consolidation of the Western Electric Research Laboratories, formed in 1907, and part of the Engineering Department of AT&T. Bell Labs would go on to generate some of the most significant scientific and technological discoveries of the 20th century, including the transistor, the laser, the solar cell battery, the digital signal processor chip and the cellular concept of mobile telephone service. Bell Labs researchers would also garner 7 Nobel Prizes.

Also in 1925, Western Electric sold its International Western Electric Company subsidiary to ITT Corporation.  CGE strengthened its leadership in digital communications in the mid-1980s when it bought the telecommunications part of ITT and changed the group’s name to Alcatel Alsthom.

Changing and Expanding

The mid-1980s marked significant changes for both companies. In 1983, Alcatel Alsthom became one of the first foreign companies to establish itself in China, understanding the huge potential of the Asia Pacific market. Effective January 1, 1984, AT&T agreed to divest its local Bell telephone companies. As part of this divestiture, a new unit named AT&T Technologies (later to become Lucent Technologies), assumed Western Electric's charter.

The 1990s were a time of realignment and refocusing on telecommunications. AT&T launched Lucent Technologies in April 1996 with an initial public offering. The spinoff was completed in September 1996 when AT&T distributed its shares of Lucent to AT&T shareowners. In 1998 Alcatel Alsthom decided to concentrate on the telecommunications industry, spinning off its Alsthom activities and changing the company’s name to Alcatel. 

Alcatel made significant acquisitions in North America at the end of the 1990s and in the early 2000s. Acquisitions included: DSC in 1998; Newbridge and Genesys in 2000; Astral Point Communications in 2002; and Spatial Communications in 2005.

In 2002 Alcatel took control of its flagship subsidiary Alcatel Shanghai Bell (ASB), with the Chinese government owning the rest of this enterprise. This structure allowed Alcatel to uniquely position itself in a Chinese market experiencing rapid growth.

Looking Forward

In 2006, facing an industry with intense competition and where operators were consolidating, Alcatel and Lucent Technologies announced plans to merge.

At the same time, Alcatel announced a deal to increase its shareholding and transfer its satellite subsidiaries, its railway signaling business and its critical security systems domains to Thales, a key player in the French defense industry.

On November 30, 2006, the merger between Alcatel and Lucent was completed, creating the world’s first truly global communications solutions provider.

At the start of the 21st century, the landscape of the networks began to change radically. Once, engineers defined services for users. Today, the users invent the services. They are the writers, the editors, the photographers, the filmmakers – and the developers. They are testing the limits of imagination and possibility. It is their ideas that drive the network to the edge of capability.

It is Alcatel-Lucent’s strategy to spark the transformation of their industry and remain at the forefront of the ever-evolving communications market. To that end Alcatel-Lucent entered into several joint ventures and made strategic acquisitions in key technologies.

The company acquired Nortel's UMTS radio access business to strengthen its leadership position in this technology at the end of 2006. During 2007 the company continued its focus on wireline technology, software and services expertise with acquisitions of Canadian metro WDM networking supplier Tropic Networks, Inc.; enterprise services gateway products developer NetDevices; IPTV software company Tamblin; and the telecommunications consulting practice Thompson Advisory Group, Inc. In addition, Alcatel-Lucent acquired Motive, Inc., a leading provider of service management software for broadband and mobile data services in 2008.

In 2009, in keeping with the company’s Application Enablement strategy and our vision of the High Leverage Network™ architecture that supports it, Alcatel-Lucent acquired leading Content Delivery Network (CDN) provider Velocix, followed by the 2010 acquisitions of leading Web 2.0 API repository ProgrammableWeb and OpenPlug, a cross-platform mobile software development tool provider.

Alcatel-Lucent Timeline
Alcatel-Lucent Timeline
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