Missing Links

Missing Links

Carol Wilson

Last week’s DSL World Forum 2001 in Chicago was a spooky view of a once unimaginable future. Attendance at the conference/exhibit was substantially lower, but that wasn’t all that was missing. For the first time I can remember, neither Nortel Networks nor Lucent Technologies was represented as a sponsor or exhibitor at a significant industry event.

The show went on. Business got done, information was shared and the free lunch was still free.

But the absence was noticeable.

Based on current financial realities, there may soon be a time when Nortel and Lucent aren’t taken for granted as the telecom industry’s stalwart leaders. In this week’s cover story, we take a look at how the industry might be reshaped if one or both should fail financially.

This is not a prediction-I personally don’t expect either Lucent or Nortel to collapse financially. But then again, I never expected either company’s stock to trade in single digits for months, or for Lucent to consider acquisition by Alcatel.

Our intent is to focus on the substantial role that these two companies played in shaping the modern telecommunications marketplace and to consider how that marketplace will change if Lucent or Nortel disappears.

The DSL World Forum is one of many industry events that both have supported. Both companies have been heavily involved not only in developing breakthrough technologies, but also in sponsoring industry groups and forums that address issues of interoperability and the need for standards. For years, it has been easy to gripe that these big companies can use their resources to dominate such groups. Now it’s time for those who complain to see if the grass is truly greener when neither Lucent nor Nortel is watering the lawn.

Some segments of the market are already feeling the impact of these two giants’ financial woes. First, of course, are the former Lucent and Nortel employees who have been shown the door.

But there are also customers of product lines that are no longer supported. Nortel, in particular, has backed off its DSL products and its smaller switches, leaving some customers to consider their own uncertain future.

Interestingly, some independent telcos are taking this change as an opportunity to try newer broadband technology, as I explore in this issue.

It probably wouldn’t be fair not to mention the impact of Lucent’s and Nortel’s woes on our own industry of trade publishing. Senior Writer Rachael King explains how both companies have pulled print ads through 2001 as part of their cost-cutting prodcedures. The Net Economy is one of many publications affected by those decisions.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in The Net Economy.