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Alcatel snaps up Web conference vendor eDial

By Phil Hochmuth,
September 17, 2004 09:27 AM ET - Alcatel this week announced plans to acquire eDial, a maker of Web-based collaboration software for businesses. The deal is valued at around $27 million in Alcatel stock and cash.

EDial makes a conferencing and collaboration server based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). The server allows enterprises to host Web-based  conference sessions where users can share documents, and communicate via IP voice, video and chat applications. The product is also used by carriers to provide Web-Ex-like online conference services.

Technology from eDial will be integrated into Alcatel’s OmniTouch Unified Communications platform, which provides enterprises with SIP-based presence and collaboration applications, and works with Alcatel IP PBXs and legacy voice systems.

Alcatel’s eDial acquisition mirrors similar moves by enterprise VoIP rivals Cisco and Avaya over the last year. Cisco acquired Latitude Communications for $80 million in November 2003, adding Lattitude's MeetingPlace  multimedia conferencing application to its IP telephony product line. Last month, Avaya bought Spectel, a Web-based voice/video conferencing vendor, for $103 million.

In addition to integrating eDial technology into Alcatel products, the French telecom vendor says it will also continue to develop eDial products and support existing customers. EDial is located in Waltham, Mass., has about 100 customers and 30 employees.

Also on Friday, Alcatel announced plans to acquire Spatial Communications Technologies (Spatial Wireless), a U.S. supplier of packet-switching software for cellular networks, for $250 million in shares. It expects the deal to close by the end of the year, subject to the approval of stockholders and regulators.

Spatial Wireless's software-based multimedia switching system fits into the network architectures of all the major digital wireless systems, and can be easily upgraded to support 3G (third-generation) wireless networks, prolonging the life of products incorporating it, Alcatel said.

Alcatel already has a close relationship with Spatial Wireless, a privately held company of 225 employees based in Richardson, Texas: the two signed a co-distribution deal for the North American market in March.

With its bid for Spatial, Alcatel is following a path already trodden in its acquisition of Watercove Networks of Boston. Alcatel signed a deal in July 2003 to distribute Watercove's gateway software in its equipment for second-generation mobile data networks, and then bought the company in January.

The IDG News Service's Peter Sayer contributed to this report. The IDG News Service is a Network World affiliate.

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