LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2014: Michel Combes, Alcatel-Lucent CEO, urged Europe’s operators to invest more in IT and networks if the region is not to lag the rest of the world in service innovation.
“Europe is still embedded in a vicious cycle,” he said at Wednesday’s keynote on ‘The power of Big Data’. “There is not enough investment in networks and IT, meaning service providers are left to compete on price rather than innovation.”
The Alcatel-Lucent CEO pointed to what he saw as a thriving and “virtuous” digital eco-system in the US, the foundations of which were laid by investment in high-speed broadband access networks and cloud technologies. Asia is moving ahead, too, he observed.
With new and differentiated services enabled by IT and network investment – which tend to carry higher margins than commoditised services – Combes argued that operators can then use the higher profits to plough back more money into IT and networks.
The overall theme of Combes’ presentation was an industry at turning point. Rapid growth in data volumes – he pointed to recent study from Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent’s research arm, predicting a 440 per cent increase in metropolitan cloud and data centre traffic between 2012 and 2017 – meant operators need a radical re-think on network design.
“There needs to be structural change on the way we build our networks to deliver the scale and elasticity required,” he said.
Combes, who took the helm at the Franco-US supplier eight months ago, is looking to strengthen the firm through his ambitious ‘Shift’ plan – moving away from legacy systems to IP, cloud and “ultra-broadband” technologies.
He doesn’t expect to work alone. “I urge the industry to work together, coming from both IT and network worlds,” he said.
Under Combe’s stewardship, Alcatel-Lucent recently entered into partnership with Qualcomm to push further on small cell innovation. During this week’s Congress, Alcatel-Lucent announced a partnership with US chip giant Intel to speed up virtualisation of network functions.