VIDEO INTERVIEW: An upbeat Michel Combes told Mobile World Live that Alcatel-Lucent had no more financial worries and was now much better placed to compete with rivals. “We have regained trust among customers,” said the CEO of the Franco-US supplier, adding that the firm was in mobile – “big time” – once again.
Combes claimed his ambitious three-year Shift Plan, after little more than seven months, was already bearing fruit in terms of reducing costs, raising money through asset sales, and sharpening product focus.
“It’s a new Alcatel-Lucent,” remarked Combes. “We’re back on track and we’re going to be winners.”
In terms of mobile, Combes said the decision to focus on 4G overlay networks was paying off.
“We’re the only [supplier] to provide LTE services for the three main US operators, and we’re doing the same in China,” he said. “We’re also working with main operators in Europe, including Telefonica.”
Combes sees the next stage in the “mobile revolution” as closer alignment with cloud-based technologies. NFV (network functions virtualisation), he said, would play a central role. “It allows customers to scale their networks and deliver services much quicker than before. We’re really leading the way here.”
A second major mobile development, said Combes, is the proliferation of small cells. Alcatel-Lucent recently entered into partnership with Qualcomm to push further on small cell innovation. It’s a partnership that Combes reckons gives Alcatel-Lucent a competitive edge in the small cell space.
“We always need to bring additional capacity to our customers in order to deliver video streaming and other content,” he added.
Reflecting on the previous 12 months, Combes highlighted what he saw as “three major achievements”.
The first, he said, was a “clear re-focus of the company in terms of products and services” – moving away from legacy offerings and specialising in IP routing and transport, cloud-based services and ultra-broadband access.
“We’re starting to get good traction with customers trusting this new position from Alcatel-Lucent,” said Combes. “We have many new customers all round the world.”
The second highlight is a much-improved financial position. “The liquidity crisis is clearly behind us,” he said, pointing to debt re-financing, asset disposals, improvements in operational performance, and a rise in equity value.
“All this together means we have no more worries whatsoever,” he said. “We’re back on track and we have the ability to really compete.”
The third item on Combes’ achievement list is a “reshuffle of the company to empower it and re-ignite innovation”.
As far as the Alcatel-Lucent boss is concerned, who comes from an operator background – he held high-profile positions at both Vodafone and Orange – innovation should revolve around network differentiation.
“The R&D focus needs to be relevant to our customers,” he said.