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N°27  |  June   2008
Executive opinion

Initiative 6: combining agility and robustness in telecoms
Interview with Jean-François Leprince-Ringuet, General Manager, Bull Telecommunications and Media

The telecoms sector is moving full speed ahead, and the convergence – until recently just a slogan – is today becoming a reality. As the systems integration partner of many telecoms equipment manufacturers, Bull takes full advantage of its IT expertise and manufacturing culture to deliver flexible and innovative high-performance solutions worldwide.

Not a week passes but another new partnership agreement or sales offering comes along to remind us just to what extent the telecoms sector is in a state of permanent revolution. Operating at the borderline where telecoms meet media and content production, the business of telecoms operators is evolving rapidly. With the widespread availability of IP, fixed-mobile-Internet-TV convergence is becoming a reality. Alongside simple voice and data transport, new and ever more sophisticated value-added services are being added all the time. Even the most well-informed industry commentators are struggling to imagine what the telecoms landscape will look like in the next few years. How many and what types of terminals and telecoms devices will be using in the future? Will we be literally surrounded by communications devices? Will telecoms networks buckle under the weight of huge amounts of User-Generated Content (UGC)? Will the fusion between virtual worlds and social networking on smartphones prove to be the next killer application? Nevertheless, in this sea of highly challenging uncertainties, one thing remains certain: IT will be increasingly closely interwoven with telecoms technologies to master the unexpected. And the ever more innovative services of the future must have both the agility of the one, and the robustness of the others.

Agility
For telecoms operators agility means, above all, having the capacity to build offerings that constantly adapt to the very rapid market changes. In an industry sector where competition is exacerbated by innovation, time-to-market is vital: being the first to launch a new service or even being ready to meet a key deadline, makes sure you win valuable market share. But on the other hand, if a new offering is not correctly attuned to market needs or is behind the competition, it is essential to be able to react without delay. Given the highly technical nature of today’s telecoms projects, they need to be managed at the kind of pace and with the kinds of methods of the IT world. Bull, as Architect of an Open World™, is at the heart of the current wave of revolutions in project development and management. Thanks to its expertise in the very latest technology standards and its in-depth understanding of this sector, Bull is very well equipped to deliver the level of agility and flexibility required by telecoms operators when they are faced, for example, by the need to implement new service platforms based on new standards such as SIP, IMS, Web 2.0 and ensure that they can evolve towards the so-called ‘Telco 2.0’ model, built on the basis of Web Services.

Robustness
However, it is important that this kind of flexibility and responsiveness is not achieved at the expense of service quality or the robustness of the underlying infrastructures. Customers see telecommunications as a ‘utility’, like water and electricity: it goes without saying that the service operates no-stop and always delivers optimum performance. For the company, provisioning or billing cannot just stop because system maintenance is carried out. From the first computers developed in the 1950s to the newest breed of supercomputers, Bull has developed and nurtured manufacturer expertise. Bull shares its culture – focused on ensuring robustness and keeping complexity under control – with its telecoms equipment manufacturing partners. And this enables Bull to implement carrier-grade reliability infrastructures, capable of offering extremely high service levels in any situation. So for example, Bull is capable of upgrading network cores to IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) type architectures or implementing solutions to improve the management of telecoms equipment (‘boxes’ and other terminals) located in the homes of the operators’ customers.

Innovation
Another aspect of its historical heritage, Bull has always been leading-edge in innovation, devoting significant efforts to R&D and often being among the European pioneers in emerging technologies. This applies not only to IT, but also to telecoms, where Bull teams up with ‘start-ups’ and telecoms equipment manufacturers’ research labs to bring ground-breaking new solutions to the market. For example, Bull was one of the very earliest companies to invest in the area of IP infrastructures, partnering with young and innovative businesses including Cirpack (now acquired by Thomson), , Dilithium, eServGlobal, Highdeal and StreamWIDE, who provide components to develop the service platforms that are so essential to operators’ competitive positioning today. By incorporating the very latest technologies into its projects, Bull can truly claim to be an ‘Integrator, Innovator and Manufacturer’, delivering innovation and ensuring robustness while at the same time optimizing both costs and performance.

International presence
Already very advanced in Japan, North America and Western Europe, the telecoms market is really taking off in emerging economies. Demand here is so great that existing systems are often very far removed from consumers’ expectations. From its base in France, Bull has extended its reach across Western Europe and Africa, where it has developed a unique capacity to manage targeted projects drawing on multi-disciplinary teams and providing effective skills transfer. With the acquisition of AMG.net in Poland, Bull now has a major presence in Central Europe. AMG.net, who developed the Orange portal in Poland – awarded in February 2008 as the best business portal in the country by Swedish consulting firm Hallvarsson & Hallvarsson – is experiencing significant growth, having doubled its workforce since it became part of the Bull Group in April 2006. Finally, the other mainstay of Bull’s international presence is Latin America, where telecommunication is one of Bull Brazil’s key sectors of excellence.

Bull’s 6th initiative
So Bull is ideally positioned to respond to the dual challenge of agility and robustness in a globalized and innovative telecoms market. As a systems integrator with its roots in the IT world, but also as a manufacturer very familiar with the challenges faced by its partners, the telecoms equipment suppliers, Bull's market-beating growth rate in this sector – its revenue doubled in three years – is a testament to the attractiveness and relevance of the company’s unique mix of skills. By focusing on telecoms in this, the sixth of Bull’s strategic initiatives in its 7i program, Bull is clearly demonstrating its commitment to continue investing in this strategic sector and to support telecoms operators and ISPs in developing today’s and tomorrow's services - and in mastering the unexpected.

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