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Alcatel builds foothold in US manufacturing

French telecommunications equipment specialist Alcatel has acquired a US manufacturer of conferencing and collaboration products, and is moving to buy a supplier of packet-switching software for mobile phone networks by the end of the year.

Alcatel paid about $27m (£15m) in stock and cash for eDial, it said.

eDial has a portfolio including applications for voice, data and video conferencing based on Session Initiation Protocol (Sip), and a real-time collaboration system combining instant messaging, application sharing and presence notification.

The acquisition will allow Alcatel to add new capabilities to its Omnitouch Unified Communication conferencing application, My Teamwork.

The company's sales, support and development staff of about 30 will remain at its office in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, Alcatel also announced plans to acquire Spatial Communications Technologies (Spatial Wireless), a US supplier of packet-switching software for cellular networks, for $250m in shares.

It expects the deal to close by the end of the year, subject to the approval of shareholders 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 owned company with 225 employees based in Texas: the two signed a co-distribution deal in March.

Alcatel's move on Spatial Wireless follows the pattern of an earlier deal, where it signed a contract in July 2003 to distribute Watercove Networks' gateway software in its equipment for second-generation mobile data networks, and then bought the company in January 2004.

Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service

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