Bellcore's New Integrator Role
Regulatory relief still means work for someone. One of the companies that stands to get the most out of the red tape-cutting going on in the telecommunications industry is the sleepy company Bellcore, Morristown, N.J.
The company, which is owned by the Baby Bells and provides software, consulting and engineering help to telcos, is admittedly up for sale. Although Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif., are said to be interested, industry experts say Science Applications International Corp., San Diego, is set to be the new parent.
Whoever takes Bellcore under its wing, the company will have a different stature apart from the regional Bell operating companies. "Not having the [regional Bell operating companies] as owners would give a more neutral veil around us," said Frank Gratzer, a manager in Bellcore's Core Networks Infrastructure Area.
Although Bellcore has been doing this work for 12 years, its competitors include some heavy hitters. Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas, Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, N.J., Andersen Consulting in Chicago and Computer Sciences Corp., will all be fighting for telcos' business as they reinvent themselves. Bellcore's leg up is that it put together much of the network that is now in place.
One of the biggest new jobs for Bellcore involves "interconnection." The Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandates that current local exchange carriers let other local carriers connect to their networks. That's a complicated technological feat, but just the thing Bellcore knows how to do.
"We understand how the new entrant can get into the market," said Gratzer. "We'd still like to be part of the glue... and have a part in designing the new networks."
Bellcore is not just re-engineering networks -- it is reinventing itself. The company hopes a purchase will boost its name brand. "Bellcore has a reputation for understanding technology," said Gratzer. "We've got to work on our people skills."
In fact, the company has had a marketing department for less than two years. Even then, not much money was spent on self-promotion. "The [regional Bell operating companies] didn't want us marketing to them because it increased their costs," said Gratzer.
Bellcore is now coming out with new products its marketing people will hawk. A few weeks ago, it unveiled the MediaVantage/Core Telephony product, which is designed to help start-up telephone companies and cable companies compete with telcos for the residential local telephone market.
Bellcore will also hold workshops to teach business people about interconnection, unbundling and other unfamiliar tasks brought about by the Telecom Act and the Federal Communications Commission's August rules, which implemented the law.
Consulting services for local number portability, which allows customers to take a phone number with them as they switch local carriers, are also offered by Bellcore. While it may seem like a simple task, it is a complex and new challenge to telcos. "With local number portability, you're changing the way numbers are routed," said Herbert Manger, business developer for Bellcore's Local Number Portability effort.
The next market for Bellcore after pursuing commercial business is the international market, especially Europe, southern Africa and Asia. While Bellcore's international market is now only 10 percent of its business, Gratzer said that area is growing at 20 percent to 25 percent a year.
Bellcore At a Glance
Headquarters: Morristown, N.J.
President and CEO: George Heilmeier
Current Customers: 800 businesses worldwide in 55 countries, including Sprint, GTE and the U.S. government
1996 Budget: $1 billion
Claim to Fame: Bellcore-developed network systems handle all 800 and 888 calls placed in the United States