AT&T responded to the increase in competition and deregulation in telecommunications in the U.S. by splitting into three companies last September. One of its new off-spring, Lucent Technologies, is waging a name recognition campaign as it engages in a battle against established competitors Siemens and Alcatel for the Slovak market.
After four years of being AT&T, the offshoot Lucent Technologies' name has been plastered in the Slovak media. Even with the new name, Ladislav Mikuš, the general director of Lucent Technologies in Bratislava, believes that sales haven't been hurt at all. "We have had our best year eve," Mikuš said. "It doesn't matter what the name is. More important is how good your products are."
Lucent Technologies sells its own phone systems, networks, and fiber optic cables, as well as other high-tech equipment made by Bell Laboratories. The firm is the only one of the three that remained in Slovakia after AT&T's split.
In the battle for network installation market share, valued at about $23 million annually in Slovakia, Lucent Technologies has already claimed about $5.5 million in 1996. The German companies Alcatel, which cooperates with Tesla Inc. in Liptovský Hrádok, and Siemens are leading the way.
Both companies started in 1992 as joint-ventures, getting a jump on Lucent Technologies which started in 1993. On October 1, Lucent Technologies first started to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, legitimizing itself as a separate entity.
Lucent Technologies, Siemens, and Alcatel compete in essentially three areas. PBX switches are the large networks sold to buildings or large companies. PPT lines are public fiber optic cables sold to Slovak Telecom for cabling SDH systems for transmitting public calls. Lastly they compete in future high-tech mobile phone systems that are centrally located and can save companies big money that otherwise would be paid to Slovak Telecommunications.
Compared to their strategy in Prague to target hotels, the strategy in Slovakia has been to sell to large companies and save them money, Mikuš said. Východnoslovenské elektrárne, the regional energy distribution company in east Slovakia, has a Lucent Technologies phone network that connects its operations in Košice to Prešov. Transportel, which operates the pipeline that pumps oil from Russia to Slovnaft and another line to Hungary, has one switchboard for 150 lines along the pipeline. Mikuš estimated these two companies saved $1 million each using the phone network system in 1995. "The savings only continue over time," Mikuš added.
Other customers include President Michal Kováč who is served by what the technicians at Lucent call the "Marilyn Monroe" small mobile network in the renovated presidential palace. ZŤS Martin has the largest PBX network in Slovakia, 2,300 extensions packed in one system.
The amount of attention the GSM license has received is one indicator that the future is in mobile phones. "The future no doubt leads to mobile phones," said a representative from Slovak Telecommunications. "You will start to see the products for this soon."
A technological race is going on to make use of GSM phones that have long range mobility compatible with wireless phones that link back to normal local lines, thus saving money. "In a short time, wireless systems will be hooked up both with GSM and PBX networks," Mikuš said. "I wish this would be tomorrow, but we expect it on the market in 1997 or early 1998."
9. Oct 1996 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll