Alcaic Research and technology, not iambic verse.


Bridging the gap

Disclaimer: was also crossposted to our corporate blog.

I woke up to the news that we (i.e. Alcatel-Lucent) won the Infovision Broadband Innovation of the Year award for our work on "phantom mode" DSL transmission. Wow. Imagine that: imagine that everything that you and your team worked on for the past 2 years - what you believed to be "the next big thing" - just got voted as such by an external panel of the key influencers in your business.

"[Broadband Innovation of the Year]: This award recognizes a new service, strategy, consumer offering or other initiative launched between [...] which shows outstanding results thanks to an innovative approach."

Note the focus on "Innovation". Not "Broadband Product", nor "Broadband Research".

Product development or basic research: here at Bell Labs, as in many industrial research organizations, we are often a conflicted bunch when that particular antithesis comes up. Are we too close to product? Are we pushing the research boundary enough? And on top of this, they call us the "Innovation Engine". What does that mean, exactly?

Well, this is it.

Being an "Innovation Engine" means steering away from an "OR" world. It not about product OR research. We believe in "AND". Basic AND business relevance. Long AND short term benefits. Phantom mode DSL fits squarely into that picture, where we realized the opportunity two years ago and pushed the research and technology to make it real. In the process, we developed novel estimation algorithms, contributed to the state of the art, expanded the field, collaborated with technology partners, patented and standardized - and together with ISAM R&D, who build the HW for the prototype, demonstrated that this is a real opportunity. This had not been possible in an OR world. You cannot innovate when you do not understand the fundamentals: it is the understanding that creates visibility on the opportunity. You cannot innovate when you have no long term goal: it is during the journey to tomorrow that you create value today. And it is expanding the fundamentals that expands the opportunities for the future. That is the role that Bell Labs plays as the Innovation engine.

Let's make one thing clear though: operators are not excited about the technology. What makes operators excited is the long term view, all-optical broadband access and its wealth of service possibilities. However, they were very worried about the gap in bandwidth that appeared to be looming between todays copper and tomorrow's fiber. That gap can now be bridged by vectoring and phantom mode technology. Operators can have a seamless migration strategy for their service strategies without insurmountable capex steps to stumble over.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.

Bridging the gap is exciting, because it gets you to the other side. However, once there, we have a tendency to forget all about the bridge and its builders. That is why this award is so important: it recognizes those who realized a bridge was needed and built it. Because you know, we're already hard at work building the next one.