& cplSiteName &

AlcaLu Breathes New Life Into Bell Labs

Ray Le Maistre

Alcatel-Lucent is determined to make its Bell Labs operation "relevant again" as part of its Shift Plan transformation by aligning the R&D operation's focus with its parent company's strategy, according to the recently appointed president of the labs. (See: Alcatel-Lucent Builds Future Around IP.)

Marcus Weldon, who is also corporate CTO at Alcatel-Lucent, was named Bell Labs president in early November. He outlined his initial plans and thoughts during a news briefing in London in December.

"Bell Labs lost its way in the late 1990s until recently. It didn't really know what to innovate on, because its parent was in flux, as was the industry," said Weldon. "Bell Labs is most successful when it's solving problems, such as the microwave radiation problem."

Alcatel-Lucent CTO and Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon.
Alcatel-Lucent CTO and Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon.

There's no shortage of problems to solve, but it helps that "there is much greater certainty of what this industry is all about, thanks to the convergence of telco and IT networks" and the introduction of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).

To help guide the 700 or so people who work at Bell Labs, and to help "reinvent and rejuvenate" the operation, which has a number of sites around the world -- Shanghai, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, as well as New Jersey -- Weldon has drawn up seven "innovation domains" that require focused R&D work:

  • Network capacity
  • Network performance
  • Network optimization
  • Network energy
  • Network security (especially for virtualized applications)
  • Network applications
  • Devices (with a focus on how they connect to and interact with the network, rather than the development of end-user devices such as smartphones and tablets)

That's a broad focus. In fact, Weldon himself said that Bell Labs would be shying away from only two main areas of the communications networking domain: end user devices and IT server blades/processors. But he's determined to get Bell Labs in line with AlcaLu's new trajectory and dealing with the main industry challenges head on. At present, the "alignment on solving big industry challenges is not as strong as I would like."

The new energy behind Bell Labs, and the shift toward the unification of telecom and IT, means Weldon will be looking to add some people to the Bell Labs team, though some will also be lost as part of the Shift Plan layoffs. (See: Alcatel-Lucent to Cut 10,000 Jobs.)

The R&D operation lost people to the web giants in Silicon Valley a decade ago. "We need to hire some people who would otherwise work there. We'll be hiring some talent in that area."

And there may be a more focused approach to development work, aligned around smaller teams. In that respect, Weldon cited Basil Alwan, the head of AlcaLu's IP Division. "Basil says the best R&D team is the smallest one that can get something done," and Alwan's team has built its unarguable success in the past decade around "one piece of software and one chipset." (See: TiMetra at Heart of AlcaLu's Shift.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Liz Greenberg
Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/7/2014 | 7:12:07 PM
Re: Weldon has what it takes
Ray I think making sure that Bell Labs aligns with the overall corporate strategy is the kiss of death for innovation.  Bell Labs greatness came from the tinkerers and thinkers who played with new novel ideas some of which got used sooner. some later, and some not ever.  Remembering the great US company that Bell Labs was is not the French company that AlcaLu is today.  I don't think Weldon is going to do a lot unless he now takes a page from Google Labs and truly lets innovation happen. Come to think of it, maybe Google Labs IS the Bell Labs of today!
User Rank: Blogger
12/29/2013 | 11:26:34 AM
Re: Weldon has what it takes
I think this time the president is more in tune with the overall corporate strategy and that Bell Labs is being asked to be more aligned with that strategy.

The question is - will that approach stifle innovation? Can innovation truly exist in the constraints of a corporate directive? 
User Rank: Lightning
12/28/2013 | 4:11:49 AM
Re: Weldon has what it takes
3rd or 4th chief Bell Labs is seeing in the past couple of years. What's happening at Bell Labs !!!.
User Rank: Blogger
12/27/2013 | 7:04:34 AM
Weldon has what it takes
Weldon has the drive and charisma to inject new life into Bell Labs - the question is whether the engineers respond or not.
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Friday, October 21, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Evolving the Data Center
Rasool Kareem Irfan, Head, Telecom & Infrastructure Security Practice, Tata Communications Transformation Services Ltd (TCTS)
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX's Plan for DOCSIS Deployment

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join VeEX's CEO Cyrille Morelle and Light Reading's Alan Breznick as they discuss VeEX's new products at SCTE 2016 at Philadelphia.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Amazon Unlimited, Alexa, AI & How to Cut Off Google at Its Knees
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/14/2016
WiCipedia: Following Women on Twitter... and on Stage
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 10/14/2016
US Issues Total Flight Ban on Samsung Note 7
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/15/2016
Oh Snap! Qualcomm Unveils X50, Its First 5G Modem
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/17/2016
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.