Ahead of the race?

Anyone who was at Gitex 2000 Dubai will know that every other stand had a TV on it. Lucent’s audio-visual display stood out from the crowd, though, for two simple reasons.

  • E-Mail
By  Alex Marklew Published  December 12, 2000

First, it seemed to be the only stand not showing The Matrix on a constant loop, and second, the film was being delivered via an Etisalat telephone line. CommsMEA spoke to Lucent’s Jim Kane to find out what is was all about.

Anyone who was at Gitex 2000 Dubai will know that every other stand had a TV on it, most of them being used to show off plasma screens or high-resolutioin projectors.

What are you up to at Gitex this year?

Jim Kane: We’re demonstrating quite a few new technologies here, such as innovative voice over IP using wireless LAN, we’re showing some broadband access using MP3, and we’re also showing some XDSL.

We’ve only got that at MP1, but the picture quality is fantastic. We’ve got that running back to one of stinger boxes, and both of them are running over the Etisalat network, which is quite impressive.

There have been complaints about speeds with Etisalat, that it’s stunting Internet growth.

Kane: I’m probably one of the ones complaining, because at home I can’t log on! But they’re investing in the network. If you look at the way the networks are growing here, it’s growing exponentially.

Etisalat will keep up - Etisalat are one of the best suppliers I’ve seen in the gulf region, probably one of the leading ones.

Are you the people who can help out with building a network, or are you just concentrating on offices, homes and so on?

Kane: No, no. Etisalat’s one of our focus customers, as are the military here and certain other enterprise type customers. But Lucent has spun off it’s enterprise business recently, so we’re more focussed on the broadband access market, hopefully supplying the highway of the future: the UMTS networks and the third generation networks that are going to come our way.

There are a quite a few types of broadband access that are being touted around at the moment. Which do you think is going to come out on top, or is it going to be a different type for a different situation?

Kane: It’s going to be a different one for different scenarios, you know? We luckily enough, have all the elements.

We had the fibre-optic based ones, the wireless based ones. The future technologies will be broadband wireless based, but how soon that’s going to come.

Listening to some of the analysts, the analysts are telling us that it’ll be within three to five years, and typically the analysts are pretty spot on! I think this new technology that’s coming along, this third generation, UMTS stuff.

3G is something you’re working on, then?

Kane: Oh yes, most definitely.

When do you think that sort of stuff’s going to turn up here? Europe’s already gone 3G crazy with mobiles.

Kane: Europe really has gone crazy, but really there’s no one delivering those types of services as yet.

There’s places like Japan where it’s starting to roll out, and that’s one of the places we’re working in. I think that will be the first place it comes out, but it’s got to depend on the device: what is the device going to look like in your hands?

It’s not going to be a mobile phone type device. It’s going to be similar to a cross between your mobile phone, your palm, a laptop, something of that nature. It’s going to be interesting.

The equipment people have already shown me some prototypes that are coming out, and I think they’re going to be released before services start coming out.

So what new products are you rolling out at Gitex and around this time, what are you showing off here?

Kane: Like I said, what we’re showing off is our voice over IP, our XDSL, our stinger, our STM-1 which is basically carrying our broadband access and showing video.

VOIP is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. Do you think that’s definitely the right way to go?

Kane: It’s going to be one of the ways to go. It’s not going to be a killer application that’s going to be the be all and end all.

Do you think there is going to be a single killer application?

Kane: We’ve had a lot of talks about this, a LOT of talks. It depends on which product.

If you’re looking at the user, what you and I might be looking for, there is no killer application yet.

Looking at it from a carrier point of view, the killer applications are probably going to be billing systems, quality of service type systems that are going to give the customer continuous on.

The buzz word around all these UMTS and next generation systems is really “always on.” Always having the service available. I think that’s going to be the crucial factor for a lot of the PTTs, being able to have that always on service available to the customer.

When you pick up the phone you don’t get a dead line, you don’t get a disconnect. You can imagine when we’re in the middle of a movie or in the middle of something and suddenly the network goes down, you’re not going to be a happy camper. Especially if you paid ten or 15 bucks for it!

There are quite a few problems with always on at the moment though: download speeds are very, very fast, but upload speeds are a hell of a lot slower…

Kane: It’s going to come. I think really where Lucent are going to be playing is that we’re going to make the highway available to the people, the WAN, the countrywide network.

So you’re going to put in the infrastructure and at either end you’re going to have other people?

Kane: Oh yes. We’re not playing in the market place that’s supplying the devices, because maybe the companies aren’t even around that can supply some of the devices.

Some of our products will be involved, especially our wireless devices, another part of the business we’re working with a lot is microelectronics, and they will most definitely be involved because they’re making the chips that everyone is using.

So what is that Lucent can do that nobody else can?

Kane: The big difference is our Bell Labs, and we’ve always said Bell Labs. But at Bell Labs we’ve got like, 13,000 design engineers, every day they’re brining out 5 patents, coming up with new products every day. We know that these guys are out ahead of the competition.

We invest more in R+D than most other companies, putting back a higher percentage back into R+D than any of our competitors. They’ve always been innovative; they’ve always been out in front.

But the competitors are very strong. Nortel, Cisco, Siemens, Ericsson: all the competitors are out there, they’re all very strong and all have the R+D, but I think we’re out in front.

We know where we’re going with UMTS; we know where we’re going with next generation networks.

Do you concentrate more on taking what you’ve got and developing it, or coming up with completely new and radical ideas?

Kane: Most definitely. Some of the products we’re working on at Bell Labs are just way out beyond. We’re moving data at Bell Labs at terabits. And now we’re looking at multiple terabits. We can use lasers to carry data, and into fibre optics.

By taking a laser down a fibre optic line, we can put 70 channels down one fibre, one piece of glass no bigger than a hair. The way the labs look at it it’s total innovation, totally new products starting with a blank sheet.

It’s not just taking what we have and making it better, that also is part of the process, but we try and look out in front.

So what’s the next big idea?

Kane: The next big idea we have is with the UMTS.

And what are you doing with that?

Kane: It’s quite secret at the moment, but we will be rolling out several new products in the near future.

What sort of timescale are you looking at for that?

Kane: We’re still saying the same as everyone else, that the trial for the next generation stuff will be coming out in the next 12 to 18 months, but you’re looking at 2-3 years till it’s in use.

And it depends on what the market’s requirement is.

If the equipment manufacturers aren’t there, there’s no point in developing stuff for them. Just going back a few years ago, when I used to work in the enterprise division, we used to talk about LANs running at gigabits, and the majority of people were running at kilobits then.

Then they migrated to 10 meagbit systems, and they were still talking about gigabits when we moved in to terabits, and it the equipment isn’t there to use it, it can’t take off.

I remember two years ago we were talking about wearable computers, and people laughed at us. And now they’re coming out. You’ve got to be realistic and say, “what do people want, what do people need.”

It’s a two-edged sword, because we can put in the infrastructure and the network, but if the devices aren’t there, if the applications aren’t there. It won’t work.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code