Panel views on "Research after divestiture" at Globecom 2009

This panel discussion, with brief presentations by the panelists followed by open discussion, offered fresh perspectives, 25 years after divestiture, on how it has worked out and what we need now.  An audience of 35-40 Globecom attendees including John Vig, the 2009 President of IEEE, joined the discussion.

The three panelists were Paul Kuehn, Chair of Communication Networks and Computer Engineering at the University of Stuttgart; John Cioffi, Hitachi America Professor Emeritus of Engineering at Stanford University (presently CEO/COB, ASSIA Inc.), and Daniel Wedemeyer, Chair of the School of Communications at the University of Hawaii.  Steve Weinstein, a past President of the IEEE Communications Society, served as moderator.  The panel had been organized by Jeremiah Hayes, Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, who was unfortunately unable to attend.  The History Session, stimulated by ComSoc’s communications history chair Mischa Schwartz, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, was put together by Professor Jacob Baal-Schem of Tel Aviv University and Professor Hayes.

None of the panelists shed the usual tears for the loss of the Bell Labs of pre-divestiture days.  It was generally agreed that the pace of innovation had increased, not decreased, with the end of the period of Bell Labs dominance.  The term “innovation” itself has come more to mean products and applications rather than new technical knowledge.  Innovation in technology and applications has been taken up by a variety of structures including industrial-university collaboration, government-funded institutions and projects, and innovation by new small companies, many founded by entrepreneurs who spent time at the old Bell Labs.  In fact, the greatest loss from the disappearance of the old Bell Labs may be its role as “Bell Labs University”, a training ground for future entrepreneurs. 

There was discussion about the replacement for this training camp.  The panelists noted several developments, including regional government-industry projects and new university emphasis on entrepreneurial, environmental, and societal aspects as well as an interdisciplinary technical foundation.  Online access to vast bodies of knowledge and professional networking also support professional development    President Vig prompted the panelists to consider the role of  IEEE, which the panelists agreed had much to offer coming generations of innovators through enhanced distribution of technical information and building a broad technical community.

There was concern that some fundamental research aspects have been overlooked in the post-divestiture environment, with the fast outcome-oriented approach of today discouraging thorough study before products are put in the market, and sometimes neglecting more general applicability possibilities and security and privacy issues.  The panel hoped that both fast market launches and these more thoughtful considerations might somehow merge into a more holistic approach, with the European research funding programs a model, if not always an efficient one. Strong funding of basic research is desirable, not by a private or monopolistic organization as the Bell System used to be, but by "Center of Excellence" type organizations in universities or research institutes, in cooperation with corporate research. 

In summary, the Panel felt that the pre-divestiture Bell Labs was an important and necessary model for its time, but that the world had changed and there are new ways of creating a strong cadre of competent technical innovators.  As suggested above, these include government-industry-university collaboration and direct and indirect government funding of applied research and the transition of technical knowledge into product innovation.

Summary by Steve Weinstein

Mobile Packet Core takes center stage at IEEE ComSoc SCV Jan 13, 2010 meeting + 3G and WiMAX in India!

IEEE ComSoc SCV is fortunate enough to have two "alumni" speakers from Tellabs (Rehan Jalil) and Cisco (Jay Iyer) for our Jan 13th panel session.  Our panel moderator will be ComSocSCV Technical Activities Director Sameer Herlekar. 

Since the speaker/panelist and moderator are from India (and I spend all my mornings with Indian people at the ICC in Milpitas) we are going to expand the panel session to also include the three participants views of mobile broadband in India.  Of course, that will depend on the oft delayed auction for 3G/ BWA spectrum that is now scheduled to be held in early January.  While there won’t be any slides or presentation from the speakers on that topic, they will provide you with their perspective and outlook. 
Why is this subject important?  Because India has been and will continue to be the largest market for cellphones.  Intel thinks it will be a huge market for netbooks and net tops- low cost PCs with WiMAX built in.  Cisco and others believe India will potentially be a very large 3G mobile broadband market.
To highlight the importance of the mobile packet core- the topic for our Jan 13th panel session meeting- please refer to this excellent article from Telephony On-line:
Mobile core wars

The mobile packet core is emerging as the new battleground in wireless, pitting the big mobile vendors against a new generation of specialty core suppliers

And there’s a whole lot more:
Cisco recently completed its acquisition of Starent Network
While Tellabs earlier completed its acquisition of silicon valley based WiChorus
And these previously published articles for background information and analysis:

We hope to meet and greet all SF Bay area ComSoc Community members at this meeting

Alan Weissberger

IEEE ComSoc SCV Program Chair

$2B in U.S. broadband stimulus funds to be distributed over the next 75 days for new network build-outs

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking today in Dawsonville, Ga., said that $2 billion in grants and loans directed at broadband access buildouts will be dispersed over the next 75 days.  Biden’s initial announcement includes $182 million for 18 projects in 17 states awarded through programs administered by the departments of Commerce and Agriculture. Those projects have been matched by $46 million in private investment, the administration said.  

The grants announced today will fund both last-mile projects to connect remote homes in rural areas, and "middle-mile" infrastructure to connect communities to the Internet backbone.   This money is to be spent for new network deployments.  They will also include programs to promote broadband adoption and to fund public computing centers.  Besides Georgia, other projects in the first set will be in Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Arizona and Alaska.

The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture will award the remainder of the $2 billion on a rolling basis over the next 75 days.  So at long last, the dispersal of the $7.2 billion in total broadband stimulus funding set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act begins in earnest. The agencies overseeing the funds -NTIA and RUS- have already made modest grants to organizations in 18 states and the District of Columbia for efforts to map broadband coverage. (NTIA and RUS officials had told a panel of Senators in October that the initial awards would be delayed due to a flood of applications for grants and loans seeking a total of $28 billion.  That was more than seven times the amount that was made available in the first tranche of funding.)  

Joined by Gov. Sonny Perdue, Biden told a crowd of workers, business leaders and lawmakers that creating the networks could help smaller businesses compete globally.   "We’re forming the tools that will fashion the work of the 21st century," Biden said. "We are laying the foundation for the economy of tomorrow."  He also tied broadband to the future success of the country’s manufacturing industry and middle class.

"We were losing ground for the past 25 years in manufacturing," Biden said. "We don’t want an economy built on another bubble. We want to do what our grandparents did … and build on a solid foundation."  He also tied broadband to the future success of the country’s manufacturing industry and middle class.

"These critical broadband investments will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy in the near term," the White House National Economic Council said in a report accompanying today’s announcement. "By providing broadband-enabled opportunities to previously underserved communities, these investments will also lay the foundation for long-term regional economic development and foster a digitally literate workforce that can compete in the new knowledge-based economy."

The administration plans to award a total of $2 billion in grants and loans on a rolling basis over the next 75 days as it starts doling out the first round of stimulus funding for broadband, which Biden said could be used to help struggling rural areas like Dawsonville with distance learning, telemedicine and real-time pricing for farmers.

The awards are targeted to accommodate four primary missions:

  • Middle Mile: $121.6 million to build and improve connections to communities lacking broadband access.
  • Last Mile: $51.4 million to connect end users like homes, hospitals and schools to the middle mile network points.
  • Public Computing: $7.3 million to expand computer center capacity for public use in libraries, community colleges and other public venues.
  • Sustainable Adoption: $2.4 million to fund innovative projects that promote broadband demand "with population groups where the technology has traditionally been under-utilized."

The Department of Agriculture also announced $53.8 million in funding for eight projects on Thursday, and the Commerce Department announced $129 million in funding for 10 projects. Those projects together also will put up another $46 million in matching dollars.

The Recovery Act requires NTIA and RUS to allocate all of the $7.2 billion by Sept. 30, 2010.

For more information:

Summary of Clearwire and Sprint presentations at Sprint Developers Conference + archived webcasts

Archived 4G webcasts and presentations by Clearwire and Sprint at Oct 27th Sprint Developers Conference:

Also see this article and comments at end:

Here’s a summary of three Clearwire presentations:

1. Clearwire’s Scott Richardson confidently stated that “spectrum trumps technology” and that “the spectrum owned will separate WiMAX from LTE.”

Mr. Richardson made another interesting observation: “Most 4G wireless networks are limited by self interference (i.e. Self NEXT), rather than how far the signal can travel.” We interpreted this to mean that mobile WiMAX does not produce the self interference than LTE, as we don’t know of any other “4G wireless networks.”

In a somewhat ironic statement, Mr. Richardson said, “new applications drive bandwidth consumption.” With an average of only 100ms round trip latency, developers are able to deliver “more snappy applications, at higher speeds than 3G.” We wonder if that performance advantage, by itself, will be sufficient to entice application developers. especially with no hand held devices available?

Continuing, Mr. Richardson very confidently stated, “We have a super fast (wireless broadband) network which you can think of as a bit factory” for all IP traffic- for both households and machine-to-machine (M2M2) applications. The bits will go to retail or wholesale customers (MVNOs). In the future, we will have other wholesale customers that will use CLEAR as a backbone network. Our evolving business model(s) will enable a whole new set of applications. This will enable a richer web experience for mobile users. Clearwire will have U.S. nationwide coverage by 2011 and will be able to fill the broadband mobile Internet vortex. By 2011, the killer 4G application will be cloud computing on the go.”

2. Clearwire Developer Program Initiatives:

Disclaimer:  many of the items described are "works in progress

Clearwire hopes that the two platforms described here and others to come (see below) will be exploited by independent software developers to build new applications that will make CLEAR service more attractive to subscribers.

According to its Developers web site
(, Clearwire now offers two types of platforms to provide its customers with an end-to-end solution to develop, implement, and activate Clearwire’s suite of services.

“The Clearwire Location Platform, or CLP, is for developers with location-based services. Developers can leverage Clearwire’s enhanced and dynamic location interfaces to develop cutting-edge location-based services that are an integral part of their website or application.” More about location in the section below.

“The Clearwire Client Connectivity Platform is for developers who want a platform-independent framework to connect to the entire WiMAX network using a device that complies with the WiMAX Forum-supported Common API. The Client Connectivity Platform leverages a new WiMAX Connection Manager and provides public APIs for developers to manage their devices and connections.”

3.  Functional modules available (soon) to apps developers and device makers

At the October 27th Sprint Conference 4G Developers” session, Clearwire disclosed many functional modules or capabilities that developers could use to create new apps for mobile WiMAX. The common API was said to be implemented in WiMAX I/O drivers from Intel, Comsys, Samsung and Beceem chip sets. There may be other WiMAX silicon vendors also implementing that API. The new modules (platforms?) that applications will be able to use include:

Location*: client/server to determine device’s location; server/server to determine location of a device owned by a friend or family member (see details below).
Access Authentication: using a secure mutual certificate.
-RF Awareness: will be very important for mobile video apps. Signal strength, signal quality, transmit power and other RF parameters will be made available to the application/ video player to enable it to dynamically adjust resolution, frame or data rate (perhaps even change the encoding/decoding/compression scheme?). Note that in a mobile video streaming or 2 way real time video chat/conferencing environment, the received signal quality is constantly changing. So dynamic video parameter adaptation is essential in providing a good video experience to the mobile user.
-Data Session continuity: keep data sessions up while switching between WiMAX, WiFi, EVDO/ CDMA
-Device Management: will be device dependent
-Connection Management*: Connecting and disconnecting a device to the CLEAR network
-Diagnostics: for enhanced troubleshooting
-Service Level QOS: is targeted for end of 2010 or 2011. It will allow the application to request a “better level of service” for selected traffic types, e.g. voice, real time video conferencing, emergency/1st responders, etc.

*These modules are described on the CLEAR developers web site

Clearwire sees location as a key enabler for the types of services that take advantage of WiMAX bandwidth and mobility.

-Client/Server location is based on the Call Sector (1/3 of a Cell) that the device is physically present. No GPS or client hardware is required. The result provided is a longitude/ lattitude for the center of the Sector. A corresponding street address may be optionally requested. Acccuracy was said to be withing 400m to 800m. Computation time is < 1 second.

-Server/Server location allows one server to ask another for a remote device location using the latter’s IP or 802.16 MAC address. The resulting response is the longitude/ lattitude for the center of the Sector the remote device is in.

-Assisted GPS capability is targeted for sometime in 2010. In this scenario, GPS queries the network service to more quickly fix the device location.

-Multi-lateration is targeted for late 2010. In this situation, a given device type is connected to more than one Base Station located in different Sectors.