Bell Labs' high-bandwidth future

Summary:Bell Labs may have been absorbed into Alcatel-Lucent and ditched basic physics research, but it's still producing breakthroughs in optics, quantum computing and social computing.

Bell Labs may have been absorbed into Alcatel-Lucent and ditched basic physics research, but it's still producing breakthroughs in optics, quantum computing and social computing.

At its peak, Bell Labs was the world's leading research and development organisation, responsible for the invention of the transistor in 1947 and the Unix operating system in 1969. Bell scientists even discovered the cosmic background radiation, the echo of the Big Bang, in 1965 — by accident.

Since 2008, it has been concentrating on what Alcatel-Lucent sees as more immediately marketable areas of research, but that's still looking further ahead than most companies.

Research into quantum computing, for example, is only at the stage on manipulating individual qbits (quantum bits) and is perhaps 20 years out from producing a working quantum computer.

On this week's Patch Monday podcast, Bell Labs' chief scientist Alice White outlines some of Bell Labs' current research into social computing and optics, and the potential of Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN). It's about ubiquity of access, rather than just raw bandwidth.

Bell Labs predicts that five years from now, the demand for mobile bandwidth will be 25 times what it is today. In 10 years, it'll be 100 times.

Patch Monday also includes my usual look at some of last week's news headlines.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone (02) 8011 3733.

Running time: 26 minutes, 39 seconds

Topics: NBN, Broadband

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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