29 March 2006

Bell Labs and the Lucent/Alcatel merger

One of the icons of American industrial R&D is Bell Labs. The original Bell Labs has been sliced and diced with the various divestitures:

  • A portion went to the (then) RBOCs, which became Telcordia and was eventually sold to SAIC.
  • Another portion, AT&T Labs, stayed with AT&T. At present, this portion seems to have survived SBC's buyout of AT&T.
  • Yet another portion, Avaya Labs, was a consequence of the Avaya was spin-off.
  • The remaining portion, which retained the name Bell Labs, ended up with Lucent.

Now with Alcatel's proposed purchase of Lucent in the news, the question as to what will become of Bell Labs has arisen. As this article points out, this is not simply a matter of industrial reorganization, as Bell Labs historically had close ties to government projects that have homeland security implications.

Should this be sufficient grounds for the US government to block the merger? Should the US Government take over these labs? Should the US Government keep out of the deal and see to their homeland security needs via other mechanisms? Is there enough of the "original" Bell Labs left for this to be a significant issue?

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Prashant said...

It is hard to say what the US government should do. As teh article points out, Bell Labs today is not the Bell Labs of yesterday. So the question is, is it still a critical component for US national security. To see some of what Bell Labs has been doing recently, here is a link to the Bell Labs Technical Journal - the successor to the Bell System Technical Journal. Note that they have outsourced its publication to Wiley Interscience. The papers are accessible from Pitt.

KuangChiu Huang said...

I support the merger between Alcatel and Lucent. If major telecom service providers (SBC and AT&T, Verizon and MCI) can merge together to improve operation efficiency and increase bargain power to equipment vendors, there is no reason to prohibit telecom equipment vendors to take the similar strategy because it owns the knowledge of the US government and military. If the merger is blocked, whether the US government and military need to compensate Lucent’s loss. It is hard to persuade me that the knowledge of the US and military in Lucent would be more secure if it merges with a US company instead of a French private company.

Jimmy said...

Nah. I support it, too. US is not more secure than EU. In fact, everything there is being monitored. Or so they say.

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