The cases below illustrate the entrepeneurial culture, passion and spirit in the teams Willem had the pleasure working with in Alcatel, Ericsson, Agere Systems and mimoOn.
Case 1: 1985 - 1993, anticipating the end of National Telecom monopolies, closed interfaces and the mainframe concept
After developing the HomeVox for KPN, the first experience in a pioneering team started with the birth of Alcatel HALOCS in 1988,when a team of 18 Alcatel Netherlands employees went to Alcatel Headquarters (Paris) with a proposal for a revolutionary new concept.
In 1988 the telecom business was like IBM's famous mainframe business, a central phone switch (mainframe), closed proprietary interfaces with customers locked in, terminals with no local intelligence or features, only for lease, your only choice was the black or white color.
But IBM customers started asking for open interfaces and the IBM Personal Computer with the new Intel 8088 processor inside introduced the concept of decentralized intelligence and software (functionality). On top of that, Nintendo started pioneering a successful new concept: give hardware away for (almost) free and earn money with a continuous stream of new games (Software). And the European Commission's Telecom Terminal Directive had just broken the monopolies of the National PTTs, enforcing open interfaces and third-party access.
Based on this, our proposal to Alcatel HQ was to develop the "PX", the Personal eXchange:
- A lifestyle-look SoHo phoneswitch, the jewel in the living room
- Cheap hardware (following the Nintendo business model)
- Multiple empty slots in the PX, inviting the following optional feature packages:
- Home Security module
- Cordless Telephony module
- Voice Messaging module
- Home Automation module
The HALOCS team received funding to develop the concept, reporting directly to Alcatel Headquarters, with the additional mission to develop also a new consumer-market culture and distribution channels.
The first PX was proudly released at Mobile World Congress in 1992, and Alcatel started volume production. The team received the Industry Forum Award and R&D magazine Award in the same year.
Case 2: 1993 - 2000, Cutting the phone wires, The rise of cordless (DECT) and mobile (GSM/UMTS) telephony
With the PX in volume production, and the team invited to integrate in the Alcatel Belgium organization, Willem decided to join the team of 20 Ericsson pioneers that, after pioneering the DECT cordless phone technology in Sweden, returned to the Netherlands and started Ericsson Business Mobile Networks in Enschede. The team achieved market-leadership in the Enterprise market with the DECT Radio Exchange (mobility server), DECT Access Points, and futuristic beautiful terminals.
Driven by the success and technical potential of the new DECT technology, the team grew out to a 500 employee company in 1996 and started development of DECT-based Wireless Local Loop products. But there was more to come. Cellular Mobile telephony (GSM) was booming, with Ericsson being one of the leaders, feeding a growing concern among the traditional fixed telephone network operators about the potential loss of market share to new greenfield players. In an attempt to leverage their main asset - the fine-grid POTS fixed lines to every street corner, Telecom Italia invited Ericsson to develop the CTM (Cordless Terminal Mobility) concept, with DECT base stations at every street corner and a mobility server added to the Telecom Italia central office exchanges. The team developed the CTM concept, and launched the product in several Italian cities.
Radio propagation conditions for the indoor Enterprise market (e.g. Boeing manufacturing halls and offices), indoor Consumer market, outdoor WLL (static) and outdoor CTM (mobile users) market differ significantly. Willem initiated the Radio Platform '97 project, aiming a digital radio platform for all new applications. After reporting the results of the first phase to the Strategic Business Board, Willem was asked to implement the proposed plan, setup and manage the Radio Technology Development department, which grew to 12 members with good skill mix (3 PHD, 6 MSc, 3 HTS) covering Communication Theory, Signal Processing, RF ASIC design and Digital ASIC design.
But the DECT Wireless Local Loop market collapsed with the Asia crisis in 1997. Ericsson preferred to focus on her leadership position in cellular technology, which appeared to be the right and profitable choice.
So, the team in Enschede changed focus and joined the Ericsson corporate UMTS and Bluetooth technology development programs. In 1998 Willem was asked to coordinate the technical subgroup in Stockholm studying the Siemens UMTS TDD proposal (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats). The cooperation with Corporate Research continued in a joint Enschede/Stockholm Multi User Detection algorithm research program and participation in the SDR (Software Defined Radio) Forum.
Case 3: 2000 - 2004, Apple & Lucent introducing WiFi, mobile internet in your living room
Until 2000 the low volumes and high cost of WiFi technology prohibited large scale introduction. In 1999 Apple and Lucent (now Agere) came to an agreement that would change the WiFi world. Apple committed real volumes and scheduled WiFi as the main new feature at MACworld 1999, Lucent committed an unrealistic low cost for the technology. The same afternoon Steve Jobs introduced the Apple Airport in the summer of 1999, Michael Dell, IBM, Toshiba, HP and many others called Lucent Nieuwegein to get the WaveLAN / ORiNOCO WiFi technology into their notebooks too. In 2000 Willem joined Lucent as teamlead ASIC & DSP, and accelerated development of the Hermes2 (MAC controller) and 802.11a (RF + Baseband) ASICs for the new 5 GHz OFDM standard. We had chosen 802.11a to be our technology node after 802.11b, in order to to leverage our OFDM IPR (The TI PBCC proposal was dominating 802.11g) and avoid overloading the 2.4 GHz ISM band given the projected growth of Bluetooth and WiFi. With 70% marketshare in the fast growing WiFi market, excellent product quality and yield, and our 802.11a silicon on track, we were well prepared for the future.
In 2002, with Bluetooth not taking off in volume leaving the 2.4 GHz band relatively open, Apple asked for a dual-mode 2.4 GHz 802.11(b+g) path forwards, we had to change our roadmap, inviting our Agere USA colleagues to help us with the 2.4 GHz SiGe RF silicon using their 2.4 GHz Bluetooth experience. Meanwhile WiFi revenue had grown to quite significance at corporate level, resulting in Profit & Loss ownership (the heart & soul of a company) for WiFi moving to Agere HQ USA.
Willem was asked to lead the Advanced Development team, where 2 key members, together with friends from Cisco, just left Agere to setup Airgo. We decided to focus on MIMO research (together with Philips, KPN and Eindhoven University), and - with the publications of our PHD students in our pockets - went to Cisco and Intel to discuss the setup of the TGnSync consortium, preparing a MIMO-based proposal for IEEE 802.11n. In 2002 Agere held the world's first WiFi over-the-air 162 Mb/s 3x3 MIMO demo at Eindhoven University. The TGnSync consortium started, Philips, Sony and others joined half a year later, and in response Airgo, Intersil and Broadcom started the competing WWiSE consortium. Meanwhile an industry-wide shake-out in WiFi business came up, we had to look for new business. Willem recruited a new team to develop WiFi-based multimedia & entertainment connectivity technology.
Unfortunately, with WiFi well-positioned for use in ADSL/cable multimedia routers in every home and free VoIP connectivity at home for every mobile phone (low-power WiFi replacing Bluetooth), Agere had to step back in WiFi.
Case 4: 2004 - 2008, The indoor WiFi experience (54 Mb/s internet access) brought outdoor, true mobile internet, VoIP
In Korea, the Government had started the IT839 program, in which ETRI and private companies like Samsung and LG are preparing for leadership positions in next generation ICT technology. IT839 stands for 9 new services, 3 new infrastructure concepts and 8 new devices. One new concept was WiBro (High Speed Portable Internet), in which Samsung had taken a very committed and leading role. Key milestone would be the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation IT Summit in 2005, in which WiBro was to be demonstrated to the leaders of the 21 APEC countries.
Intel and others were on the same wavelength. They worked hard in IEEE 802.16 to change the point-to-point microwave backbone standard 802.16 into a Nomadic Portable Internet standard. In contradiction to Samsung, who designed mobility into its Korean WiBro standard, Intel positioned the new 802.16(d) release, named WiMAX, as a nomadic (pedestrian-speed moving outdoor users) data network complementing the existing cellular networks. Thus avoiding direct competition with the established cellular players, and fitting the grey area of many non-mobile WiMAX licenses in Europe. Like Samsung, Intel profiled and invested heavily in technology and chipsets, promising WiMAX in future Centrino releases.
Early 2004 Samsung invited Agere to join WiBro development, based on Agere's experience in IEEE standardization, MIMO and low cost WiFi product design. As part of our new business development plans, the Advanced Development team went to Korea, and agreed on a detailed proposal for cooperation. Despite the fear for irregularities like earlier in 802.20, end 2004 the IEEE 802.16(d) standard was released. However, the third layoff round in Agere Netherlands had hit the Agere Advanced Development team mid 2004, including (again) key contributors, and finally end 2004 the Dutch Agere site was closed down.
Willem continued as a free lance consultant (Mulder Innova). Samsung proudly held a very successful APEC demonstration in 2005, and worked with Intel to get the full mobility features of WiBro including scalable OFDMA in the new release of the 802.16(e) mobile WiMAX standard.
September 8 2006 Sprint, after the merge with Nextel owner of 2.5 GHz licenses with approx 80% coverage in the USA, decided to rollout a $ 3 billion Nationwide network based on mobile WiMAX (802.16e) technology, with Samsung, Motorola and Intel named as its main suppliers for infrastructure and client chipsets.
2008 - 2012, the mimoOn years, Apple and Google changing the mobile landscape, one global 1Gb/s all-ip LTE-A mobile network standard, LTE PicoCells made in Germany
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