9 min read

Today’s constant communication and delivery of data and content has stretched the network to its physical limits. We need something faster, broader and that is radically different. Incremental innovation won’t cut it. To get to what’s next, we’ll need something fundamentally new.

In the next 5 years
10x
Wireless bandwidthto increase
20x
Fixed broadbandincreases
9x
Metro videotraffic will increase
70
Billion deviceswill be connected to the network
25%
Energy costsmight be as much as 25% of the operator's spend on networks

We believe that network infrastructure has to change. We’re at the edge of what is physically possible.

Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs

Building a sixth sense

Introducing Network 2020, a bold vision for a new network.

It will be as disruptive as radio, television and the web. Today the network connects humans. Tomorrow Network 2020 connects everything, all the time.

imagine

You wake up in your bedroom a bit early because your alarm clock knows there’s heavy traffic on your route to work. Your morning coffee will be ready before you’ve gotten out of the shower. Your grocery store shelves will tell your local farmer that they need more eggs.

The world needs to be personalized to you. You need to be the center of the universe. And so instead of you being something that attaches to a network, really it needs to be your network that is serving you. We’re getting to the point where we’re really making that happen.

Tod Sizer, Vice-President of Wireless Research

The world needs to be personalized to you. You need to be the center of the universe. And so instead of you being something that attaches to a network, really it needs to be your network that is serving you. We’re getting to the point where we’re really making that happen.

Tod Sizer, Vice-President of Wireless Research

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inventing the future

"The future is about allowing people to interact with everything digitally – to have the digital world be a natural extension of their lives. That’s radical – we will effectively create a sixth sense for people," explains Weldon.

Over the next five years, service providers will need more capacity, higher speeds and smarter, more complex nodes.

Humanity says ‘I need to go here’, and Bell Labs responds with a way to get you there.

Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs

Weldon continues, "We have the history and the talent to allow the problem to be looked at from all angles. And that’s how we accomplish the fundamental, transformative innovation that changes the course of humankind.”

Bell Labs will be the organization that invents this future and advises the world’s most important telecommunications companies, to help bring them into Network 2020.

Future X

Thirteen distinct new technology solutions that Bell Labs is pioneering. Known as the Future X Projects, these will ensure that tomorrow’s networks are high performing, low cost, efficient, personalized and always-on.
FutureCell
FutureCloud Control
FutureNet Control
FutureCore
FutureMetro
FutureCommunications
FutureData Center
FutureRemote
FutureConnect
FutureContent
FutureObjects
FutureSpace
FutureCommunities
Thirteen distinct new technology solutions that Bell Labs is pioneering. Known as the Future X Projects, these will ensure that tomorrow’s networks are high performing, low cost, efficient, personalized and always-on.

Future Core and Future Remote aim to optimize digital data transmission and go beyond existing limits for transmission over fiber and over copper access. Future Connect will usher in the 5G era. Future Cell will create a world of energy autonomous networks with no wires in the last mile. Bell Labs will also build a continuous World Wide Streaming network in the Future Content program, enabled by putting tiny, cheap, connected sensors in just about everything. Future Objects will create a personalized digital world that will allow people to answer the fundamental questions: what, where, when, how and to understand ‘why’.

And underlying all this are breakthroughs in science, mathematics and technology that aim to improve any dimension by at least 10 times. One such example is the work on quantum computing where physicists, materials scientists and mathematicians are collaborating to try to create the first stable quantum bit (qubit) device that could start a revolution in computing allowing some calculations to be performed 10 times faster for simple problems or billions of times faster for complex problems.

Making ‘Seemingly infinite capacity’ a reality

The massive growth of the network will of course consume large amounts of energy, if we aren’t careful. Weldon reminds us, “We’ve got to build a network that has ‘seemingly infinite capacity,’ and to do that, we can’t use infinite energy. Today, energy costs might be as much as 25% of the operator’s spend on networks, and if that number increases, the whole business case for the future network will collapse – let alone the effect on the environment. That’s why all of these technologies will be complemented by Bell Labs’ dedication to energy efficiency."

The big question is: if we do more with the network, what does that do from an energy perspective?

How do we ensure that networks are both high performing and economically and environmentally sustainable?

Thierry Klein, Program Leader for the Network Energy Research Program

5
reasons why energy must be a primary concern for Network 2020.

Environmental impact of larger network

Current network designed only for capacity and reliability

High cost of electricity

A dense, always-on network requires more energy

Dramatic increase in traffic applications and services

Bell Labs has developed several tools, among them the interactive G.W.A.T.T. application, which will allow researchers and industry stakeholders to identify energy hot spots in the network and the impact of future technologies to create a more energy-efficient network. Bell Labs is also a founder of the GreenTouch consortium – dedicated to fundamentally transforming communications and data networks and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of ICT devices, platforms and networks. Thierry Klein explains, “We need to operate the network differently. The networks need to be much more dynamic and more intelligent to ultimately be more energy-efficient.”

Reaching the future by starting today

Bell Labs and Alcatel-Lucent will be the organization that advises and creates the networking future for the world’s most important telecommunications companies but also for business as well, to help bring them into Network 2020. Businesses are about to undergo a massive transformation to ‘digitize everything’ and become much more efficient and dynamic.

These societal and business changes are coming in the near future and Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs have been working on the challenges of today to redefine them for tomorrow’s networks.

Internet of things

Tomorrow’s networks will be built entirely with wireless connectivity in the last few meters to the person or thing. Bell Labs Internet of Things Research Lead Fahim Kawsar says, “To understand the needs of things, you need to have a better understanding of humans and where, when, how they interact. This will allow us to create digital services and capabilities that fundamentally change the way we experience our lives.”

Network convergence

Everything’s coming together. Bell Labs will determine how to move the right data from one point to another automatically as our networks achieve deeper confluence. Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent Vice-President Strategy and CTO, IP Routing and Transport Business Division says, “We’re on the cusp of a major shift in how networks are architected and there are many opportunities to build those networks better by bringing together technologies.”

New enterprise

Carriers and their customers will have new opportunities to work together to meet new business needs. As we enter the era of the ‘digitization of everything’ that will allow automation, localization and globalization of businesses in a way that was previously impossible.

The edge cloud

Cloud economics and services will expand to the edges of the network to deliver high-performance and low-latency (delay) experiences.

Cognitive operations

Bell Labs is helping operators analyze and optimize their systems in order to maximize the opportunities of Network 2020, by rapidly evolving from the legacy systems of today.

Network Virtualization and Software Defined Networking (SDN)

Networks and network services will be able to be created everywhere and anywhere and seamlessly connected together. Nuage Networks CEO Sunil Khandekar is staying one step ahead of the pack. “With our virtualized network services, we bring enterprise branch networking to the cloud era. We are the only one in the market that offers SDN capabilities for the datacenter and the branch through a simple policy framework. It is the beginning of a revolution in enterprise networking.”

Network 2020 will be the focus of Bell Labs' research for the next five years. And, in 2025, Bell Labs will celebrate its centennial by having built for humanity nothing less than The Future (once again).