New 300-Employee R&D Center in France
Reflects Lucent's Changing Focus
Lucent Technologies (www.lucent.com), No. 33 on the Fortune 500, has tentatively selected a location in the south of France for a new European R&D center that will focus on third-generation mobile phones. The new center, which is expected to employ roughly 300 engineers and technical personnel, is part of Lucent's new business thrust away from cordless telephones and toward areas that company officials see as offering greater growth potential - namely, the mobile phone and Internet markets.
The tentative location for the new Lucent center is in Sophia Antipolis, one of the world's most highly concentrated high-technology clusters, surrounded by the tony resort ambience of the French Riviera.
Lucent's projected site sits in the midst of a triumph in planning business locations. French officials in 1969 began to envision the creation of Sophia Antipolis -- a combination of the Greek word "Sophia," which means "wisdom," and "Antipolis," the name the Greeks who founded the area gave the city of Antibes, the nearest coastal town. The idea: to build a "city of wisdom" within the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region that was already a world-famous tourist attraction.
That idea has come to fruition, as Sophia Antipolis has bloomed to become a global high-tech center. The 7.7-sq.-mile (20-sq.-km.) area that makes up Sophia Antipolis is home to major facilities for more than 1,000 companies, almost all of them decidedly technology-intensive, including the likes of Dow, Digital, Matra, France Telecom, Rockwell and VLSI. That business concentration has also made Sophia Antipolis probably France's single most international locale. The 20,000 people working there hail from more than 60 countries.
Though only created in 1995 as part of the splitting of AT&T's massive corporate atom, Lucent is no newcomer to the balmy Southern France clime. In 1998, the Murray Hill, N.J.-based company opened a Bell Labs European center in Sophia Antipolis. That center is focused on developing intelligent networking platforms and new services to help network operators reduce operational costs and increase customer response. The center's platforms and services include "free-phone," messaging, Internet-related services and special billing.
In 1998 Lucent also announced the selection of Sophia Antipolis for a technical support center that's focused on helping customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa better plan and manage their complex data and mixed-media global communications networks. The heart of Lucent's Sophia Antipolis tech center is the company's NetCare Services group, which specializes in end-to-end networking services, including installation, integration, management and maintenance.
The Sophia Antipolis tech center, which shares space with the Bell Labs facility, marks the first time that Lucent located one of its NetCare centers outside the United States. Lucent facilities in Denver and St. Petersburg, Fla., support the French NetCare operation, which also includes a 24-hour regional customer call center.
The newest French research facility that's tentatively slated for the Sophia Antipolis site will work in tandem with the Lucent's mobile telephony R&D center that's located in the south English town Swindon, located some 81 miles (130 km.) west of London.
The facilities clustered in Sophia Antipolis dovetail well with much of the business future that Lucent's leaders envision.
Lucent Technologies CEO Richard McGinn discussed that fast-evolving future at 1999's Internet World conference in Los Angeles. The key word in Lucent's vision seems to be "convergence" -- particularly the convergence of the Net with wireless phone networks, with the upshot being what McGinn called "a network of networks."
"The next generation of services will be delivered seamlessly, by a network of networks that will combine the best of voice and data, wireless and wire-line," McGinn said. "We're moving into an era in which networks of all kinds will converge into a unified whole.
"More data products will become voice-enabled, and more voice products will become data-enabled, [and companies will] build more intelligence into the devices that hook up to networks," he said.
McGinn cited a number of statistics to back up his predictions, including the fact that wireless telephone users could total 700 million within four years - which would equal the number of new telephone lines expected to be installed in homes and businesses during that same four-year period.
Paired with that wireless surge is the explosion of the Internet, with Internet Protocol traffic doubling every three to four months, "even before truly refined applications and high bandwidth are available," McGinn said. "The Internet will gain speed, power and flexibility when it is part of a network of networks," he said.
The Sophia Antipolis facility cluster is part of the 14 business unit locations that Lucent Technologies has established throughout France. All told, Lucent has amassed a French work force of some 2,600 people, part of the company's worldwide 153,000 employees.
The new R&D center in Sophia Antipolis, however, comes as Lucent is cutting almost 330 French jobs as it reorganizes its cordless telephone business. Roughly one-third of the job cuts, company officials estimate, will be at Lucent's operations in Plessis-Robinson in suburban Paris, while another one-third will come from the company's operations in Deville-les-Rouen in the Normandy region.
Lucent officials, however, say that some of the employees who are currently holding the positions that will be eliminated may be able to transfer to the newest R&D center in France.