Holger Claussen

What are you most trying to accomplish in your work? 

The wide availability of smartphones, new mobile applications and services has led to an exponential growth in cellular network capacity demand. I am working with my team to increase the capacity of cellular networks by orders of magnitude without increasing the costs. Our approach has been the development of small cellular base stations that co-exist with today’s macro-cellular networks. Conceptually, the deployment of small cells may enable linear scaling of capacity by spatially re-using the frequency spectrum. While sounding simple, significant challenges need to be overcome before this vision can be realized as the network must scale to hundreds of millions of nodes, it must be a cost effective solution to deploy, and efficient to operate.

What do you think sets your work apart from the work of others in your field?

Over the last decade, my team and I have addressed many of these challenges not only at a theoretical level but many of our innovations have been commercialized already. Through these innovations, Alcatel-Lucent has become established as the leading end-to-end small cells vendor with over 70 deployment contracts in more than 40 countries. Today, 98% of operators view small cells as critical for their future network evolution and the number of deployed small cells significantly exceeds the number of macro-cells worldwide. Our work has played a key role in bringing this vision to market and paving the way for such a radical transformation of the network architecture.

What or who inspired you to get into your field? Do you have any individuals or groups of people that you credit with helping you achieve the goals you set out to accomplish?

After joining Bell Labs as a researcher, Louis Gwyn Samuel, my former manager and mentor, encouraged me to focus on industry problems where I could really make a difference. Solving problems is often not so difficult but identifying the right problem to solve is critical. In latter years, Krishan Sabnani and Theodore Sizer have been enthusiastic supporters of my work and both have provided valuable input and guidance. The group of people that helps me most today is my team at Bell Labs; all exceptionally bright researchers and innovators who love to create, share and improve ideas.

What role has serendipity played in the turning points in your career? 

In common with most researchers, serendipity has played a very significant role in my career. Discoveries can’t be planned – they either happen or they don’t. However, what helps immensely is working in a stimulating environment with the most talented scientists who understand the issues and who can help make links that ultimately deliver the best outcome. For me, Bell Labs is unique. It provides a stimulating environment with the freedom to explore fundamental problems, the possibility to meet and discuss with world experts in different fields, and the resources and support to realize innovations that can change the world.

What have been the greatest challenges that you have encountered in your career?

Getting new innovations adopted is sometimes much harder than creating them, particularly if they disrupt established solutions or business models.

Do you believe leaders and innovators have certain qualities that they all share? If so, what?

I believe that all leaders and innovators have vision, creativity, resilience and passion to realize ideas.

How would you most like to change the world through your work?

By making ultra-fast wireless access to the internet, its services and computing resources available to every person and machine in the world.

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