June 17, 2010
John M. Cioffi, “Father of DSL” Technology, to Receive 2010 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal
Created Digital Subscriber Line Technology Used for High-Speed Internet Access Throughout the World
John M. Cioffi, an engineer, educator and entrepreneur who participated significantly and tirelessly in inventing, supporting and commercializing digital subscriber line (DSL) technology used throughout the world today, is being honored by IEEE with the 2010 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal. IEEE is the world’s largest professional association advancing technology for humanity.
The medal, sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, recognizes Cioffi for pioneering discrete multitone modem technology as the foundation of the global DSL industry. The medal will be presented on 26 June 2010 at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and will be broadcast live on the Web through IEEE.tv (www.ieee.tv).
If you receive high-speed Internet access through your home’s or business’s telephone lines, there’s a very good chance you can thank John Cioffi. Using standard copper telephone lines, DSL technology provides high-speed digital data transfer while coexisting with regular telephone service, allowing customers to surf the Internet and talk on the phone at the same time. It was Cioffi who developed the first Asymmetric DSL (ADSL) and very high bit rate DSL (VDSL) modems, whose designs account for approximately 98% of the over 300 million DSL connections in the world today.
What makes Cioffi’s accomplishments even more remarkable is that he began his mission of developing the copper-based DSL technology at a time when conventional wisdom said it would be a waste of money. During the 1980s, the forecast was that optical fiber with its promise of infinite bandwidth would be in widespread use by the mid 1990s. Undaunted, Cioffi and his students at Stanford University developed discrete multitone modulation (DMT), which is a form of frequency division multiplexing that enables ADSL technology to operate near the theoretical channel capacity of the telephone line. Based on the promising results, Cioffi founded Amati Communications to commercialize his technology. Behind Cioffi’s leadership at Amati, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) chose the DMT technology as the U.S. standard for DSL in 1993. Now, all worldwide DSL standards (ADSL, VDSL and symmetric DSL) are exclusively based on DMT technology. Cioffi engineered the sale of Amati to Texas Instruments in 1997 for US$395 million.
Cioffi continues to support DSL technology development through research at Stanford University and through a company he founded in 2003: ASSIA Inc. His focus is on dynamic spectrum management (DSM) as an alternative to static spectrum management to improve performance in multiuser DSL and wireless transmission channels. DSM software manages the DSL connections for the service provider. ASSIA licenses the software to telephone companies as well as provides a number of supporting services, and its products are being used worldwide by AT&T and other companies. At least 5 major telcos have invested millions each in ASSIA’s early development.
An IEEE Fellow, a Marconi Prize recipient (2006), an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (U.K.) and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, Cioffi is the named inventor on over 100 patents. His awards include the IEEE Kobayashi Award (2001), IEEE Third Millennium Medal (2000), IEE J.J. Tomson Award (2000) and Outstanding Alumnus (1999) and Distinguished Alumnus (2010) awards from the University of Illinois, Urbana. Cioffi received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana, and master’s and doctorate degrees from Stanford University, Calif., all in electrical engineering. He is the Hitachi America Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University and is also currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at ASSIA Inc., Redwood City, Calif.
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