Faster mobile data pipes are coming, and the question is: How can a host of industries take advantage of them beyond simple high-speed Internet access? That is a question commercial vendor Alcatel-Lucent is striving to answer with the launch of the ng Connect Program, an initiative designed to establish an ecosystem of infrastructure, devices, content and applications for high-speed data networks like fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) and wired GPON networks.

Alcatel-Lucent has recruited initial members that include HP, Samsung and a number of companies representing various vertical industries, such as healthcare and automotive. The idea is to combine these companies’ expertise to help speed up the development of new applications to mobile phones, computers, cars and more. And Alcatel-Lucent hopes to continually add new partners as the process moves along.

“Through all of that dialogue [about LTE], we really found there was a void in terms of the discussion that needed to happen to bring industries outside of the telecom world into how to make use of all of this connectivity," said Derek Kuhn, Alcatel-Lucent ‘s vice president of emerging technology and media. "By bringing in various companies, I think we have a really good opportunity to drive innovation in a way we haven't seen before.”

The program initially will focus on five areas: consumer media and entertainment, enterprise collaboration and e-healthcare, automotive connectivity, digital signage and computing experience. For instance, e-healthcare applications might include the ability to remotely monitor blood pressure or heart rates using an always connected device on a low-latency connection, Kuhn said. In fact, much discussion has centered on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications for not only healthcare applications but also for monitoring applications in other industries such as automotive. Kuhn said.

During it initial phase, the program will work to accelerate the deployment of new services and devices through integration and validation, and identify and promote new revenue streams through different business models.

The ng Connect Program will take advantage of three testing labs owned by Alcatel-Lucent in Murray Hill, N.J., Ottawa, Ontario, and Dallas to prove out these next-generation concepts. “It won’t just be about North America,” Kuhn said. “It will be a truly global effort to determine how applications will impact the network. … We’re hoping many of the partners involved make use of their own labs too.”

WLAN vendor Aruba Networks recently launched an open development lab designed to promote research on Wi-Fi networks and accelerate the pace of research on wireless networks and applications.