After the April announcement that the seven regional telephone companies would be selling Bellcore, their jointly funded research arm, the question many telecommunications experts are asking is whether the move was made in time to preserve its intellectual capital and, thereby, its future.

Growing competition over the past several years among the so- called Baby Bells has diminished their willingness to use the shared research resource, contributing to the decision to sell the Livingston, N.J.-based organization, formally known as Bell Communications Research Co. It has also made it increasingly difficult for Bellcore scientists to pursue their mission of creating tomorrow's communications systems. As a result--although Bellcore continues to hire young computer scientists and engineers aggressively, even during the current uncertain period- -many of the more talented senior researchers have been quietly leaving Bellcore for several years, and others may follow them.

"I have felt that, over the last couple of...

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