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state-owned company (until 1997)
SuccessorTILAB S.p.A. (Telecom Italia)
FoundedDecember 5, 1964 (1964-12-05)
HeadquartersTurin, ,
Area served
Key people
Luigi Bonavoglia, Basilio Catania
150k Euro (2000)
OwnerIRI-STET (until the 1990s), Telecom Italia (from the 1990s)
Number of employees
1200 (in 2000)
DivisionsVoice Technologies, Media Technologies, Fiber Optics Technologies

Centro Studi e Laboratori Telecomunicazioni (CSELT) was an Italian research center for Telecommunication based in Torino, the biggest in Italy and one of the most important in Europe. It played a big role internationally especially in the standardization of protocols and technologies in telecommunication: perhaps the most widely well known is the standardization of mp3. It was active from 1964 to 2001, initially as a part of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale-STET – Società Finanziaria Telefonica group, the major conglomerate of Italian public Industries in the 1960s and 1970s; it later became part of Telecom Italia Group. In 2001 was renamed TILAB as part of Telecom Italia Group.

Research areas[edit]

Transmission technology and fiber optics[edit]

CSELT became internationally known at the end of 1960s thanks to a cooperation with the US-based company COMSAT for a pilot project of TDMA (and PCM) satellite communication system. Furthermore, in 1971 it started a joint research with Corning Glass Works on optical fiber cables: as a result, in 1977 Torino was the first city having a metropolitan optic line (9 km of length, the longest at that time),[1] in collaboration with Sirti and Pirelli. An example of innovation in the fiber optics field, was the coupling techniques of the optic cables, named Springroove and patented in 1977 by CSELT, that allowed to build long paths of optic fibers suitable for a metropolitan network.[2]

Computer Science[edit]

In 1971, CSELT built the "Gruppi Speciali",[3] a time-division processing computer for telephone call switching. It was the second electronic switching system in Europe, but very advanced in design: e.g. in 1975 was introduced for the first time an architecture-independent automatic bootstrap from ROM composed from semiconductors, pushing a single button (and not by a long hand procedure input as in the past) and with the storage of the machine state of the switch, in order to have a quick automatic reboot of the switch in case of failure.[4]

Image processing: the Shroud of Turin[edit]

In 1978, CSELT also gained notoriety due to its 3D images of the Shroud of Turin, supervised by prof. Giovanni Tamburelli: those images, the highest-resolution ones available at that time, followed the very first 3D images of the Shroud that had been provided by NASA earlier during the same year. Notably, that work made the native "3D structure" of the Shroud itself apparent for the first time. A second result from Tamburelli was the electronic removal from the image of what was term "blood" covering the man of the Shroud.[5]

Speech technologies[edit]

1975 saw the release of MUSA, the first Italian speech synthezer, and one of the very first in the world: later, the same group also contributed to research in speech recognition: both technologies were used for auto-responder systems in telco services.[6] Since 1975 the group of Voice Technology, led by Giulio Modena, carried on the advanced researchers in the field, publishing for Springer (together with the consortium of Esprit project) the book in 1990: Pirani, Giancarlo, ed. Advanced algorithms and architectures for speech understanding. Vol. 1. Springer Science & Business Media, 1990. Later, this work was transferred to the spin-off company Loquendo SpA. Starting from 1978, MUSA was able to sing Fra Martino Campanaro in Italian. At that time that was the only speech synthesis system of commercial interest available on the market apart the one provided by AT&T[7] and the only one able to speak and sing in Italian.

The Audio-Video encoding Group[edit]

At the end of the 1980s, Dr. Leonardo Chiariglione, Vice-President of the Media Group at CSELT, founded and chaired the international MPEG group,[8] that released and test audio-video standards such as MPEG-1, MP3, MPEG-4 in cooperation with several companies worldwide: in March 1992 a working MPEG-1 system was demonstrated in CSELT. Work on image compression standards (such as JPEG) was also undertaken. All these innovations had a strong impact on media technology on a worldwide scale.

The last years[edit]

Several researches were carried also on later years in the field of optics circuits, microprocessor, antennas and all the fields of telecommunication as member of international standard group, such as W3C. In 1999 was experimented the first UMTS call in a European city[9][10] and in 1996 (with Telecom Italia Mobile) was released the first GSM pre-paid card in the world.[11][12]

In 2001 CSELT was renamed in TILab (Telecom Italia Lab), a new SpA 100% owned by Telecom Italia, when the successful speech and voice reserarch group was spined-off in the newco Loquendo, later sold (2011) to Nuance Co.



Bibliography about CSELT[edit]

  • (it) Luigi Bonavoglia, CSELT trent'anni, Ed. CSELT, 1994 CSELT trent'anni
  • (it) Cristiano Antonelli, Bruno Lamborghini, Impresa pubblica e tecnologie avanzate: il caso della STET nell'elettronica, Il Mulino, Bologna 1978.
  • (it) Bottiglieri, Bruno, STET. Strategie e struttura delle telecomunicazioni, Franco Angeli, Milano 1987.
  • (it) Bottiglieri, Bruno, SIP. Impresa, tecnologia e Stato nelle telecomunicazioni italiane, Franco Angeli, Milano 1990.
  • (it) Virginio Cantoni, Gabriele Falciasecca, Giuseppe Pelosi, Storia delle Telecomunicazioni, vol.1, Firenze : Firenze university press, 2011.
  • (it) Andrea Piccaluga, "La valorizzazione della ricerca scientifica. Come cambia la ricerca pubblica e quella industriale", Ed. Franco Angeli, 2002. ISBN 978-88-464-3153-0


  1. ^ Catania, B., et al. "First Italian Experiment with a Buried Optical Cable". Proc. of 2nd European conference on Optical Fiber Communication. 1976.
  2. ^ Springroove: fiber optics coupling patented by CSELT in 1977. Video: Telecom Italia history archive.
  3. ^ Llerena, Patrick, Mireille Matt, and Stefania Trenti. "Institutional Arrangements of Technology Policy and Management of Diversity: the Case of Digital Switching System in France and in Italy". Innovation Policy in a Knowledge-Based Economy. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2005. 135–159.
  4. ^ Ciaramella, Alberto. "Device for automatically loading the central memory of electronic processors". U.S. Patent No. 4,117,974. 3 Oct. 1978. https://www.google.com/patents/US4117974.
  5. ^ Tamburelli, Giovanni. "Some results in the processing of the holy Shroud of Turin". IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence 6 (1981): 670–676.
  6. ^ Pieraccini, Roberto. The voice in the machine: building computers that understand speech. MIT Press, 2012.
  7. ^ Le voci di Loquendo, Il Sole 24 ore, 22 gennaio 2012.
  8. ^ Musmann, Hans Georg. "Genesis of the MP3 audio coding standard". Consumer Electronics, IEEE Transactions on 52.3 (2006): 1043–1049.
  9. ^ Bollea, L., et al. "UMTS experimental system in Italy – first evaluation of multimedia services in a 3rd-generation mobile system". Mobile Multimedia Communications, 1999. (MoMuC'99) 1999 IEEE International Workshop on. IEEE, 1999.
  10. ^ http://archiviostorico.telecomitalia.com/italia-al-telefono-oltre/cselt-effettua-prima-telefonata-umts-in-ambiente-urbano-a-livello-europeo-c Telecom Italia – Archive.
  11. ^ Tessitore, R. Vaglio, et al. "Universal Service Obligation (USO) avoidable net cost evaluation: the Italian experience". Dezembro de (2001).
  12. ^ Gambaro, Angelo, et al. "The path of liberalisation in Italy". BRITISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS ENGINEERING 17 (1998): 29–32.