place to define and implement such a vision. The consequence of this lack of vision is that the necessary complementary investments that should be made by the semiconductor houses, the equipment vendors, and the service providers—all in support of a vision held in common— may not be made because of the risk of investing in areas that are not supported across the telecommunications industry.

The most successful visions will originate not only from new technological capabilities, but also from commercial and societal need. Execution of a vision requires not only the design and implementation of technology but also coordinated activities by regulators and government and industries such as those that finance the ventures. Thus it is important that not only industry, but also the brightest minds in academia and government and regulatory agencies be active participants. Also, although a U.S. vision would focus on the future of U.S. telecommunications applications and supporting infrastructure and services, the global range of both networks and technology supply chains means that coordination with global vision-setting efforts is essential.

Without a clear vision in place, the risk is that the U.S. telecommunications industry will take a “wait and see” approach and make as few risky investments as possible until a de facto vision is defined externally, either in the global telecommunications community by the few countries that take leadership roles, or by the international standards bodies (which in the absence of other leadership provide the de facto roadmaps for the introduction of new technology). Either path could have negative long-term effects on the U.S. economy if leadership in telecommunications moves to Asia and Europe and the United States has to play the role of a fast follower—a role to which we are generally unaccustomed.


The path through which new technologies are introduced varies considerably across different industries. Sometimes, an innovation can be made based on a small, local, granular investment. But more often, an advance requires complementary work to be done in a variety of areas by a variety of actors.

In the semiconductor industry, for example, the effort to bring ever-faster processors to market requires an entire industry to move together. Fabricators must make enormous investments in new manufacturing facilities, tooling companies must move to a next generation of fabrication processes, and microprocessor manufacturers must be convinced that a more powerful system will sufficiently expand the market to justify the investment.

Roadmapping is a process to address these complementarities. The semiconductor industry, for example, is guided by two fundamental elements. First, there is the semiconductor industry’s International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS),2 a mechanism that allows all players to move to the next generation of technologies and practices smoothly and simultaneously.3 The ITRS identifies the short- and long-term technological challenges and needs facing the semiconductor industry. It is sponsored by the U.S.-based Semiconductor


See <>.


For another overview of the semiconductor roadmap, see Bill Spencer, Linda Wilson, and Robert Doering, “The Semiconductor Technology Roadmap,” Future Fab Intl., 18, January 2005, available online at <>.

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