sion, research and development has become largely incremental in nature. Moreover, the current architecture is largely commoditized, and firms from other nations will become increasingly able to deliver competitive products and services. Research aimed at defining future architectures promises particular benefits because U.S. firms will be positioned to offer new kinds of services and not just incremental improvements to existing ones.

Finding 2.3. Without renewed investment and resulting opportunities to do research, it will be very difficult to attract, train, and retain the research talent required for the United States to maintain a strong position in telecommunications.

Sustaining a base of researchers and research institutions is critical to the long-term health of a research discipline. Without adequate research funding, it will be hard to attract new students to the field, retain foreign students in the United States, provide critically needed support for postdoctoral researchers, or attract and develop new faculty and industrial researchers.

Finding 2.4. U.S. critical infrastructure, national defense, and homeland security, which depend on having uninterrupted access to leading-edge telecommunications technology, are potentially threatened by the loss of a domestic telecommunications industry.

Without a continuing focus on telecommunications R&D, the United States will increasingly be forced to purchase telecommunications technology and services from foreign sources. Risks include (1) U.S. dependence on foreign sources of technology to meet critical defense needs; (2) loss of exclusive or early access to state-of-the-art communications technology; (3) loss of know-how to employ state-of-the-art technology; (4) opportunities for other nations to introduce security holes into equipment and networks; and (5) loss of technical capability for cyberdefense in such areas as cybersecurity, network assurance, and cryptography.

Finding 3. Investment in telecommunications research yields major direct and indirect benefits.

Finding 3.1. U.S. telecommunications research has yielded tremendous direct and indirect returns.

Notable payoffs from U.S. investment in telecommunications research and related areas in recent decades include the following:

  • The Internet, which realized a new communications paradigm, introduced a new, highly flexible network architecture and protocols, and ultimately enabled myriad new applications and services;

  • Radio-frequency communications technologies for cellular systems and wireless local area networks, which have enabled modern mobile voice and data communications;

  • Optical networks, which have revolutionized communications by providing extraordinary communications bandwidths at very low unit cost; and

  • Voice over IP (VoIP), which provides voice communications with enhanced flexibility and efficiency and has provided opportunities for innovation in applications beyond those provided by the public switched network.

Additional examples are provided in Chapter 3.



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