Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

Page 39

libraries, and schools. Radical changes in how people access data through computers are projected fairly confidently, at least in the developing countries.

The development of the technologies and networks that is best described by the NII is dramatically changing all of this, and by doing so is empowering all citizens with the conveniences and opportunities that will result from making all of the services personally accessible. With an NII, the world of "voice and imagery" are merging, along with more ready transfer of data, to meet the anytime, anywhere standard of service. Individuals will have full access not just to voice services as they do today, but also to image-based services and information services that are now only being imagined. This NII will have full mobility and connectivity that will be made possible by completing second-generation systems and bringing on the third-generation wireless systems that will become part of the NII.

Before getting into what this represents in terms of new functionality—efficiencies and services—it is appropriate to discuss why this vision could be at risk—that is, what could easily happen if vision and action don't match with the opportunity for portability that wireless technologies offer to the NII concept.

The promise of the NII lies in three synergistic forces—the availability of bandwidth brought on by developments in fiber and signaling, the availability of computing brought on by the microprocessor and the march of the semiconductor industry, and the emergence of competition and choice brought on by new telecom policies worldwide. The wireless component of these forces of technology is critical, especially next generation paging, cellular PCS, and dedicated systems used by public safety and critical industries.

Until recently, everything you could receive on your home wall-attached television, you could receive on your portable television, whether you chose to use it in another room, or on a campout or while at a sporting event. That started to change with cable when the delivered wired bandwidth for television services was effectively increased by two orders of magnitude beyond that available in the radio frequency allocations for television. A similar shift occurred in computing over roughly the same time period. Early on, what you could do with a portable computer, or what we then called a portable computer, was pretty much what you could do with your office or home computer. That changed when local area networks (LANs) and computer networks came into being. With that transition, the portable computer became a comparative weakling to its LAN-based equivalent. These changes initially went unnoticed—after all, at least the new portable computer was portable, if a little out of touch, and who really needed 100 channels of television in any event?

Let us hold this perspective and move forward in time as the NII begins to deliver on its promise. People can talk face to face, and so groups can interact and decisions are made more quickly; families are united though they live miles apart; high-speed computing and information access are available in the home and office, and as a result people are more productive and better informed. Telecommuting becomes a reality, lowering energy consumption. But whereas in today's world most of the communications services that are available to a worker at a desk are available to a worker on the move, that is no longer necessarily true in the future—unless, that is, broadband wireless services are brought into line with broadband wired services.

This scenario prompts two questions: does it matter what is lost and what is gained, and, if it does, can it be done with the technology that is available and the other constraints that are likely to apply? The answer to both questions is yes.

Analysis and Forecast

Let us start with the first question, Does it matter? Broadly, we have already seen the high value people put on mobility. That value has generated vast new high-growth industries that not only have made the U.S. citizenry safer and more personally in touch, but also have made U.S. industry more efficient while driving substantial new export markets as well. But it is what happens in specific circumstances and industries that is perhaps more important. In other words, the applications must be carefully examined.

Many of the most interesting applications of wireless technology require the availability and dependability of private land-mobile communications—that is, the system dedicated to provide best-fit solutions to the communications needs and critical industries and protection of the public. These systems are a primary factor that has allowed the United States to establish and maintain its position as the world's leading producer of goods

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement