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Past and future communications revolutions

December 1st, 2009 No comments

Thanks to CM for the pointer to Andrew Odylzko’s predictions for the next Internet decade. They include:

Many of the old battles over issues such as QoS or flat rate vs. usage-based pricing, as well as the on-going one over net-neutrality, are likely to be fought again in the wireless arena. It is possible that some outcomes might be different this time. The reason is that the balance between supply and demand is different. In the wireline arena, the growth in demand is still high, but it has been declining, to a level that is currently just about counterbalanced by improvements in technology. This produces incentives for service providers to increase usage, and such incentives suggest simple pricing and simple networks. In wireless, on the other hand, growth in data transmission appears to be significantly ahead of what technology can support, at least without major increases in levels of capital expenditure. And the incentives to raise investments are lacking, since most of the large potential sources of new wireless data transmissions are not anywhere near as lucrative as voice and texting. Users would like seamless mobility, but the huge gap between capacities of fiber and radio links is unlikely to allow this. So service providers will have strong incentives to closely manage their network traffic, and are likely to try to ration capacity and discriminate among applications and among service providers.

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