The Case for Renewed Investment in Telecommunications Research

Discussing the importance of ongoing improvements in telecommunications and the key ingredients in sustaining a healthy telecommunications ecosystem, this chapter considers why research and leadership in telecommunications matter.


The Role of Research Advances in Creating Modern Telecommunications

Research over the past several decades has led to advances ranging from incremental improvements to real breakthroughs (so-called disruptive changes1). Major advances have occurred, for example, in the underlying “physical layer” communications technologies for wireless, optical fiber, and wireline transmission. These include:

  • Local area networking technology, notably Ethernet and successively faster generations of Ethernet standards, which have made it possible to connect many millions of computers both within organizations and to the wider world through the Internet;

  • Radio-frequency communications technologies for cellular systems and wireless local area networks, which have enabled modern mobile voice and data communications and have fueled the growth of the entire mobile phone industry;

  • Optical networks, which have revolutionized communications by providing extraordinary amounts of communications bandwidth over very long distances at very low unit cost,


Disruptive technological change often presents significant challenges to incumbents who are using existing technologies, but it also leads to dramatically better capabilities for users and to the spawning of entire new industries.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research 3 The Case for Renewed Investment in Telecommunications Research Discussing the importance of ongoing improvements in telecommunications and the key ingredients in sustaining a healthy telecommunications ecosystem, this chapter considers why research and leadership in telecommunications matter. WHY RESEARCH MATTERS The Role of Research Advances in Creating Modern Telecommunications Research over the past several decades has led to advances ranging from incremental improvements to real breakthroughs (so-called disruptive changes1). Major advances have occurred, for example, in the underlying “physical layer” communications technologies for wireless, optical fiber, and wireline transmission. These include: Local area networking technology, notably Ethernet and successively faster generations of Ethernet standards, which have made it possible to connect many millions of computers both within organizations and to the wider world through the Internet; Radio-frequency communications technologies for cellular systems and wireless local area networks, which have enabled modern mobile voice and data communications and have fueled the growth of the entire mobile phone industry; Optical networks, which have revolutionized communications by providing extraordinary amounts of communications bandwidth over very long distances at very low unit cost, 1 Disruptive technological change often presents significant challenges to incumbents who are using existing technologies, but it also leads to dramatically better capabilities for users and to the spawning of entire new industries.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research and whose tremendous communications capacity has enabled significant transformations of the public switched telephone network, cable systems, and the Internet; and Broadband local access communication, enabled by technological innovations such as digital subscriber line and cable modems, which has made high-speed Internet access widely available to homes and small businesses. Disruptive technological change has occurred at the protocol and network levels as well. Two notable examples include: The Internet—the realization of a revolutionary communications paradigm—which introduced a new, highly flexible network architecture and protocols, and ultimately enabled myriad new applications and services; and Packetization of voice and video, such as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which provides voice communications with greater flexibility and efficiency and has opened up opportunities for application innovation beyond the boundaries of the public switched network. At the level of applications, the Internet in turn has provided a unique laboratory for the creation of innovative applications—e-mail, instant messaging, collaboration, World Wide Web (WWW) browsers and servers, electronic auctions, and business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) electronic commerce—that have changed consumer behavior and business interaction. Audio and video have expanded as well, from traditional cable broadcast networks to digital cable systems to switched video on the Internet, file sharing, and pay-per-view. Traditional telephony has also been transformed over time. Out-of-band signaling protocols for the public switched telephone network, such as the current global standard Common Channel Signaling System No. 7 (SS7), have made possible the modern worldwide public telephone network by supporting such features as worldwide direct dialing, wireless roaming, local number portability, and toll-free calling. Telephony has also branched out into new application areas: voice over packet, wireless telephony, and integrated voice/data applications are industry-shaping developments. Developments in optical communications provide a good illustration of how multiple threads of research in electronics, photonics, signal processing, and coding theory have all contributed to the remarkable growth in optical transport capacity. These developments were driven first by the advantage of displacing the copper transport plant with optical fiber (early 1980s); the emergence of pervasive global connectedness (1980s and 1990s); widespread Internet use (starting in the mid-1990s); and broadband data and video access (starting circa 2000). High-speed electronic and optical devices have kept a steady pace with this demand to enable the growth in optical capacity with gigabits-per-second (Gbps) silicon and GaAs circuits appearing in 1985, leading to today’s commercial InP circuits working in 40-Gbps optical channels. Recent laboratory results have shown that 100-Gbps electronic circuits are possible. The first reports between 1986 and 1988 of erbium-doped amplifiers led to wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM), which made it practical to carry multiple optical channels on a single fiber. Today more than 100 channels can be carried in a single fiber, with aggregate capacity exceeding 6 terabits per second. After the introduction of WDM, new optical fiber types that balance between chromatic dispersion and optical nonlinearities were introduced in the early 1990s, successfully extending the capacity and range of optical transport systems.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research Complementing the fiber evolution has been the evolution in signal modulation formats, resulting in more compact signal spectra and more robust channels. Finally, new coding methods, in particular forward-error correction schemes, have greatly increased the design margins possible for optical transport and have figured significantly in the enhancement of capacity and range over the past 5 or 6 years. Further technological advances in all-optical signal regeneration, modulation formats, and channel filtering are expected to continue to enable improvements in fiber-optic communications. The Potential for Research Spin-offs It is also worth reflecting on the many notable spin-offs of past telecommunications research. Examples include: Transistors, which spawned the entire semiconductor and computer industry, and an enormous range of applications in communications, computing, media, and entertainment; Lasers, which have seen widespread application in medicine (surgery), consumer electronics (CD and DVD players), manufacturing, and even toys and games; Karmarkar’s algorithm for linear programming, which solved a long-standing problem in computer science and is an example of the kind of widely applicable solutions to mathematical problems that arise in telecommunications; UNIX, created as a result of work aimed at constructing a simple operating system that facilitated the construction of widely reusable software tools; the telecommunication industry’s requirements for high performance helped push forefront research in simple yet powerful software systems, and today, various flavors of UNIX are the dominant open standard in operating systems; Reduced instruction set computing, the first prototype system for which (the 801 Minicomputer at IBM Research) had as its application objective a telephone switching system; Satellite communications and the entertainment industry spawned by Telstar, which today are much broader in scope than the point-to-point communications Telstar was built for and were made possible by the initial investment in a single application; Coding and information theory, developed for data compression and error-correction, which has also found application in diverse areas such as cryptography, probability theory, biology, and investment theory. Of course, that such spin-offs occurred reflects in no small part the significant investment in long-term research that was made in the Bell system era. These and other spin-offs also demonstrate that making major advances in telecommunications requires the solution of technical problems across the spectrum from theory to device physics to software, yielding results that can have broad utility. Research for National Defense and Homeland Security Research in commercial and defense applications of telecommunications has contributed significantly to U.S. military strength. Captured in the phrase “network-centric warfare,” the central and growing importance of communications systems to national defense and homeland security makes these key areas that rely on having a strong U.S. research and skill base.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research The intensity of the communications demands that can arise in defense applications is evident in the concept of the future battlefield as being totally dependent on communications: from the fiber-optic cores of military networks to the satellite systems that provide long-reach communications to the tactical radios carried by soldiers on the battlefield. Some of these requirements are fulfilled via commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. Use of COTS products is often highly desirable as a means of reducing the cost of infrastructure, yet such products bring concerns as well (see the discussion below in the section “Leadership for National Defense and Homeland Security”). For example, military requirements can exceed what COTS products alone can deliver, perhaps because the demands (e.g., the need for multilevel security) are higher or the application environment is different, because of the presence of an adversary, for instance. In addition to emphasizing the impact of U.S. communications research on C4I (i.e., command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence2), it is also important to briefly note the relevance to C4I of the engineering disciplines. Much of the basic mathematics that underlies telecommunications engineering is also relevant to command and control systems. Almost any computing device depends heavily on communications technology, both internally to communicate between subelements of the computer and externally to communicate with other devices. And the field of intelligence is replete with examples of reliance on telecommunications. Hence, telecommunications research is significant for and integral to the capability and capacity of many aspects of the overall defense system. A strong U.S. telecommunications research capability is also important for several indirect reasons related to defense and homeland security: Skill base of engineering talent: education and training. To solve the specialized communications issues in C4I requires that the United States have the best telecommunications engineers in the world, which in turn requires that a vibrant commercial industry be maintained. Otherwise, the best engineers will migrate to countries that have protected or low-cost businesses, and ultimately U.S. security will be put at risk. Delivery capability of government suppliers. Because meeting military requirements depends on fundamental understanding of very-high-speed optical networks, satellite communications, and support of mobility in the battlefield, it is not sufficient to have a cadre of educated and trained individuals. Corporate environments must also be available in which such individuals are trained to work together in teams on system-level designs, and to take an interdisciplinary approach. Interconnectedness of defense systems. As more defense- and homeland security-related systems are interconnected, the pressure will increase on the United States to develop new technologies here at home, because relying on foreign suppliers for critical network components like firewalls and communications software might open the door to serious compromises of security and availability across a wide range of defense capabilities. Military superiority. In a military context, the goal is superiority over the adversary, which requires having the best research and engineering capability in the world. 2 For more information about C4I, see Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Realizing the Potential of C4I: Fundamental Challenges, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1999, available online at <http://fermat.nap.edu/html/C4I/>.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research Potential Impacts of Future Research Telecommunications continues to be a dynamic sector in which significant innovation is possible provided proper research investments are made. Some examples of potential payoffs from telecommunications research include the following: A significantly enhanced Internet architecture that goes beyond incremental improvements to the existing network architecture to provide enhancements such as greater trustworthiness in the network core and customer networks, improved addressing and routing, and end-to-end quality of service provisioning;3 New network architectures that take advantage of ever-greater storage densities, processing speeds, and communications bandwidths; More trustworthy telecommunications networks better able to address such challenges as maintaining the security of the voice network even in the face of a rising frequency, sophistication, and severity of attacks and the complexities and interdependencies that come with the convergence of voice and data networks; Ubiquitous, higher-performance, more-affordable broadband access that enables richer, more interactive applications, including applications in such important areas as health care and education; Telepresence and telecollaboration environments that reproduce a local space at a distance and enable spatially separated individuals or teams to work more readily in concert; Public safety networks that offer higher mobility, better adaptation to harsh and changing conditions, and increased resiliency to damage; Adaptive/cognitive wireless networks that enable higher-performance communications, make more efficient use of radio spectrum, and complement or supplant today’s chiefly wired networks; Location-based wireless networks that provide information and services tailored to the local environment; Self-organizing sensor networks that have large numbers of nodes, are energy efficient, and have self-organizing capabilities, which would enable ubiquitous, cheap monitoring of the environment and weather, sensing of biological or chemical agents, and monitoring of facilities; and New semiconductor devices that enable higher performance and new forms of communications and computing. The section that follows discusses several broad research areas in more detail. Some Important Areas of Emphasis for Future Telecommunications Research Defining Future Architectures in an Era with More Diffuse Responsibility for End-to-End Issues Major innovation in telecommunications has always depended on the industry’s ability to make major architectural shifts. Telecommunications networks are large, complex systems 3 For a recent overview, see David Talbot, “The Internet Is Broken,” Technology Review, 108(11):62-69, December 2005-January 2006, available online at <http://www.technologyreview.com/infotech/wtr_16051,258,p1.html>.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research whose reliability, security, and evolvability are dependent on the development of coherent and well-conceived architectural concepts. Historical examples within the public telephone network of such major architectural shifts include direct-distance dialing, digital transmission and switching, and the incorporation of cellular telephony into the public telephone network. The Internet is another example of a major architectural advance, one made possible by a multiyear research effort funded by the federal government for the first couple of decades (largely on behalf of military and internal research applications). Will future advances of this magnitude be more difficult to achieve in today’s environment, particularly in the United States? The situation now is more dynamic than in the Bell System days, involving more competition and more opportunities for creative new ideas. Today, however, multiple vendors’ products are used to configure U.S. telecommunications infrastructure and deliver services, and multiple service providers (and thus even more vendors) are involved in delivering services that cross provider boundaries. As a result of the industry’s shift to a horizontal structure and its fragmentation into a large number of firms, neither vendors nor service providers are prepared to take responsibility for end-to-end systems design. No single vendor can now drive architectural change in the same way that AT&T was able to do in the past. Telecommunications vendors are able to make incremental improvements within existing frameworks, but major advances in system architecture or services may be more difficult, and innovation in services and applications may become constrained by continued reliance on obsolete network architectures. Also, what solutions are developed and deployed may be unnecessarily complex, fragile, and vulnerable because of too little investment in architectural work. Cable television’s recent architectural transformation shows how an industry can create a new entity (in this case, CableLabs) to help drive change at least within a particular sector of the telecommunications industry. Cable systems were transformed from one-way, broadcast-only systems into two-way, multilayer systems that migrated fiber much further into the infrastructure while retaining coaxial cable as the final link to the customer. This new architecture positioned the cable industry to deliver video, voice, and data services. The nonprofit CableLabs consortium (described in greater detail in Chapter 2) was established to address end-to-end issues for the cable industry through activities to identify and develop new technologies, write specifications, certify products, and disseminate information to the cable industry. Its activities are supported by subscription and testing fees paid by its members. CableLabs helped foster the introduction of digital transmission and the hybrid fiber co-axial cable architecture found in modern cable systems and developed a series of specifications for cable modems known as the Data Over Cable System Interface Specification. Infrastructure Enhancement Physical connectivity is the foundation for telecommunications networks. Imagine that the United States had never deployed copper wires and coaxial cable to connect its homes and businesses and now wanted to design the best possible telecommunications infrastructure. There is little doubt about the best design choice—optical fiber for high bandwidth complemented by wireless for mobility and flexibility. Optical communications would give everyone the greatest possible amount of bandwidth, would be useful for essentially all applications that have been imagined, and would be future proof—it is known how to continually get more

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research and more bandwidth out of each fiber. The cost of installing the fiber would be no greater than the cost of a new installation of any other medium. Today U.S. telecommunications infrastructure has little fiber to the premises, although fiber makes up most long-haul and metropolitan area networks. Realizing the goal of fiber everywhere involves a number of problems requiring research. For example, while the cost of optical components is not a significant problem in core networks because the cost is spread across many users, the components represent a nontrivial expense for local access networks, which serve only one user or a handful of users. How can the cost of optical components be reduced sufficiently to make fiber to the home affordable? What architectural approaches offer the best mix of affordability, performance, and evolvability? What are the future applications that will drive the need for increasing bandwidth?4 Metropolitan area networks are currently receiving much commercial attention. With today’s abundance of fiber in the core, and with access networks creating larger demands, an important focus of research is to develop architectures that effectively handle ever-greater volumes of optical transmission in metropolitan areas. Core networks themselves will require advances, and as more capability is introduced into the access networks, the need will grow to continue to improve the bandwidth-times-distance product, as will demands to increase the performance of national networks. Wireless networks provide an even more fertile area for exploration. Access to higher bandwidth, which has spurred growing use of the wired Internet and is now becoming available to wireless LAN users (via WiFi and WiMAX) and fully mobile users (via 3G technology), is basic to the creation of the so-called mobile Internet. There are many opportunities for further progress. At the physical level fundamental data rate limits for most environments are still very far from being achieved, and there are practical impediments, such as topography and the costs of certain components such as filters, to enhanced performance. Further development of multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna technology, for example, offers opportunities to drive even greater capacity of wireless networks. Infrastructure Trustworthiness Although an area of great, growing, and shared concern is the trustworthiness (i.e., security and reliability) of U.S. telecommunications, related research does not seem to be keeping pace with these concerns.5 The voice network was designed, engineered, and refined to continue to operate in all but the most severe disasters and has generally performed well as a result. Over the past century, it has evolved from a largely mechanical system into a sophisticated electronic switching network with a signaling network overlay and a rich set of vertical services provided by 4 An earlier CSTB committee examined many of these and other related issues. See, for example, Chapter 4 in Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Broadband: Bringing Home the Bits, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2002, available online at <http://fermat.nap.edu/html/broadband/>. 5 See, for example, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council (NRC), Critical Information Infrastructure Protection and the Law, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003, p. 66; and CSTB, NRC, Trust in Cyberspace, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1999.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research attached processors and databases. This evolution was clearly necessary to support the ubiquity of interconnections, increases in call volume, and provision of new services. The resulting network has proven generally reliable and secure. But like all networks, it is potentially vulnerable to electronic attack.6 Data networks, and the Internet in particular, evolved in a very different way. The Internet began as an open collaboration among trusted peers. The protocols were developed to optimize interconnection, simplicity, and access—characteristics that have proven to be some of the Internet’s greatest strengths, adding to its reliability and scalability. But while redundancy and distribution were contemplated, security and quality of service were not prominent concerns early on. Despite the demonstrated advantages of the current architecture, every device connected to the Internet can become a source of or a target for malicious activity. And such malicious activity has flourished, most publicly in the form of hackers/crackers, viruses, worms, Trojan horses, or denial-of-service attacks. Today both the network and every networked device requires some form of protection, but the protection is neither uniform nor universal. Trustworthiness issues also arise at the intersection of the public telephone network and the Internet. Initially, voice and data network interaction was limited to common transport systems and the use of the voice network to carry data between dial-up modems. Today, digital subscriber line (DSL) services carry data over the same lines that formerly carried only voice conversations. The volume of data traffic now surpasses the volume for voice traffic, a development that forces consideration of the eventual migration of voice traffic to the data network. In fact, this migration has begun—albeit more slowly than initially projected—with voice over IP (VoIP), IP Centrex, and softswitch technology. Over time voice traffic will increasingly be carried by packet transport and routing. In the interim, interworking between the traditional public switched telephone network and the data networks must be provided. Convergence of the voice and data networks, although compelling in features and potential cost savings, also requires research into the reliability and security of existing voice services and the overall converged network. In addition to convergence, new technologies are also enabling new network capabilities and services that will in turn pose new challenges to trustworthiness. Dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), optical switching, a migration of Ethernet into metropolitan networks, virtual private networking, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), video, unified messaging, and various forms of wireless data all require intelligent network components or devices. Devices and services for personal computing, mobile Internet use, and a plethora of other applications that will leverage these emerging capabilities will also bring more complexity into the core and edges of the network—and thus new challenges to ensuring security and reliability. Public data networks have been built and the number of network providers—including 30 major Internet backbone providers and thousands of Internet service providers—has increased at an unprecedented rate. As a result of all these rapid changes, public networks now have many more interfaces to competing networks and therefore many more points of vulner- 6 Reflecting the network’s national importance, additional measures (e.g., planning, coordination, and information sharing via creation of entities such as the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee and the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications) have been taken to help avert attacks and remediate their consequences.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research ability. The number of new network equipment manufacturers has grown as well. In an environment of fierce competition, manufacturers tend to concentrate on improving raw performance and introducing complex features, sometimes at the expense of building in capability for survivability and security or performing robust testing and quality assurance before products enter the network. In addition, today’s business and regulatory environment does not necessarily provide sufficient incentives for building in redundancy and security commensurate with societal needs. Clearly, the need to focus research efforts on such critical issues as the reliability and security of the telecommunications infrastructure is now more important than ever. WHY LEADERSHIP MATTERS Leadership is especially important in light of such issues as competing effectively in today’s global marketplace; ensuring U.S. national defense and homeland security; maintaining a telecommunications infrastructure supportive of sustained innovation in telecommunications, which in turn enables innovations in many other industrial sectors; and maintaining the capacity to create new industries. Historically, the United States has been able to translate a number of key research advances into leadership positions in telecommunications, as illustrated by the following examples: CDMA technology, which was originally invented and championed by U.S. firms, has now been accepted as the worldwide standard for third-generation (3G) mobile networks; DSL technology, cable modems, and hybrid fiber coaxial cable technology, all U.S.-invented, are used to deliver broadband services throughout the world. The Internet and its TCP/IP protocols, pioneered in the United States with DARPA funding, have come to dominate data networking. The majority of the research and innovation that drove the development of related new businesses was done in the United States, positioning U.S. industries to have first-mover advantage. Not only has the United States been the leader in the core telecommunications technologies and information technology more generally (including processing, storage, communications, and software), but the new businesses and applications built around these technologies are also core areas of U.S. leadership. Ownership of intellectual property is also a benefit that often accrues to the country that can lead in innovation, with broad worldwide patents granted to those companies and universities creating fundamental new advances. This patent position also benefits these organizations economically. Advantage often—but not always—goes to the home country. On the supply side, it has been beneficial for U.S. trade and commerce that U.S. innovators and first-movers have been able to export their products and solutions to other countries. With the United States in the lead for Internet innovation, for example, U.S. companies such as Cisco and Wellfleet Communications had a natural market to address, created the initial products, and positioned themselves well for the future. Other companies such as RSA and Qualcomm developed and patented key technologies and created strong businesses based on that intellectual property. Companies such as AOL and Yahoo! were naturally positioned to succeed in markets for new services, and new applications markets were developed by companies like Amazon and eBay.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research These examples illustrate notable instances of research breakthroughs having enabled a technology capability that has, in turn, led to U.S. intellectual leadership in that area. There are, to be sure, counter-examples. For technologies like television, high-definition television (more recently), and mobile phone hardware, for example, much of the early work or break-throughs occurred in the United States, but much of the commercial advantage and manufacturing success has been reaped elsewhere (e.g., Japan, China, Scandinavia, and so on). Although the WWW was created in Europe, the focus quickly shifted to the United States, where a crucial WWW tool, the graphical browser, was developed—another example of the power of strong research leadership and of the importance of the Internet research and development ecosystem in the United States, which went on to play a leading role in further innovations such as graphical Web browsers, e-business, and Internet search. The lesson is that future technology leadership will likely follow the paradigm of advantage to the home innovator. The Global Telecommunications Market Many firms today operate and compete on a global scale, and various forces are at work to increase the competitiveness of other nations in high-tech sectors such as telecommunications. Among the many contributing factors are increased investment by other countries in their own domestic research and training, other forms of government investment in and support for domestic industries, growing domestic markets, and lower labor costs. In the large economies of the Pacific Rim, for example, considerable investment is being made in developing the workforce. Since open standards define much of the telecommunications system, foreign suppliers have an opportunity to bring to market the same products that U.S. competitors offer, but much more cheaply due to lower prevailing wages, less need to invest in basic research, and often a return on their investment guaranteed by home country purchase policies. Although almost all telecommunications markets are now global, the degree of openness and true competitiveness varies. The United States has an open market, with virtually no pressures to buy from local manufacturers. Although the U.S. model is most likely to provide the lowest cost and most innovative services to consumers, it does lead to a situation in which U.S. manufacturers do not have a leg up in their home market and are also substantially handicapped in foreign markets. The typical response to such competitive pressures would be to invest in research that leads to new products that other manufacturers lack, as a way of reestablishishing preeminence. However, there are several obstacles to following this path in telecommunications. Today’s horizontal industry structure makes many kinds of investment by an individual firm speculative. In addition, in telecommunications there is a general expectation for compatibility with prevailing standards, which makes it difficult for a firm to position itself many years ahead of its competitors. Research advances that lead to major innovative breakthroughs, new architectural approaches, and the like are thus especially valuable in responding to global competition. Leadership for National Defense and Homeland Security Two areas where U.S. interest in ensuring telecommunications leadership is clear are national defense and homeland security. Historically, U.S. technical leadership in commercial

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research communications has extended to the military space, and at the same time a host of fundamental telecommunications technologies were developed to meet military needs. Examples of such DARPA-funded telecommunications advances are the Internet (from ARPANET), optical networking (from MONET), and ad hoc wireless networks. In theory, the United States could deploy state-of-the-art networks using foreign-origin technology and supporting research. In practice, however, research, development, and deployment of the most advanced technologies tend to go hand-in-hand. Without a continuing focus on telecommunications R&D, the United States will increasingly be forced to purchase technology and services from foreign sources. Several risks are evident: (1) U.S. dependence on foreign sources 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, such as cybersecurity, network assurance, and cryptography. Network trustworthiness is an especially important subject for public investment, given that it is a public good7 in which individual firms tend to underinvest. In a future conflict, an overseas telecommunications equipment supplier to the U.S. military could become an adversary, making a reliable supply of COTS products less likely. Another substantial concern with foreign COTS products involves vulnerabilities that might be designed into highly complex and sensitive communications systems that could be used or compromised later or in a time of war. The situation is far more complicated when it comes to specialized devices. Clearly, for the U.S. military to have an edge against an adversary requires systems that are better than what is available as COTS products. Protection of critical infrastructure—which includes telecommunications networks—is an important element of homeland security. Today, U.S. telecommunications companies, in addition to providing voice and data communication services to customers via public and private networks, are also responsible for providing a large fraction of the telecommunications infrastructure used by government and the military. The requirement for greater sophistication in the protection of critical infrastructure is an immense and growing concern. The challenges include: Maintaining the security of today’s voice network; Maintaining and improving network robustness in the face of the technical and operational convergence of the voice and data networks, an expanded number of competing network operators, the increasing size and importance of the Internet, the burgeoning rise in use of voice over IP applications, and widespread deployment of “always-on” broadband access technologies; Addressing a rising frequency, sophistication, and severity of cyber-attacks; Maintaining greater awareness of possible risks associated with using foreign-produced communications infrastructure or COTS products (as mentioned above); and Recognizing that the commercial market is motivated more by the quest for performance and features than by understanding of the need to ensure security and reliability. 7 This general issue is discussed in more detail in an earlier CSTB report. See Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Computers at Risk: Safe Computing in the Information Age, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1991, p. 17, available online at <http://www.nap.edu/catalog/1581.html>.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research Ensuring a Critical Mass of Talented Researchers The early 21st century is a time of major change with respect to telecommunications—as legacy networks are being phased out and new networks are being phased in, and as pressures from overseas competition mount. Now more than ever, research will play a critical role in determining the future health of the entire U.S. telecommunications ecosystem. In the past, research support has contributed to the production of many talented technical leaders, and one essential component of any strong research system is the cohort of talented researchers involved. A healthy level of research support is vital for developing this talent pool and for maintaining and enhancing expertise in telecommunications. Talent development in telecommunications generally is heavily supported by research funds as graduate students assist seasoned professors in research efforts. Inadequate research funding at this stage can complicate the ability of universities to attract or develop graduate students and their professors. Graduates have historically taken positions as postdoctoral researchers, often at major industrial research laboratories. At this stage, too, there is a need for research funding. During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, many new, talented Ph.D.s left major universities with detailed knowledge of a specific discipline and began work for industrial research laboratories, where they refined their skills, studied applications of forward-looking ideas, constructed prototypes, published papers, attended conferences, met the other experts in the area, and generally progressed toward being leaders in their field. Assessment of the true impact of this model is very difficult to measure, but there is little doubt that it has been large. For example, many major telecommunications firms have histories that can be traced to individuals who worked at Bell Laboratories, Bellcore, BNR, IBM Research, Xerox PARC, Motorola, and others. Although the committee is unaware of systematically collected data on this point, anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of telecommunications industry leaders developed in this way is quite large. With fewer research opportunities available in industry today, it is more difficult for new graduates to find opportunities to mature as researchers. The implications of this trend for sustaining a healthy pool of talent and expertise are significant. In today’s start-up companies, former students are almost immediately thrust into product development. The opportunity for a period of exploration and intellectual growth is thus diminished and, as a result, young Ph.D.s may develop less insight into a technological area (while arguably gaining a better vision of the whole development process and increasing their chances of turning almost any decent strategy, technological or otherwise, into profitability). Several universities have over the years introduced interdisciplinary programs in telecommunications that focus more on telecommunications as an industry rather than just basic communications technology (e.g., basic communications courses and research in modulation, coding, protocols, signal processing, and queuing theory) and also address attendant financial, structural, legal, regulatory, and technological issues. Those programs usually span such disciplines as electrical engineering, computer science, business administration, public policy, and law.8 They generally offer master’s or other professional degrees rather than doctoral 8 The International Telecommunications Education and Research Association, which seeks to advance telecommunications science through excellence in research and education, has a dozen institutional members located at universities and colleges across the United States. See <http://www.itera.org/membership.htm>.

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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research degrees and, in the experience of the committee, infrequently serve as a pathway into a career in telecommunications research. As noted in other sections of this report, discussion of telecommunications issues must now be framed within the current context of global competition among numerous multinational organizations—and this is certainly the case with respect to producing and retaining talented researchers. As the developing world’s educational institutions grow stronger, there is an increased capacity for leading-edge research and development work abroad. This growing educational capacity combined with improving worldwide telecommunications capabilities and lower wages in developing countries creates pressure for U.S. and other firms to move more of their research and development and other high-skill jobs outside the United States. In addition, as academic and industry research opportunities in the United States begin to lag those in other countries, foreign students who are studying in the United States will be more likely to return to their home countries and participate in the creation of telecommunication networks and services of the future there rather than in the United States. The solution is for the United States to continue to innovate and ensure adequate research support and research opportunities, especially for younger researchers. Leadership in research and education is crucial for the maintenance of a technically literate workforce capable of filling all of the positions across the telecommunications ecosystem—including reliable software developers, application writers, engineers, systems engineers, researchers, teachers, and so on. If U.S. research remains at the forefront, U.S. students will be exposed to the next generation of technologies earlier than the rest of the world. However, the necessary leadership and an adequate level of talent for telecommunications research can be sustained only if a healthy U.S. university research system exists. Renewed investment and resulting opportunities will make it possible to attract, train, and retain the research talent required for the United States to maintain a strong position in telecommunications.