Telecom Luminaries Predict Net's Future

SAN MATEO (05/30/2000) - Two of the telecom industry's executive forces, MCI WorldCom Inc. CTO Fred Briggs and Nokia Corp. President Pekka Ala-Pietila, spelled out their visions of the Internet's future at CTO Forum this month.

Kicking off the two-day conference, Briggs unveiled a few insights into the future of MCI WorldCom's Internet plans, positioning the company as much more then a telecom provider.

"We are going to become an e-commerce enabler; that is clearly our direction," Briggs said.

To back up that e-commerce planning claim, Briggs described plans to build a three million square-foot hosting and server co-location facility in which companies can build and host portals and e-commerce sites. In addition to the actual hosting, MCI WorldCom sees itself providing value-added services, dubbed MicroServices, on either an a la carte or a turnkey basis. Things like Web call centers, Web 411, and voice browsing were among the examples of MicroServices, which Briggs presented.

Briggs likened the Internet, and the changes it has wrought, to the United States' great railroad build out.

"We are not the first to see this kind of change," Briggs said. "Look at the first great network, the railroad, which made local markets national, created time zones and stock markets, and created entire cities."

Briggs cited connected devices as the next major driver of Internet growth, predicting 1.5 billion IP chips to show up in devices as disparate as alarm clocks and refrigerators.

Briggs also addressed the things MCI WorldCom is doing to reduce the cost and difficulty involved in providing Internet access, which he estimates accounts for 63 percent of MCI WorldCom's costs. In addition to building out "fiber, and lots of it," Briggs talked about a forthcoming technology called VDSL (very high bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line), which could offer as much as 50Mbps through an existing copper line to homes for about $100 a month. Briggs said MCI WorldCom is putting VDSL into trials this year.

Following Briggs was Nokia President Ala-Pietila. Ala-Pietila discussed what he calls the "Mobile Information Society," which he believes is the next step of evolution on the Internet.

As an example of what Nokia terms "M-life," or the evolution of "e-life" into mobility, Ala-Pietila showed an internal Nokia video demonstrating the possibilities of mobile communications in the near future. In the video, tiny telephones with full-color screens were capable of real-time videoconferencing, voice recognition, location-based services, and instant multimedia messaging.

Ala-Pietila was quick to point out that the devices and capabilities shown in the video were not being offered now, but the technology is in place for all of them to become reality.

One device, a combination telephone, a PIM (personal information manager), and another, an Internet-browsing device no thicker than the thinnest cell phone captured the audience's imagination.

"That is an example of what we will be able to do with 3G," Ala-Pietila said.

"But the end device will not look like that. We wouldn't show our future plans publicly."

Both speakers were asked whether they thought universal devices that could be used for voice and Internet anywhere in the world were on the horizon. Showing the differences between Nokia's wireless interests and MCI WorldCom's varied interests, Briggs answered quickly, "not in my lifetime." Ala-Pietila said, on the other hand, "very soon."

MCI WorldCom Inc., in Clinton, Mississippi, can be reached at www. wcom.com.

Nokia Corp., in Espoo, Finland, can be reached at www.nokia.com.

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