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telecommunications research in the United States

The modern telecommunications infrastructure—made possible by research performed over the last several decades—is an essential element of the U.S. economy and society. But the U.S. position as a leader in telecommunications technology is now at risk because of the recent decline in domestic support for long-term, fundamental telecommunications research. To help understand this challenge, the National Science Foundation (NSF) asked the National Research Council to assess the current state of telecommunications research in the United States. This report provides an examination of telecommunications research support, focus, and time horizon in industry and academia and discusses the implications for the health of the sector. Finally, it presents recommendations for enhancing U.S. telecommunications research efforts.

Telecommunications has expanded greatly over the past few decades from primarily landline telephone service to the use of fiber optic, cable, and wireless connections offering a wide range of voice, image, video, and data services. Yet it is not a mature industry, and major innovation and change—driven by research—can be expected for many years to come.Without an expanded investment in research, however, the nation’s position as a leader is at risk. Strong competition is emerging from Asian and European countries that are making substantial investments in telecommunications R&D.

For many telecommunications products and services that are now commodities, the United States is at a competitive disadvantage compared with countries where the cost of doing business is lower. Continued U.S. strength in telecommunications, therefore, will require a focus on high-value innovation that is made possible only by a greater emphasis on research. Expansion of telecommunications research is also necessary to attract, train, and retain research talent.
How important is telecommunications as an industry, and how important is telecommunications research to the overall health of that industry? Underlying these questions are several others. How important is telecommunications to the U.S. economy and society? To what extent are U.S. consumers likely to benefit directly from telecommunications research in terms of new products and services that enhance their lives or improve their effectiveness or productivity? How much scope for innovation is there left in telecommunications, or has telecommunications matured to the point that it is merely a commodity service or technology?

More info: telecom sector

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