FCC CIO: You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

TORONTO -- Canadian Telecom Summit -- Predicting that the pace of change will only intensify because of continuing advances in Internet and wireless technologies, FCC CIO David Bray sees the interconnected world getting a whole lot more interconnected over the rest of the decade, for better or worse.

Speaking at the Canadian Telecom Summit here late Monday, Bray argued that the last five years of this decade will see even faster, more profound changes than the first five years as smartphone prices drop, mobile networking devices proliferate across the planet and just about everybody gains quick and easy access to the web. In a short but dynamic presentation, he also called for open standards and open sourcing to prevail, enabling all sectors of the world's economy to share information and influence the development of future technologies for the better.

"It's like nothing we've seen before," said Bray, referring to the coming era as "Mobile Terra Incognita." A 2015 Eisenhower Fellow, Bray joined Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 20 months ago after a series of chief information officers joined and then quickly left the US communications regulatory agency. (See FCC Hires CIO.)

In his speech to Canadian service providers and cable and telecom vendors, Bray recited numerous industry estimates of the numbers of smartphones that will be shipped and the volumes of data that will flow over the world's wireline and wireless networks by 2020. For example, he cited projections that 50 billion to 200 billion networked devices will be in consumers' hands globally by the end of the decade, up from 7 billion devices at the end of 2014 and a projected 14 billion by the end of this year. Even using the most conservative projection, that adds up to more than six devices for each of the 8 billion people expected to be on the planet by 2020.

Bray then laid down his "Five Bold Principles" for navigating the rest of the decade. In these five principles, he called for:

  • making "big shifts in scale" of smart devices, data traffic and apps
  • "building connections" to such historically underdeveloped parts of the world as Africa and India
  • constructing "bridges" between the public, private and non-profit sectors so they can all collaborate on new technologies, services and apps
  • taking advantage of open tech standards, open source methods and information-sharing to foster innovation and build consumer trust
  • "empowering" even the poorest people throughout the world with cheap but powerful computing and smart networking devices.

Stressing how far technology has come already, Bray noted that the average smartphone now boasts more computing power than the entire US Pentagon had at its command back in 1980. He also predicted that, in much of the world, the average smartphone will cost less than $45 by the end of the decade, enabling nearly anyone to leverage this enormous computing power.

Turning to the world's ongoing shift from the old IPv4 Internet addressing system to the newer IPv6 addressing system, Bray emphasized that the new addressing system will generate countless billions of more opportunities for web connections. He contended that if all the possible IPv4 addresses could be squeezed into a beach ball, it would take an object as massive as the sun to hold all the potential IPv6 addresses.

"So we're going to be going from a beach ball to the sun in less than five years," he concluded, leaving it to his audience to weigh the implications of that.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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