Dueling views of future net

Briggs unveiled a few insights into MCI WorldCom's internet plans, positioning the company as much more than a telco provider. "We are going to become an ecommerce enabler," Briggs said.

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 ecommerce sites. In addition to hosting, MCI WorldCom sees itself providing value-added services, dubbed MicroServices, including things like Web call centers, Web 411, and voice browsing.

He 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 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.

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.

Two devices captured the audience's imagination: a combination telephone and personal information manager, and an internet-browsing device no thicker than the thinnest mobile phone.

"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 global-use voice and internet universal devices were on the horizon. Briggs answered, "not in my lifetime." Ala-Pietila said "very soon."

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