Quieter future forecast Prediction: Vinton G. Cerf, often called the 'Father of the Internet,' says data transmission will rise and voice transmission will fall in next century


January 23, 1998|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Get used to the sound of your own voice. It could be the main one you hear in the next century.

That was a prediction by Vinton G. Cerf -- often called the "Father of the Internet" for his role in co-designing the global network -- in a speech yesterday.

Currently, about half of all communication is done verbally -- typically by phone -- with the balance by data transmission, meaning faxes, e-mail and the Internet. Those percentages could shift to 90 percent data transmission and 10 percent voice by 2010, Cerf said.

Cerf, the senior vice president of Internet architecture for MCI Communications Corp., was the featured speaker at a conference sponsored by MCI and Loyola College's David D. Lattanze Center.

Voice traffic may grow at 5 percent to 10 percent each year, while data traffic would grow more like 50 percent, said Cerf, who added that the change is not negative. "Society is just making better use of computer-based communication," he said.

Cerf's remarks were readily embraced by many of the 50 executives and MCI customers who attended the invitation-only seminar.

"He's the guy who knows. He sees the future," said C. Robert Margenthaler, executive director of the Lattanze Center. The center holds periodic seminars for information technology and telecommunications professionals.

Cerf taught electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University before going to work at the Defense Department, where the Internet was spawned. His contribution was the co-development of the Internet's computer networking protocol.

He was vice president of MCI's digital information services from 1982 to 1986, then, in 1994, returned to MCI, the nation's second-largest long-distance company.

Six years ago, he founded the Reston, Va.-based Internet Society, a nonprofit group that oversees the development of the network.

"I oscillate from the research and development world to the business world because there's no sense in dreaming things up and being filled with ideas and have no way to build on them," Cerf said.


But the telecommunications giant has come under fire recently. The European Commission recently said it fears MCI's planned merger with WorldCom Inc. -- the most expensive one to date at $37 billion -- might lead to one company having too much control of the Internet, which could lead to pricing.

Cerf said the concern is unwarranted. "The Internet's global market is so big and so competitive, that MCI will only have a very modest share of it," he said.

And the Internet -- which now encompasses about 350,000 networks and has more than 20 million users -- is growing by leaps and bounds.

In the corporate world, companies are trying to harness the Internet and make it work best for them. The result of that effort has been the development of intranets and extranets.

Intranets are internal networks connected to each other, but not to the outside world. Corporations typically use them to give employees secure access to company information. The intranet market has even surpassed the Internet market, posting $28 billion in sales vs. the Internet's $14 billion, Cerf said.

Extranets are networks companies in the same industry typically use to communicate with customers and suppliers.

Intranets and extranets are both "neologisms introduced by marketing professions to sell the Internet," Cerf said. "It's all still the Internet."

But there is an onus on entities to make sure the Internet increases its level of service so private networks won't siphon off users, Cerf said.

Other predictions

Cerf peppered his presentation with other predictions, including: Interactive multi-user games in development now by computer game companies like Nintendo Co. will produce consumer-priced video-conferencing. The games will have such a level of sophistication, that they will soon allow players to interact visually and through audio.

Electronic commerce is still in the formative stages, but will be the preferred mode of business. Business will see selling via the Internet as a way of aggregating demand globally, and will flock to set up virtual warehouses.

What will be Cerf's next endeavor? Making the way for interplanetary Internet access.

"It took 25 years for the Internet to get where it is now," Cerf said. "It's time to make sure 25 years from now we can use the Internet on all the planets. I better start now."

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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