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Cambridge-MIT Institute to Study Future Tech

As the development of digital communications opens up the tantalising possibility of turning every mobile phone into a phone mast, and every television set into a broadcaster, the Cambridge MIT Institute has unvelied the new Communications Research Network (CRN).

The CRN unites universities from both sides of the Atlantic with industrial partners in computing and telecommunications, including BT, as well as policymakers. Together they will tackle some of the major challenges blocking new innovation in communications technology and draw up road maps to a successful future.

With the rapid convergence of computing, communications and entertainment major industries find that they must understand the requirements and technologies of this new world but see themselves saddled with costs and driven by the innovative turmoil of the computer industry. To ensure a bright future, the communications industry must deal with disruptive change, including technical innovation, social demands and economic concerns, to move forward in a coordinated fashion. This is the motivation behind the CRN initiative.

CRN will work to develop and implement some of the emerging technologies of the future, such as 3rd Generation peer-to-peer systems, expected to be implemented in two years' time, the testing of wireless-on-optical technology and a set of solutions to tackle internet piracy.

Social and economic issues will also be explored, as these cannot be separated from technological innovation. These will include designing a road map for wireless and spectrum usage and exploring the potential of �viral� communications and the deployment of broadband.

The CRN will have two key research objectives:

1. A better understanding of the communications industry value chain, resulting in road maps to possible futures. This activity spans communications providers, suppliers, manufacturers, content developers and consumers and will be conducted with an international suite of participants. The notion of constructing a road map for such a diverse industry and extending this to include dimensions of technology is unprecedented.

2. The demonstration of new enabling and disruptive technologies that have the power to transform the communications sector, especially as it becomes less hierarchical and more distributed. This segment of CRN examines the core technologies of tomorrow�s communications infrastructure � wireless, fibre and digital signal processing � and the business and regulatory issues associated with their implementation. This will provide commercial opportunities for industry as well as lessons for communications policy-makers.

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