Today, however, new wireless applications, low-cost manufacturing innovations, and handset design are some of the areas in which the Asian countries are outinvesting the United States in R&D and are seeing resulting bottom-line impacts to their economies. For the United States to compete in the global marketplace—across industries—it needs the productivity that comes from enhancements in telecommunications. If the telecommunications infrastructure in the United States were to fall significantly behind that of the rest of the world, the global competitiveness of all other U.S. industries would be affected. Conversely, the growth in U.S. productivity has been based in part on a telecommunications infrastructure that is the most advanced in the world.
U.S. leadership in telecommunications did not come by accident—success at the physical, network, and applications levels was made possible by the U.S. investment in decades of research and the concomitant development of U.S. research leadership in communications-related areas. Telecommunications has been and likely will continue to be an important foundation for innovative new industries arising in the United States that use telecommunications as a primary technological enabler and foundation. Recent examples of innovative new businesses leveraging telecommunications include Yahoo!, Amazon, eBay, and Google.
also specifically a key enabler for other industries in which the United States has important competitive advantages and a positive balance of trade, such as financial services and entertainment (e.g., movies and music).
Finally, telecommunications is an important component of the broader IT industry, which is sometimes viewed as having three technology legs:7 processing (to transform or change information), storage (to allow communication of information from one time to another), and communications (to transmit information from one place to another). The boundaries between these areas are not very distinct, but this decomposition helps illustrate the breadth of IT and the role that telecommunications plays. Increasingly IT systems must incorporate all three elements to different degrees and it is increasingly common for companies in any sector of IT to offer products with a communications component, and often with a communications emphasis. The IT industry’s overall strength depends on strength across communications, processing, and storage as well as strength in all layers of technology—from the physical layer (including communications hardware, microprocessors, and magnetic and optical storage), to the software infrastructure layers (operating systems and Web services), to software applications.