Communications together with computing was part of the technological revolution of the late 20th century.
The number of mobile phones in the world is more than 1.5 billion (2005) and growing. It is becoming possible to use them on planes, on trains, in subways. Many cities (such as Philadelphia and San Francisco) are going forward with plans for seamless wireless coverage (and WiMax is making it even simpler/cheaper). Telecoms are doing trial runs of fiber to the home, promising gigabit broadband speeds.
The takeup of IPv6 will make it possible to greatly increase the number of addressable objects (not just PCs, but ever smaller objects, all wirelessly connected).
It all adds up to a future flooded with great, big wired and wireless pipelines of data coming at you from all directions in all locations at all times, a wonderland of entertainment and communications possibilities.
Universal digital ubiquity Edit
All communications (and that means all) are gradually migrating to digital, usually IP-based, protocols. For example, it is already possible to distribute feature films in high-definition digital video to theatres using Internet (including wireless connections).  Digital transmission protocols and digital formats mean that, in principle, all content can be accessed via any digital device (barring any DRM complications). Eventually, in a not so distant future (around 2015-2020), it will be possible for anyone to instantly access any piece of information from anywhere. The "rights" issues will be resolved one way (micropayments) or another (freedom of information).
The information and other content will become much more interactive (currently the field is called Web 2.0, etc.), with the user gaining the capabilities for:
- easy categorization and filtering (today: RSS, tags, Semantic web)
- editing and collaborative editing (today: wiki)
- automated processing and contextual actions (XML formats, Liquid Information project)
Future developments Edit
- Global broadband fibre based network
- Audio transmission at 2.4kb/s, quality = analogue telephony
- Multiple channels of >100Gbit/s/ on single fibre
- Tb/s on optical fibres over long distance
- Light detection sensitivity exceeding shot noise limit
- Network will still be a significant bottleneck for some services
- New mechanisms for communication discovered
- Laser interferometer detection of gravitational waves
by Brian Wang:
- 2007-2011 - Free voice communication dominant
- 2009-2012 - Wireless superbroadband (50-1000Mbps)
- 2010-2015 - Fiber to the home (100Mbps-1000Mbps)
- 2013-2020 - Nextgen communication (1000Mbps-10000Mbps)
- 2009-2012 - HALE super antennas and long duration balloons