I’ve been thinking about the term “digital patriot,” which to me is really a cool concept. If being a digital patriot means using technology to protect America’s interests and build a better society, then it affirms something I believe in my bones: Strong networks are crucial to a strong America. And Verizon is — above all — a network company.
We have staked our future on the power of networks to expand markets, stimulate innovation and help us compete and grow. We have invested our capital to equip our networks to be the platform for the 21st century economy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ivan Seidenberg, chairman/ CEO of Verizon Communications, was presented with the Consumer Electronics Association’s Digital Patriots’ award for innovation in technology during the dinner of the same name in Washington . Other award winners that evening were Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.) In this edited version of Seidenberg’s remarks, he talks about Verizon’s expansion and work on wireless and the Internet.
The pace of change across our company is quite remarkable:
In the last 10 years our wireless customer base has grown from about 6 million to almost 66 million. We were the first wireless company to deliver a national data network, which now reaches some 250 million people across the country. Later this year we will begin to test our fourth generation of infrastructure technology — remarkable for an industry that is barely a quarter of a century old.
With our acquisition of MCI, we now have the leading global IP network and are steadily adding to its speed and scale. We’re also laying a high-speed undersea cable between the U.S. and China and upgrading the Internet backbone so the world’s digital freight can move faster and more securing around the globe.
And of course, there’s FiOS, which I guess more than anything accounts for my 15 minutes of fame after 40 years in the communications business. We began about three years ago to build a fiber-optic network all the way to customers’ homes. Now, we’ve passed about 10 million homes and we are expanding at a rate of 3 million homes a year, meaning that fiber is being deployed in this country faster than anyplace else in the world.
What the U.S. communications industry has achieved through deploying broadband and mobile networks through private-sector investment is unprecedented in the world.
Unless you count the Great Wall of China, the only things that come close are the great public-works projects like the interstate highway system and the Apollo space program, both of which required many billions of taxpayer dollars. Unlike most other nations around the world, the U.S. chose to encourage the building of these networks through market-based policies that provided a stable climate for investment. The benefits of this massive capital investment have rippled through the entire communications industry ... to the consumer electronics companies that who invent the devices to make this all work for consumers.
CEA’s Gary Shapiro (left) presents Verizon’s Ivan Seidenberg with the CEA Digital Patriots’ award on Wednesday night, April 2 at the JW MarRiott Hotel in Washington D.C.
This is great news — for our industry and for our country — is that we are just at the beginning of this innovation curve.
Today, Verizon’s fiber network can deliver 20- and 50-megabit download speeds. Soon we’ll be at 100Mbps or more. The big shift, though, is the 20-megabit upload speed: fast enough to upload a one-hour high-definition movie in a few minutes, as opposed to the 9 hours it takes on an asymmetrical system.
[It is] fast enough to turn Web 2.0 into Web 10.0.
To do that, we need the whole high-tech community to engage with these new capabilities. Our customers are leading the way, but often they don’t get the full benefit of fiber’s bandwidth because many of the social-networking sites they use today such as Flickr aren’t optimized for faster speeds. Soon, high-definition will be the norm. But with fiber, we’ll see applications that will blow away today’s HDTV experience, with three-dimensional graphics, holographic quality and radical interactivity. Instead of scrolling down a list of books on Amazon.com, for example, you’ll be able to walk through the shelves of a “virtual reality” bookstore. Instead of looking at a picture of a new car online, you’ll be able to sit on your couch and take it out for a test drive. Instead of flying to the Mayo Clinic for a consultation, you’ll be able to show the doctor where it hurts without leaving home.
That’s a huge wave of innovation, waiting to be unleashed.
The same is true in wireless. Mobile customers already do much more than make phone calls — they text, download music, watch TV, surf the Web, share photos, map their location and more. The cellphone is evolving into a kind of “universal remote” for managing all your digital content and accessing it on whatever screen you have at hand. As we move forward, wireless will be embedded into a new generation of “smart” consumer electronics — cameras, cars, credit cards, security systems and home appliances.
Who knows, maybe Dick Tracy and Maxwell Smart were right and we’ll be talking into our wristwatches or the heel of our shoes.
The convergence of these great disruptive technologies — mobility, Internet and optical fiber — will usher in a new phase of growth for our industry. And while no single company can imagine all the ways these disruptive technologies will be embedded in the daily lives of customers, Verizon intends to lead the way. We’re acquiring new spectrum. We’re getting ready for 4G wireless technology. We’re tapping the inventiveness of the high-tech industry through our Open Development Initiative, which opens our wireless network to entrepreneurs and manufacturers who will develop new devices and applications to run on our network. And we’re expanding our fiber network, which will make the 100-megabit home a reality sooner than we think.
And then there’s the Internet backbone itself. As more of the world’s commerce, entertainment and information flow over the Internet, demand for faster, more reliable digital networks is increasing exponentially. The once unimaginable speeds of these networks — 40 gigabits per second, with 100 gigabits in sight — are having the same transformational impact on global businesses that fiber networks are having in the consumer space: enabling instantaneous communications, virtual-reality videoconferencing, on-demand software, and 24-by-7 collaborative services that send great ideas racing around the globe at the speed of light, uninhibited.
Here’s my point, and it’s pretty simple. The broadband, wireless and global IP networks we’re deploying are not just “improved.”
The uses for these ultra-high bandwidth networks will take us far beyond what we can imagine today. They will transform entertainment, education, commerce, medicine and the arts. They will have virtually unlimited capacity. They will create whole new industries and involve the entire technology sector in a virtuous cycle of investment, innovation and growth.
And, if we think big enough, they will help us address some of the most important social challenges of our time:
Reforming health care with virtual medicine and electronic records.
Saving energy and the environment.
Improving education with distance learning and online tutors.
Empowering people with disabilities and brining more people into the workforce.
Spreading prosperity by connecting the world’s populations to the global economy.
What America’s network companies have achieved in building broadband and mobile networks is amazing. The opportunities ahead of us are as every bit as huge, and every bit as important for the future of our country.
Meeting these challenges will require digital patriotism on a truly massive scale.
We believe that innovation in technology can come from the core as well as the edge.
We believe that inventing the future is more rewarding than protecting the past.
We believe that delivering great networks will create a better future for our company and a better society for America.
Most of all, we love what we do.
I’m privileged to work in this great industry, and on behalf of Verizon, I thank you for this award.