Looking ahead to 2050 - Communications trends I

The penetration of cellular subscriber is already approaching a total coverage of people on the Planet. In the next decades the wireless infrastructures will blanket the Earth leaving no gap a bringing connectivity to everyone. Credit: IC Insights

By 2050 it is a fair assumption to assume that every single person on the Earth will be connected, and will have access to broadband Internet. The definition of “broadband”, of course, will keep drifting and at that time I am quite sure that there will still be newspaper articles lamenting that a good portion of the population does not have “broadband access”, but that will mean that not everyone will have a 1Gbps access which is likely to be considered, in 2050, as the basic broadband connection. Many will still have to do with a few Mbps, may be 10Mbps.  For sure, the access will be wireless as “perception” with everybody having a smart access “ambient”, a wearable one or one surrounding her, like a transportation pod of some sort. No more cables in sight even though the wireless drop might be very short and a fiber hides somewhere. What will be surprising to us in 2017, is that no-one will complain to the Network Operator. Network Operators will be gone, at least from a perception point of view. It is like today when you hit a poor maintained road. In Italy we have ANAS that takes care of road maintenance (and in general they are pretty good), but they are so far removed from the lay citizen perception that if a pothole is encountered no-one puts the blame on them. The blame goes to the institutions in the vicinity, like the city council. Similarly, when one will face poor connectivity (we would love to have today such a poor connectivity) the blame will go to the local store, to the municipality, to the tourist agency.

This is probably the biggest change in perception from today. No more Operators. And most likely no more access fees (they will be there, but embedded in services, goods, dwellings and no longer perceived).

Magically, the more people around, the more bandwidth will become available. Quite the opposite of today where more people around means less bandwidth available to each one.

Some facts:


  • in 2016 roughly 3 billion people are connected to the Internet, total coverage is expected in the next decade, with connectivity available to 8 billion people
  • the access today is seen as access to a pipe, although increasingly we access information through Google, products with Amazon, processing and storage capacity with AWS, artificial intelligence with Watson, seamless translation with Google, funds with Kickstarter, expertise with Rabbit….
  • several initiatives worldwide are aiming at providing Internet connectivity in places where it is presently non existent or scarce, like the project funded by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, to deploy 4G networks covering 80% of India to deliver Internet for free, and Google Loon deploying balloons to deliver internet in rural areas with launch targeting Indonesia in 2017, and Elon Musk plan to cover the entire planet with 4,425 low orbit satellites to provide broadband internet access.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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