CHICAGO--Within five years, the telecommunications industry will have consolidated so dramatically that telephone service, Internet access, and wireless phones will be available from a single vendor, Tom Evslin, president of AT&T WorldNet told an audience at Summer Internet World this afternoon.
Evslin also said that cable TV service may be folded into the single communications vendor, though he was less certain about the time frame for that development.
Not coincidentally, his prediction matches AT&T's strategy almost perfectly, with the exception that the giant long distance firm has no immediate plans to become a cable provider.
"There will be a single network for voice communications, for sending graphics to homes and business, not multiple networks. There won't be a telephone network of today, there won't be an Internet of today," said Evslin, who is leaving WorldNet to start up ITXC Corporation, an Internet telephony venture backed by AT&T and Net phone firm VocalTec Communications.
Instead, voice and data will move seamlessly over a network built on Internet protocol (IP), he predicted.
"The fact that it will be IP means it will be possible to have single, seemingly seamless network," Evslin added.
That network will have plenty of bandwidth, with a single megabyte considered as a minimum. That bandwidth can be allocated dynamically to voice, fax machine, or data, ending the need to have separate phone lines for each.
"Instead of data going on the voice network, voice will be treated like any other sort of data," he added.
Nor will the future network have connected and disconnected modes; instead users will be "persistently" connected, as offices on local area networks are. Those connections will enable new applications such as security monitoring and push technologies.
"Push applications really don't work until you can count on having persistent connections," Evslin said.
AT&T is preparing for such a world by investing $9 billion a year in an IP network infrastructure using Sonet rings, a network that can carry either voice or IP traffic. The giant firm is pouring investment into IP-based services like WorldNet and its e-commerce offerings.
"In its network strategy, application strategy, and alliance strategy, AT&T is betting on and preparing for an IP future," he said.
In response to a question, Evslin said WorldNet has no plans to provide ISDN service, because in pilot tests customers had uniformly bad experiences. He predicted that XDSL technologies will quickly overtake ISDN for higher-speed access.