BT's brightest boffins have predicted that fourth-generation (4G) mobile and "guaranteed hacker-proof security" will be the hottest technology areas in five years.
The telecoms giant recently surveyed 135 workers at its Brightstar incubator and research and development centre, 95 per cent of whom hold PhDs.
The experts predicted that 4G, online fraud detection, fibre to the kerb and home networks would be buzzing by 2006.
With analyst reports suggesting that 3G will still lag behind 2G and GPRS by 2006, predicting the next stage, the fusion of wireless local area network (Lan) protocols with 3G mobile technology, may be seen as optimistic.
But Chris Winter, chief technology officer at Brightstar, believes it is a natural next step.
He told vnunet.com: "With the development of wireless Lan and 3G, people will start to rely on mobile computing. Very quickly people are going to get irritated that they can't move from one to another. We will rapidly see the emergence of services that are dual-band."
Winter conceded that the idea of guaranteed hacker-proof services was currently embryonic, but said BT would soon open a new centre housing 20 to 30 researchers working on preventing online fraud, and developing hacker-proof technologies.
"People don't pay a great deal for security and personalisation but they increasingly want them. By 2005, if you can't make a new service hacker-proof or personalised, people won't want it," he said.
Winter also mooted the idea of real-time fraud detection monitoring, inter-connected billing and transaction patterns on ecommerce websites to stamp out online fraud such as credit card theft.
On fibre to the kerb, which would link the country to a high-speed network, Winter said that, while it would be technically feasible in five years, there may not be a solid business case for rolling it out until later.
Until then, DSL broadband would continue to develop with faster download and upload speeds.
By 2011, the survey said, the internet will be "compulsory". In the way that digital TV will replace analogue, people will have to use the internet as part of their daily lives.
Entertainment and communication needs were cited as the key internet drivers, with porn mentioned as a strong factor by just six per cent.
But here, Winter disagrees with his staff. "I think it might play a more important role than our engineers imagine," he said.
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