Record IT federal spending, MANs seen as major trends

Record IT spending by the federal government and the introduction of new concepts, such as 802.16 metropolitan-area networks (MAN), are among the 12 coming trends IT professionals should watch in the next year, Michael Gallagher, deputy assistant secretary for communications and information at the U.S. Department of Commerce, said Wednesday.

The federal government’s budget for fiscal 2004 will include $54 billion in IT spending requests — the highest amount ever requested by any administration, Gallagher said in a keynote address at Computerworld’s Mobile & Wireless World conference held at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort here.

In addition to those expenditures in the federal budget, Gallagher said state and local governments are expected to spend between $90 billion and $130 billion on homeland security measures, and much of that spending is expected to come in the areas of IT.

Gallagher also predicted that

– The amount of Wi-Fi spectrum will double in the next few years.

– Voice over IP will be married to Wi-Fi in a dynamic way, opening up new investment and business opportunities.

– The transition to digital television will gain speed, freeing up access to spectrum for more mobile and wireless applications; Gallagher noted that a local Palm Springs television station is giving up its analog signal later this month.

– Power line broadband will take off as a technology, offering another way to bring broadband connectivity to homes.

Gallagher also talked about the impact of the emerging 802.16 wireless networking standard, which is critical in building MANs. MANs offer wireless broadband coverage within a 20-mile radius, with speeds up to 70Mbit/sec. And while they are primarily fixed facilities, the networks are expected to open up new opportunities for wireless growth.

Another issue likely to gain in importance: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission ‘s efforts to begin looking at receiver standards, Gallagher said. Although the FCC primarily focuses on transmitter standards now, exploring receivers could yield ways to increase efficiency and create a better use of the available spectrum capacity.

The FCC will also push for fewer regulations of available spectrum, a move Gallagher predicted will help grow the industry.

All in all, Gallagher delivered an upbeat message of growth in the mobile and wireless industry, despite setbacks caused by the economic downturn. He pointed out that the industry has generated $76 billion in revenues during the last year and employs more than 200,000 people. And with only half of the people in the U.S. currently using mobile devises, Gallagher said there’s still a lot of room for growth.