40 years of the internet

As the internet hits 40, we trace its early origins, look at its anarchic development and consider where it might be going in the future.

What's next?

Naturally, in his role Cunliffe has an eye on the future of how the internet will develop.

"What we're predicting at Ericsson is that there will be more machines than people connected to the internet. There will be 50 billion devices connected by 2020 cars, fridges, electric meters, toasters - complete connectivity for domestic appliances," he said.

"That plays an important role in creating carbon reduction. Communications can reduce the need to travel and that can have a massive pay back for the environment," he added.

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So we've come a long way from the 50Kb of Arpanet. From the two people sending each other a message in October 1969, there are now over 1.5 billion people with internet access.

From Tim Berners-Lee's first web site there are now over 100 million websites and we're a long way from the purely military, political or environmental centric networks of the 1980s. In fact, 74 per cent of today's sites are in the commercial or .com domain.

And while we talk of broadband speeds hitting 100Mbps in the next couple of years, Cunliffe believes that it's really wireless connectivity that's the next frontier.

While today's mobiles and dongles can hit a theoretical max of 7.2Mbps, Cunliffe states that by the end of next year wireless speeds will hit 21Mbps using existing 3G technology. With next generation networks based on LTE he said, "we could operate at 160Mbs and in the future we could achieve 1Gb".

Clearly though, in the next forty years even these sorts of speeds will seem slow and the division between wired and wireless connectivity is likely be so meaningless as to disappear.

As ICT analyst and chairman of TechMarketView Richard Holway says: "Mobile broadband will not only get faster and cheaper but it will be available literally everywhere on earth - on land, sea and air - no blackspots anywhere!"

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When that happens, the internet will become truly pervasive and enable us to use it in ways that we can't even imagine right now.

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