In modern developed countries, the telecommunications sector has become a leading growth industry. The world community's transformation into an information society is progressing by leaps and bounds: information and knowledge as both input and output factors have become a fundamental element of nearly every sector of the economy.
The need to coordinate processes more rapidly and efficiently accords strategic significance to having a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure and new information and communications services – which brings up the issue of transmission capacity for future data services and how demand is likely to evolve.
Five fundamental, enduringly constant driving forces can be identified with regard to the further development of telecom networks: the demand for increasingly greater bandwidth, the growing dominance of data traffic, the spread of universal broadband services, the formation of distinct geographical patterns in the distribution of network capacity, and the trend towards increased mobility.
Major trends in professional and personal lifestyles have an appreciable impact on the dynamic processes affecting demand for telecommunications services: professional independence, more frequent career changes, lifelong learning and on-the-job training, flexible working hours, growing individualization, increased mobility and a desire for greater convenience have all proven to be strong motivational forces behind intensified use of telecommunication services.
The markets for information, communication, entertainment and education are converging. This process is driving the development of new products and a greater diversity of services. There are more devices available and more demand for services, and these are increasingly being used concurrently. Experts forecast annual growth of nearly 7% in household expenditures for electronic media through 2010. The average daily time spent on online services will increase from 18 minutes in 2000 to 62 minutes in 2010.
The UMTS standard will make fast mobile access to the Internet and always-on connectivity a reality for the average consumer. Interactive access to Website content and access to m-commerce, m-banking and location-based services are leading to rapid development of the mobile Internet.
Only close cooperation between research institutions, system vendors and network operators can enable innovative ideas to be transformed quickly into viable products. In the German context, this circle also includes international companies that have established their research and development centers as well as some of their production facilities in Germany.
Aiming High From A Solid Base
IMST is a private company providing specialized R&D services in the field of communications technology, radio transmission and digital circuit design. The company also runs an accredited test center for a variety of measurements including EMC, SAR, antennas and RF circuits. IMST's activities include the development of communications solutions and products through to series production, as well as prototype design & manufacturing and optimization of components for communication systems and assemblies. Its staff of roughly 110 engineers also provide qualified technical consulting and prepare market research, feasibility and design studies, with particular emphasis on GSM and UMTS mobile communications.
As the coordinator of the Competence Network for Mobile and Satellite Communication Technologies, IMST brings together research institutions and companies in the Lower Rhine region to work on joint projects in the field of mobile communications. IMST has meanwhile built up a cluster of firms with considerable experience in the development of mobile and satellite communication systems, who would be willing to work with other partners or take part in the definition of research projects. This gives IMST the resources with which to participate in even large-scale research projects, such as the European Union's 6th Framework Programme.
An important technology transfer vector
One of IMST's main talents lies in the coordination of projects that combine scientific research and industrial implementation. Government sponsorship has been granted to several projects of this type over the last few years. A premium example is the Centrum 21 project, in which IMST and its network partners are working on the development of novel, innovative solutions for mobile communications, wireless internet and multimedia applications. Through such activities, IMST has made a significant contribution to the growth of technology transfer within the region.
Widening the scope of the network
IMST's future plans are to widen the scope of the competence network and consolidate its organizational structure with the assistance of other members of the network, including the University of Duisburg-Essen. It also intends to seek alliances with similarly structured organizations, most notably the Rhein-Vaal technology network.
The GMCC would like to thank the German Federal Ministry of Education & Research, VDI Technologiezentrum GMBH and the German Embassy in Malta for the information and resources for this article.