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MIT Communications Futures Program. A cross-cutting examination of the telecommunications industry. Overview. The CFP is a partnership between university and industry. Our vision is to define the roadmap for the communications industry and study its impact on adjacent industries.

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MIT Communications Futures Program

A cross-cutting examination of the telecommunications industry



  • The CFP is a partnership between university and industry.
  • Our vision is to define the roadmap for the communications industry and study its impact on adjacent industries.
  • Our members cut across the entire communications value chain
  • British Telecom
  • Cisco
  • Comcast
  • France Telecom
  • Futurewei
  • Motorola
  • Nokia Siemens Networks
  • Samsung
  • Telecom Italia
  • Telefónica
  • Telmex


David Clark

Charles Fine

Andy Lippman

David Reed

An interdisciplinary team from MIT heads the program

  • Charles Fine, Chrysler LFM Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • David Clark, Senior Research Scientist, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
  • Andrew Lippman, Senior Research Scientist, MIT Media Laboratory
  • David P. Reed, Adjunct Professor, MIT Media Laboratory and HP Fellow, Hewlett-Packard Laboratories


  • Working Groups
  • Industry participants engage closely with faculty in the research and provide valuable input into the direction and content of the program.
  • Co-chaired by faculty and industry sponsors.
  • Groups are launched as new issues emerge and disbanded as issues become less relevant or research is completed.
  • Regular meetings (face-to-face and/or concall)
  • All-member meetings
  • Held at MIT & Sponsor location
  • Bi-annually, 2 days
  • Working group reporting, guest speakers, workshops
  • Research
  • All research (papers & presentations) are available exclusively to CFP members on our Web site:

Current Working Groups

  • Value Chain Dynamics
  • Charlie Fine
    • Examine the impact of shifting network functionality on various industries
  • Viral Communications
  • Andy Lippman & David Reed
    • Invent and prototype scalable, user-designed communications systems with no centralized infrastructure or management
  • Privacy & Security
  • Karen Sollins
    • Examine the value of authenticated identity inside the network
  • Interconnection
  • Bill Lehr
    • Analyze interconnection issues in NexGen multi-provider networks including overlays and peering
  • Spectrum Policy
  • Bill Lehr
    • Design solutions to facilitate the transition to a future with both flexible-licensed and open-access spectrum

Value Chain Dynamics

Charlie Fine & Natalie Klym, MIT

Roberto Saracco, Telecom Italia

Contact:Natalie Klym,

The communications industry is being disrupted as intelligence and control – once centralized -- shift to the edges of the network. This working group seeks to understand the business models and economics associated with these changes in network functionality, and has developed a methodology for systematically exploring the technology, business, and policy dynamics of new business models.

Topics of investigation include:

  • Social networking
  • The future of television
  • Digital music distribution
  • The evolution of RFID networks
  • VOIP
  • Location-based services
  • Core-Edge methodology & toolkit

Viral Communications

Andrew Lippman & David Reed, MIT

Contact: Deb Widener,

Viral communication is about building scalable, user-designed communications systems that need no centralized infrastructure or management. The objective of this working group is to invent and prototype viral networking technologies. Much of the research addresses a fundamental rethinking of radio in a context of inexpensive, programmable parts that scale though cooperation. This working group serves as a steering committee for the research, and also suggests or develops applications.

Topics of investigation include:

  • Structures and protocols for P2P, edge and social networks
  • Connectivity in both physical and virtual spaces
  • Scalable radio technology
  • Cognitive networking

Privacy & Security

Karen Sollins, MIT

Contact: Karen Sollins,

It is easy to think of security as a technical problem, but it is important to remember that the roots of some of our hardest problems are social. We trade off security for usability and features, and we get viruses. We protect the privacy of users and we prevent efficient identification of those who misbehave. The purpose of this working group is to consider issues of security and privacy in the larger context of social, economic, and regulatory considerations.

Topics of investigation include:

  • Authentication mechanisms: DKIM, SIP, Web Services, 3GPP, Radius, etc.
  • Authentication identifiers: examination of I3, HIP, categorization of identities that require identification
  • Security and Privacy evaluation framework for evolving communications paradigms
    • Roadmap of evolution of communications paradigms from point-to-point to time and space separated information or content networking
    • Components of framework (layered architecture for analysis; identification; interests; contexts; policies)


Bill Lehr, MIT

Contact: Bill Lehr,

This working group focuses on interconnection in NexGen multi-provider networks. Research addresses a mix of topics, ranging from empirical research on the implications of broadband traffic growth (for network architecture, QoS provisioning, and investment); theoretical research on economics of networks (interconnection incentives, antitrust, and 2-sided market theory); and NexGen business models (overlay networks, wholesale platform services, evolution of peering and interconnection). The work will be organized into a series of sub-tasks under the umbrella of the Interconnection WG which will be coordinated via periodic conference calls, email (and website), and in-face meetings scheduled to coincide with CFP Plenaries and otherwise as needed.

Topics of investigation include:

  • Service provider interconnection business practices and policy
  • Traffic measurement and decentralized network management

Spectrum Policy

Bill Lehr, MIT

Contact: Bill Lehr,

Traditional models for managing radio spectrum are incompatible a future that entails decentralized, distributed, and dynamic frameworks for sharing spectrum among devices, applications, network infrastructure, and end-users. Supporting the future wireless ecosystem will require new public/private institutional, legal, and market mechanisms. Our goal is to design practical solutions to facilitate the transition to a future where spectrum sharing is accomplished via markets rather than regulatory fiat—for a future with both flexible-licensed and open-access spectrum.

Topics of investigation include:

  • Market mechanisms for spectrum management
  • Building the ecosystem to commercialize dynamic spectrum access technology

What our members have to say…

The CFP has created a valuable and unique forum for the exchange of ideas and developments between industry representatives and recognized academic masterminds. The program has led to deep research and a rich set of tools to help bring CFP ideas inside corporations.

– Dirk Trossen, BT Research

The CFP provides us, for the first time, with an examination of technology innovation that intersects with business innovation. The combined participation of industry and academia directly benefits the analysis of the complex scenarios faced by the telecommunications industry today. The ideas and results of the CFP provide valuable input to our internal discussions on our firm's strategic direction.

– Roberto Saracco, Telecom Italia

The ideas generated in the CFP are a major source of validation for internal projects. The consensus of the group has enormous power.

– Marie Jose Montpetit, Motorola



Full Member

  • $200K/year ($100K for Media Lab sponsors)
  • 3-year commitment
  • Up to 6 participants at CFP events
  • Unlimited participation in working groups
  • One-on-one interaction with faculty members
  • Affiliate member status of the Media Lab
  • Limited IP access

Associate Member

  • Available to small organizations
  • $100K/year
  • 2-year commitment
  • Up to 2 participants at CFP events
  • Unlimited participation in working groups
  • One-on-one interaction with faculty members

Contact information

Communications Futures Program

The Stata Center

32 Vassar Street


Cambridge, MA 02139

Phone: 617-253-6002

Fax: 617-253-2673

For more information about the program please contact our Executive Director,

Natalie Klym at

For administrative assistance, please contact Sue Perez at

Directions to MIT

Map of MIT

Getting to MIT