updated 8/29/2007 12:42:37 PM ET 2007-08-29T16:42:37

Japan plans to start research on new networking technology that could one day replace the Internet amid its growing quality and security problems, according to the nation's communications ministry.

U.S. and European researchers already have started similar efforts to rebuild the underlying architecture of the Internet.

Yoshihiro Onishi, assistant director at the Japanese communications ministry, said Japan must follow suit to stay competitive. Post-Internet network technology is expected to become imperative by 2020, he said.

"The Internet is reaching its limit," he said. "We feel this research for the technology is definitely needed."

When researchers largely knew one another, the Internet's early architects kept the shared network open and flexible — qualities that proved key to its rapid growth. But that later allowed spammers and hackers to roam freely.

The network's designers also assumed that computers would be in fixed locations and always connected, creating headaches as laptops and other mobile devices proliferated.

Many scientists are starting to believe a totally new network is needed. It could run parallel with the Internet or eventually replace it, or parts of the research could go into a major overhaul of the existing architecture.

Researchers may also seek a network that consumes lower levels of energy.

The Japanese ministry wants to set up an organization with private sector involvement by the end of the year that will do the groundwork for starting the research. It will request money in the fiscal year to begin April 1, although the amount has yet to be decided.

Onishi said collaborating with other nations will be an option.

Such efforts in the U.S. aren't expected to bear fruit for 10 or 15 years. Congress has yet to provide with full funding for the research.

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