Several trends are occurring in the field of telecommunications that will affect the electronic communication of information over distance.
Continued Growth of Photonics (Fiber Optics)
The national telecommunications network will continue to grow in service and capacity. A dominant technology providing this increased capacity is light wave systems, or photonics. Photonics is the use of light for the transmission of information. These systems are used as the backbone for telephone companies installing main cables carrying multiple lines.
The first use of light wave technology was a small-scale interconnection of three buildings in Chicago's downtown area. This system, established in 1977, led to wide-scale use of the technology. In 1987, just ten years after the Chicago experiment, numerous telecommunications providers rushed to install light wave systems. The US Sprint network was the first to use a total fiber optic network to traverse the nation. By 1990, AT&T had installed 300 million miles of interexchange light wave networks.
The advantages of light wave systems are many and include
freedom from electrical disturbance
tremendous bandwidth or information-carrying capacity
small physical size
relative low cost
The speed at which information can be moved through the fiber optic cable is also an important advantage. AT&T established an experimental fiber optic system that moves digital information at a speed of 8 gigabits (8 billion bits) per second over a 68-mile stretch of repeaterless fiber optic cable. One gigabit per second is fast enough to support 15,000 voice circuits.
The growth of fiber optics has other features that make it valuable to future telecommunications. Since the light wave transmission is enclosed, it is not bothered by atmospheric conditions that affect wireless systems. It also offers an element of security in contrast to telecommunications systems that use the airwaves, where signals can be intercepted. So fiber optics will provide business users with a clearer, more reliable, more secure method of conducting business.
Microcomputer Trends in the Nineties
As more applications are done at microcomputers, including voice, data, and video functions, the hardware (micros and other types of display terminals) capacity must be increased. This includes:
increased random access memory
increased disk storage (erasable optical disks)
development of audio and video boards
availability of screens with more vivid images
faster processing time
increased cycle speeds (in excess of 100 million)
Computing and telecommunications have become an inseparable twosome. The computer has become the primary tool for generating information. Telecommunications has become the vehicle for delivering the information. Thus, the innovations taking place in these two areas complement one another.