Information & Communication


Telecom / Data Routing

Technical Applications

Summary

Despite the trends in packaged software, there is a continuing strong demand for special, custom-developed software to integrate systems of hardware and software, often connected by wide area networks.

Characteristics

The function of routing data using telecommunications involves a number of technologies and applications. The first three applications--long-haul terrestrial, subscriber loop, and undersea transmission--are generally associated with telephone services. Two others--local-area network and metropolitan area network--are generally associated with computer services. The differences between these applications is blurring, however, in the face of intense worldwide efforts to achieve interoperability (compatible operation) across diverse network architectures and diverse hardware implementations of networking equipment. Network transmission technologies include signal carriers such as conducted electronic signals and radio frequency waves, and transmission media such as twisted pair wires, coax, free- space, and optical fibers. In the past, most of this information used analog techniques. Digital techniques are being employed increasingly in almost all new network systems, placing significant challenges to the applications and technologies of communication routing.

ImpactEconomy

There are active research programs in the U.S. and overseas providing the framework for the higher-speed networking services that will be needed as demand grows. There is a robust industry providing the necessary infrastructure, both for local and wide-area services. There are concerns about the structure of the protocols that will be needed for higher-speed networking, but the international standards community is actively studying this area. There is increasing use of digital (as opposed to analog) circuitry for networking, with fiber optics the dominant technology for exploiting this. Wireless networking is also a very active developmental area at the present time. Regulatory issues (such as the allocation of channels) are often as important in this area as the technical issues.

WorldView

Europe and Japan both lag slightly behind the United States in switching and transmission technology for public telecommunications networks. Two technologies for broadband networks are having a revolutionary impact on switching and transmission--asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) switching and new high-speed transmission systems called synchronous optical networks (SONET) in the United States and synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) in Europe. These technologies are blurring lines between switching and transmission, hardware and software, private and public networks, and telecommunications and computer technology.