International Research Center QUICK NAVIGATOR

Arizona Telecommunications & Information Council (ATIC)
Multitenant Building Telecommunications Access Study
Evolving Telecommunications Landscape-- Markets at the End of the 20th Century

The Evolving Telecommunications Landscape

The Rise of the Internet and the Great Convergence:

In a space of fewer than five years, the great global network of computer networks called the Internet has blossomed from an arcane tool used primarily by academics and government researchers into a worldwide mass communications medium that is rapidly becoming a backbone of business-to-business communications, and is poised to become a leading carrier of communications and financial transactions within all segments of society.

The expansion of the World Wide Web -- the Internet's graphically-based subsystem -- has been even more spectacular. Barely four years old, it has grown at a rate that is unprecedented in the annals of communications technology, having already garnered an estimated 30 million-plus users worldwide, and has been or soon will be integrated into the marketing, information, and communications strategies of nearly every major corporation, educational institution, political and charitable organization, community, and government agency in the United States.

No previous telecommunications advance -- not the telephone, the television set, cable television, the VCR, the facsimile machine, nor the cellular telephone -- has penetrated public consciousness and secured widespread public adoption this quickly. The integration of the Internet and the World Wide Web into conventional social and economic processes is taking place so rapidly, in fact, that even many of those in the industry have a hard time keeping up. Yet almost all analysts agree that what we are witnessing is only the barest beginning of the "Internet explosion."
 -- John Eger, CYBERSPACE and CYBERPLACE: Building the Smart Communities of Tomorrow

Today's Internet dates back to at least 1973 when the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated research to interlink packet networks resulting in the development of two initial protocols, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) which has become more commonly known as TCP/IP. The early national network was primarily used to connect researchers within military and higher education communities and to support e-mail communication as well as the sharing of high-power computer resources from remote locations. In 1986, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) developed NSFNET, a 45 Mbps backbone that formed the basis, along with other domestic and international efforts, of a global Internet. Commercial carriers joined in, helping extend the reach, functionality, and robustness of these early efforts. The number of users remained modest, however, until the mid-1990s when the advent of graphical browsing and hyperlinked content lead to a virtual explosion in the popularity and use of the Internet.

Consumer, business, and government use of the Internet has grown enormously, along with the graphical and media rich character of the available content. Streaming audio and video, teleconferencing, groupware applications, graphic images, downloads of large files, electronic commerce, and other delivery of rich content sources and real time data streams all drive the need for backbone and "last mile" data capacity. Further, the Internet enabling of voice telephony (Voice over Internet Protocol - VoIP) and trends in Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) will drive the convergence of the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) increasingly with the Internet to form Next Generation Networks (NGNs) or a New Public Network (NPN). Dispersed enterprises are increasingly moving their Wide Area Network (WAN) applications from leased telecommunications services to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) operated over the Internet. Additionally, many new types of devices, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), information appliances, next generation set-top television boxes, Internet-enabled fixed and wireless telephone instruments, will drive our use of and reliance on this burgeoning communications media.

The "need for speed" and the performance or mission critical nature of many of these new applications will further drive the large-scale deployment of fiber backbones and evolution of Internet protocols. An Internet2 project, or Next Generation Internet (NGI), is being funded by the U.S. government and led by over 150 research universities, including Arizona State University (ASU), to enable new, advanced network applications to meet emerging needs in research and education. The Abilene Project, the key subnetwork making up the Internet2 backbone, will consist of some 13,000 mile of fiber optic cabling operating at least 2.4 Gbps. Like the original Internet, this project will serve as a test bed from which significant innovation will occur. Technology transfer to the government and commercial vendors will enhance the generally available Internet and further drive the evolution of its capabilities and capacity.

Voice, data, and video will increasingly be merged into combined data streams and carried over the most cost-effective communications transport services. Enterprises will move forward with carrying their converged voice and data traffic together for simplicity, efficiency and cost reasons. Further, the variety of messages that individuals now receive, live voice interaction, voice messaging, paging, faxes, e-mail, media file attachments, shared documents, and more will be collected and managed from unified message mailboxes for personal convenience and effectiveness.

Comparison of Individual Users' Internet Connections

Dial-up Modem ISDN xDSL Cable Modem Terrestrial Wireless Satellite Wireless
Downstream Data Rate <=56 Kbps 128 Kbps 256 Kbps - 7 Mbps 400 Kbps- 3 Mbps 9.6 Kbps- 1 Mbps 33.6 Kbps- 400 Kbps
Upstream Data Rate <=33 Kbps 128 Kbps 64 Kbps - 1 Mbps 128 Kbps - 3 Mbps 33.6 Kbps via dial-up to 256 Kbps wireless 33.6 Kbps via dial-up; faster wireless later
Initial Cost <$50 $150-$300 $125-$300 $50-$300 $150-$250 $200-$3000
Monthly Cost $0-$20 $40-$120 $40-$200 $40-$60 $45-$65 $30-$130
Pros Easy & cheap. Widely Available First digital service. Reasonably broad availability. Used for POS and video conferencing Low cost potential. Shares phone line wiht voice. Switched circuit dedicates connection. Developing GLite standard to accelerate 1 Mbps rate availability. Low Cost potential. Accelerating urban deployment. DOCSIS standard released, Cable modems to reach retail distribution shortly. Single antenna for large area. Quick to deplot with great regional coverage, Multi-path and multi-hop may help reach. Works anywhere. Additional systems to be launched. Higher data rates pending, Stratospheric platforms may fill the gap.
Cons Rates limited by phone quality. Ties up a phone line. Setup can be problematic. Availability limited by distance from telco office. Standardization pending. Availability limited by network upgrades & distance from telco office. Limited availability to business. HFC upgrades still in progress. Limited upstream data rates with telco return. Only available in some markets. Line of sight only. Expensive interface hardware and service costs. No broadband until 2002 or later.

-- (Source: International Research Center)

Multitenant Building Telecommunications Access Study
Evolving Telecommunications Landscape-- Markets at the End of the 20th Century