Telephony

The telecommunications industry has grown rapidly thanks to the new technology such as wireless telephony and VoIP, voice over internet protocol. These new inventions have been gradually taking over traditional wired telephones. As of 2006 the number of wired telephone subscribers in the world was approximately four billion, averaging sixty-one subscribers per one hundred inhabitants (ITU, 2008a). A year later in 2007 the 14% of American households owned cell phones while only 12.3% of households has a fixed-line-only. (Grant & Meadows pg. 245)

In order to obtain those 12.3% American household who prefer land lines because of the clarity, reliability and high-quality voice service, wireless telephone technologies have revolutionized to 2G and 3G networks. These networks offer more stability for communication and data transactions. In 2007 the number of cell phones used worldwide was three times the number of computers used.

Monopoly of AT&T
Since the first telephone was introduced by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, the U.S. telephone industry’s growth was closely associated with AT&T. AT&T soon become the parent company of the Bell System, and with the Communications Act of 1934, AT&T was authorized as the American telephone monopoly.

In 1962, AT&T placed the first commercial communication satellite, Telstar I, in orbit. The percentage of U.S. households with telephone service also increased during this period from 50% in 1945, 70% in 1955, to 90% in 1969.

Even though AT&T was the Rockefeller of the telephone companies, the company started to decline in the 1970s. The government realized the great power AT&T had as a monopoly on the telephone industry, in 1974 the Department of Justice Filed an antitrust suit against AT&T. The case was settled eight years later in 1982 when AT&T agreed with the Department of Justice on the Modification of Final Judgment to divest itself of its regional telephone companies. This action was completed in 1984.

By the 1980s the breakup of the Bell System led to seven regional Bell operating companies known as “Baby Bells”

· Ameritech
· Bell Atlantic
· BellSouth
· NYNEX
· Pacific Telesis
· Southwestern Bell
· U S WEST
The seven companies did not remain the seven “Baby Bells” for long. By 1995 Southwestern Bell was renamed SBC Communications, Inc.. This renamed company acquired Pacific Telesis in 1997 and Ameritech in 1998. In 2005 SBC acquired AT&T and retained the AT&T name. The following year the new AT&T merged with BellSouth, gaining full control of two original joint ventures between SBC and BellSouth, Cingular Wireless, and Yellowpages.com. AT&T is largest phone company in the United States.

How did the object we can’t live without come about?
A cell phone is a two-way communication technology over radio dating back to the 1920’s. AT&T developed the concept of cellular technology in 1947. The network architecture of wireless telephony divides a geographic area into multiple areas with limited size called “cells”, hence the common name “cell phones.” A cluster of cells covers a larger area, such as a city.

How does the network that we trust every day work? A cellular network consist of cellular base stations, mobile telephone switching offices, and mobile calling devices. When a user makes a call, the data is routed through the nearest cell phone tower to the mobile telephone switching office. If the call is going to another wireless subscriber in the same area, it is routed to the closest tower to the recipient and then to the phone. If the call is going to a wireless subscriber on another service or to someone with a landline phone, the call is routed to the public switch telephone network(PSTN). Many cell phone carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and other popular carries offer free mobile to mobile because it is cheaper to call other users in the same network than it is calling landlines and other users with a different subscriber.

1-2-3…How we got the super fast 3g Network
It all had to start somewhere. The first U.S. cellular system for commercial use was built in 1983, 37 years after the conception of the technology. The 1G network was the first and uniform standardized cellular services, AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Service), was launched on an experimental basis in Chicago. The first network used 800 MHz to 900 MHz frequency band, 1G was an analog technology for voice communications only. It was in the same year that Motorola introduced the first commercial cellular phone.

In the early 1990s the 1G analog network was taken over by the 2GHz band. This new band was allocated for digital telecommunications and the FCC allocated spectrum for PCS (personal communication services). It was now that the digital cellular are had arrived. The new digital network allowed for voice and data such as text messages or e-mails to be converted into 0s and 1s, which are transmitted securely over wireless networks. The 2G network delivered wireless voice and data with 14.4 Kb/s Data bandwidth, this was incomparable to the 1G network.

There is always room for improvement and although the 2G network was quite a jump in technology and was capable of many things such as sending text messages, photos and Internet connections on our cell phones the data transmission speed was lacking. Recently the next generation of wireless network technology was born the 3G network. The 3G network supports broadband voice and data, making it possible for carriers to offer broadband multimedia service for music, video, Web surfing, and two way videoconferencing. 3G networks also provide high-speed, cost effective access to the internet and intranets via Wi-Fi technologies. There is no single 3G standard.

Thanks to the 3G wireless technologies the wireless telephone has transformed from a person-to-person communication device into a convergent communication and entertainment platform. The 3G network most of Americans use every day on their phone transforms the device into a portable computer connected to a radio and converged with the Internet.

Internet Telephony: VoIP
For all you overseas travelers many of you have discovered the communication program called Skype. Skype is a prime example of VoIP technology. What exactly is VoIP? VoIP also referred to at Internet Telephony is a general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications over IP networks such as the Internet or other packet-switched networks. To make a call via the Internet, some basic equipment such as a computer, analog telephone, broadband modem, Wi-Fi router, or VoIP phone is required. A special technology is required to convert analog telephone signals to digital signals that can be sent over the internet. This function can either be included in the phone itself or in a special converter such as an ATA (analog terminal adapter or analog telephone adapter). Depending on the type of VoIP service, such as Skype, users can make VoIP calls using their PC.

There are many benefits of VoIP services compared to traditional telephone services such as lower costs, efficiency, innovative applications, and mobility.

Many technological advances have been made since the invention of the traditional telephone 133 years ago in 1876. People all over the world rely on communications means in the 21st century such as e-mail, internet conference calls, and cell phones that eliminate almost all possibilities of being without contact to the world. Who knows what technological advances will be made in the next 133 years.

(Grant & Meadows, Chapter 17 pgs. 245-255. 2008)


By Anna-Marie Parker
November 2009