Technology has completely changed the way that we communicate with one another. Some of us don’t even remember how telecommunications used to be, because the advancements have happened so quickly. Just to give you some perspective, the World Wide Web isn’t even 25 years old! In addition to the Internet, some of us can’t imagine a world without cellphones either, but mobile phones (especially smartphones) are a new phenomenon in telecommunications as well. Because so much has changed in the telecom industry, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at all of the ways that telecommunications has advanced in the past 30 years.
A couple of important changes in telecommunications occurred in 1986. On September 1st of that year, AT&T Corporation retired their third transatlantic cable, called the TAT-3. It ran from Tuckerton, New Jersey to the Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, England. But a couple of months later, an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) was deployed. ISDNs are telecom networks that can transmit voice, data and video digitally. While these changes were behind the scenes (and under the ocean), they were significant adjustments in the telecom industry.
1987 was an important year for telecommunications, especially for phones. This was the year that superconductivity was discovered. This scientific phenomenon is very technical, but its discovery revolutionized telecommunications. Superconductivity is used in Radio Frequency and Microwave filters, which are electronic filters used to operate on signals in the megahertz and gigahertz frequencies. These frequencies are used for radios, televisions, cellphones, Wi-Fi, etc. Most of the telecom devices we have today rely on these frequencies; so needless to say, 1987 was a big year for telecommunications!
Jumping forward in history, 1992 was the year that the revolutionary World Wide Web was launched. Saying that the World Wide Web changed the telecommunications industry would be an understatement. Both businesses and individuals began to communicate differently since the introduction of the Internet. Although the World Wide Web has not yet to reach its 25h birthday, using the Internet to communicate to others has become central to so many of us in America, and around the world.
The 1990’s were also important for the cellphone industry. Although the first cellular network was made in 1979 in Tokyo, the second generation (2G) of digital cellular networks was developed in the 90’s. Finland launched the first 2G GSM network in 1991. This new cellular network introduced SMS (text messaging) to the telecommunications industry. Downloadable content also became available on 2G networks for cellphones. And speaking of cellphones, the 1990’s gave birth to what is considered the first smartphone: the IBM Simon. Released in 1993, the IBM Simon was a phone, pager, PDA, and fax machine combined. It featured a touchscreen and a QWERTY keyboard, and it included email, calendar, notepad, address book, and a calculator. With the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the telecommunications industry became more open for more companies to use these technological advancements to provide telecom services.
The 2000’s saw even more revolutionary advancements to the telecom industry. 3G broadband data brought even faster speeds to cell networks in 2001 and 2002. In 2004, mass-market Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services were introduced to the telecom industry. VoIP service providers allow business and individuals to make phone calls through the internet. With the combination of DSL high-speed internet (which was introduced in 2001), VoIP provides users with unprecedented call quality and convenience. The end of the 2000’s saw the rise of 4G LTE cellular networks, which complemented the ever-advancing smartphones that now dominate the telecom industry.
In just 30 years, the telecommunications industry underwent so many advancements that it hardly looks like the same industry. And looking forward, we can expect the next 30 years to be as revolutionary.