Getting Your Message Across In The Future
For centuries humankind has been driven to communicate more effectively. To begin with we used grunts and gestures to convey what we wanted, how we felt and to alert each other to imminent danger. Later we used means like smoke signals, semaphore and postal services to communicate these messages over great distances. Then came the electric telegraph and, following that, analogue telephony revolutionised our ability to communicate.
The introduction of digital technology in the 1980s again changed the way we communicate with each other and send and receive our messages. We now talk on fixed line or mobile phones, purchase items using EFTPOS or credit cards, email one another, access the Internet, bank online, surf, set up our own virtual private networks and much more.
It's a far cry from smoke signals. But what's next?
Telecom's Chief Technology Officer, Dr Murray Milner says for the past few years Telecom has been gradually entering a new era in Telecommunications - the era of the Internet Protocol (IP). Internet Protocol is a standard way on encoding voice signals or words or numbers into the bits and bytes which in turn can be transmitted over the networks and then re-assembled as voice signals and information on a screen.
Sending an email is an example of how data can be sent in packets Every time your computer is connected to the Internet it is given its own IP address to differentiate it from all the other PCs connected to the Internet at that time.
When you send an email, the message gets divided into packets that contain both your IP address and the address of the person you are emailing. The packets are passed around different routes until they reach the destination address.
Packets may arrive in a different order than the order they were sent in. The Internet Protocol just delivers them and your PC uses another Protocol (the TCP protocol) to put them back in the right order.
So how will an IP network affect the user?
Milner says that with an IP network Telecom will provide all the services they do currently and more.
"An IP network will allow customers to benefit from services currently being developed (such a video transmitted to you down your PC) and applications that don't even exist yet - like video messaging. And it will all be over just one connection into our homes or workplaces."
For example, an existing communications set-up for a Petrol Station might mean different cables are laid to connect a telephone, a fire alarm, an EFTPOS machine, business data links, and a circuit allowing for secure transactions to the bank.
With an IP network, one connection be it fibre optic, copper or wireless can carry all those services to the station.
It won't happen overnight - but it will happen over the next decade or so. Those wishing to adopt IP network technology will have to invest in new equipment but in the long run Telecom say the new network will provide value for money. Milner predicts business will be the first to adopt the technology as the benefits of centralised hosting of applications and of remote networking - for instance using your laptop to connect into your company network while in a taxi - will be highly valued.
And the benefits for consumers? People will be able to transfer audio and video to each other, have greater capacity to play online games and be able to host web sites from their PC," says Milner.