|Issue:||Latin America I 2000|
|Topic:||Broadband Based Integrated Voice and Video Transmission in Latin America|
In the last few years the Internet evolved from an academic gadget confined to colleges, and became a revolution. It is now a powerful force changing the way we live, work, learn and play.
Nowadays, the Internet, consolidated as reality, is on its way to becoming ubiquitous. Right now, with the advent of high-speed access we are facing a basic change in the Internet. Until recently, most Internet access was low speed. Typically, dial-up connections of 28Kbps or 56Kbps were used. Some businesses and organisations used 64Kbps shared links. Greater speeds were possible, but very few companies or institutions could afford them. In fact, not so long ago, a 2Mbps link in Brazil cost close to US$ 50,000.00 per month. Now, 2 killer technologies are changing this landscape by making possible affordable high-speed access: cable-modems and ADSL. Cable-modem technology now uses standards defined by the cable industry itself. Industry-wide adoption of the standards rapidly made proprietary technologies obsolete and caused extremely fast drops in equipment prices. Nowadays, the cable modem is becoming a consumer product; TVs and videocassettes will soon have integrated cable modems incorporated. Cable modems can provide fast, shared line, connections of up to 40Mbps. ADSL makes use of the same copper line as a regular telephone service; it provides up to 6Mbps per user. Despite the lack of full ADSL standardization, many tests of interoperability have been performed by different vendors. We expect that by the end of this year connection standards will emerge. Both the cable and ASDL technologies are primarily aimed at individual users or, in some cases, the SOHO market. As they evolve, though, more and more large companies will start to use them, initially for telecommuting employees and later for connections betwen branches. As high speed access technologies become increasingly available, Internet users, themeselves, will have to face the challenge of how to deal with the large amount of data generated. Certain technologies will be used increasingly to handle the traffic: very big routers. Routers are the basis of Internet traffic handling. They “decide” where to send it packets. The dramatic increase of packet velocity and volume creates a need for smarter routers. Since the core routers need to keep track of every address in Internet, they will need greatly expanded memory to “memorize” the growing number of users. Ciscos GSR12000 is an example of the big routers needed to handle the growth of Internet traffic; in Brazil, just a couple of years ago, there was only one – now there are more than 10. QOS, or “Quality of Service,” is not a single technology, but a family of technologies that make possible simultaneous voice, data and video on the Internet. That is necessary because voice and video transmission are more sensitive to delays and drops of packets than standard, data only, Internet. Todays Internet is, inherently, a “best effort to deliver” technology. QOS creates a different class of service, making sensitive priority packets the last to be discarded. QOS is a very versatile technology; it enables Service Providers (ISPs) to create separate classes of service and charge for them differently. One service, for example, called 3 class, is a scheme to provide premium voice and video services with low delay and low drop, a medium grade service with medium loss and drop for corporate data, and basic service for domestic users or free internet access. VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a technology that enables businesses to create a secure “tunnel” inside an insecure shared network. This technology is used together with high speed access technology, so employees can access their company networks through the Internet without loss of security that transmission via this public network might otherwise entail. To successfully deploy this technology, powerful management capabilities are needed that can simultaneously serve hundreds of users. Optical technologies will be increasingly used to provide networks with increased bandwidth. Fibre optics are the best solution for high-speed data transmission. A new set of exciting equipment is starting to appear including optical cross-connects that route connections using only optical information, and WDM (wave division multiplexing) a technology that combines hundreds of signals on a single optical fibre. These new technologies expand the capacity of a single fibre by a factor of 100. The broadband Internet revolution creates an important social challenge. How can basic access be provided to as many people as possible? The Internet is already creating two classes of citizen: those with Internet access and those without access. The opportunities, both economic and social, available to those with access will be vastly different than the opportunities available to that part of the population outside of, without access to, this technology. My vision is that this challenge will be resolved in a variety of ways. As the basic equipment becomes cheaper, year by year, more people will be able to afford Internet access. Color TV is a good example of how this might work. Few people could afford it in the 1970s, but it has become so cheap now that it is almost ubiquitous. Another trend, free Internet access, will allow an increasingly large sector of the population to get on the net. More and more companies provide free Internet access in order to increase their user bases. They get their revenue through advertisements – the more users they have, the more they can charge advertisers. Public institutions – schools, colleges, associations, etc – are also providing Internet access and helping to bring even more people into the community of Internet users. As technologies evolve, a very new set of aplications will become available to users; one of the most important is learning at a distance. In fact, electronic learning, or e-learning will be probably one of the killer applications of 2000s. E-learning is made possible by combining high speed Internet and new content development. E-learning will have many flavours. Home courses will combine voice together with video images of the instructor and of supporting materials such as drawings, pictures and the like. Courses will be modularized so we can update our knowledge in short sessions of 1, 2 or 3 hours per day, whenever they can be fit into our personal schedules. E-learning can also be used to spread specific knowledge. For instance, a speaker in an auditorium can talk to, maybe, 200 or 300 people at a time, but if his speech is broadcast on the Internet it can reach thousands. A top rate surgeon can broadcast his work and spread his knowledge, live, to medical colleges worldwide. Conclusion I think that Internet and E-learning will contribute importantly to the transformation of our society into a better place for an increasingly large percentage of the worlds population.