Telecommunications, also known as telecom, is the exchange of information over significant distances by electronic means and refers to all types of voice, data and video transmission. This is a broad term that includes a wide range of information transmitting technologies such as telephones (wired and wireless), microwave communications, fiber optics, satellites, radio and television broadcasting, the internet and telegraphs.
A complete, single telecommunications circuit consists of two stations, each equipped with a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter and receiver at any station may be combined into a single device called a transceiver. The medium of signal transmission can be via electrical wire or cable (also known as “copper”), optical fiber, electromagnetic fields or light. The free space transmission and reception of data by means of electromagnetic fields is called wireless communications.
Types of telecommunications networks
The simplest form of telecommunications takes place between two stations, but it is common for multiple transmitting and receiving stations to exchange data among themselves. Such an arrangement is called a telecommunications network. The internet is the largest example of a telecommunications network. On a smaller scale, examples include:
- Corporate and academic wide-area networks (WANs)
- Telephone networks
- Cellular networks
- Police and fire communications systems
- Taxi dispatch networks
- Groups of amateur (ham)
- radio operators
- Broadcast networks
Data is transmitted in a telecommunications circuit by means of an electrical signal called the carrier or the carrier wave. In order for a carrier to convey information, some form of modulation is required. The mode of modulation can be broadly categorized as either analog or digital.
In analog modulation, some aspect of the carrier is varied in a continuous fashion. The oldest form of analog modulation is amplitude modulation (AM), which is still used in radio broadcasting at some frequencies. Digital modulation actually predates analog modulation; the earliest form was Morse code. Modern telecommunications use IPs (internet protocols) to carry data across underlying physical transmissions.
Role of telecommunications and socio-economic development
Telecommunication has very significant role to play in development of various sectors of the economy. In the 21st century, telecommunication sector has become pivotal to a country’s socio-economic development. It is one of the prime support services needed to promote growth and modernization of various sectors of an economy. Enormous growth of information and communication technology and its role in development of various sectors including services like finance, insurance, trade, hotel and business services as well as industry, agriculture and governance is commendable. Telecommunication infrastructure is somewhat different from other forms of infrastructure because of existence of network externalities, a phenomenon that increases the value of services with the increasing number of users. Thus the impact of telecommunication infrastructure on economic development is more pronounced as compared to other traditional infrastructure.
A modem network contributes to economic growth in four ways20 :
Business attractionJ Business retention
A sophisticated low cost telecommunications infrastructure makes information flow efficiently to and from more remote areas and is a factor when information- intensive corporations relocate. The same argument is extended by Boyle when he contends that the quality of telecommunications and mail services are the factors most often mentioned by the decision makers in case of corporate head quarters location or relocation.
Diversification of Economic Base
Most economists agree that diversity is the key to growth and stability. The less dependent a local economy is on one particular industry, the more likely it is to withstand cyclical downturns. Enhanced telecommunications services supported by a sophisticated network will allow small businesses/entrepreneurs to compete with large corporations that often have installed sophisticated private networks.
Enhancement of quality of life / delivery of vital social services
In many large cities, rush hour grid lock and poorly maintained roadways are all too familiar. In response, some government have implemented commuter and fuel taxes to discourage heavy use of public roads. Others have offered telecommuting as a solution, without a modem telecom network, however, telecommuting is impossible.
Increased competitiveness of existing firms
The manufacturing industry, for example, can more efficiently handle product design, inventory control and customer services using an advanced telecom network and computers. Service sector industry can provide more efficient transactions and electronic data interchange through extensive use of improved and advanced telecommunications.