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The New Telecommunications: Infrastructure for the Information Age.

We live in a world which is continually being transformed an increasing rate due to technological breakthroughs. We have entered the Information Age. The infrastructure of the Information Age is being created by fusing together the technologies of computers and telecommunications and by creating intelligent networks. The super highways of these intelligent networks will carry voice, video images and text through the next generation of laser switches. This new packet switching, unlike the current circuit switching, will transmit digital information over fiber-optic networks at the speed of light using photons rather than the slow moving electrons which are now being used. These developments have implications not only for individuals and businesses but also for national policy.

Telecommunications will completely transform the way people will live and work. It will reshape corporate structures and enhance the benefits to be gained from better communications within and between hierarchical organizations and the efficient workings of the marketplace. It will significantly change the structure of cities, slates and nations and will lead to economic growth by increasing productivity and by creating new industries related to the management and processing of information. These new industries will produce fiber optic phone lines, earth-orbiting satellites, phone switches especially the new packet switches), and transmission gear and software for the phone companies.

What other changes can we expect? Intelligent networks will improve health care in rural hospitals by linking them to big-city medical experts. It will boost telecommuting. Electronic communications through networks will make people more productive by making available to them information which would otherwise not be available so freely. New wireless technologies like cellular networks and satellite communications would also be of global dimensions, linking people scattered over wide distances.

The New Telecommunications is a very timely and highly readable book. The book is divided into five parts which are subdivided into twelve chapters. Part I introduces the intelligent network. The author notes that telecommunications has moved from the position of a utility to the new strategic position of an investment in progress. In chapter 1, the author traces the development of telecommunications and skillfully argues that the combination of computer technology and technological breakthroughs in communications technology has set the stage for the development of the intelligent network which is both a national information resource and a communications medium.

Part 11 considers telecommunications as a strategic investment. Chapter 2 describes how telecommunications adds value by enhancing the performance of employees. Chapter 3 describes how investment in telecommunications infrastructure enhances economic development.

Part 111 discusses applications of telecommunications. Chapter 4 explains that to obtain increased flexibility and lower costs, many large businesses including General Motors, Wal-mart, Lucky Goldstar, etc., increasingly use satellite or microwave links and thus bypass public networks. Chapter 5 explains how several small businesses have benefitted by using WATS, in bound "800 toll-free" numbers and FAX services. Many pharmacies and hardware stores use personal computers and modems to connect with a large network which helps them to serve their customers better and reduce costs. However, generally the divestiture of the Bell system has benefitted larger companies much more than smaller ones. Chapter 6 discusses business applications of telecommunications technology. High performance networks are being used to communicate and enhance scientific knowledge across states and nations. This has accelerated the growth of scientific knowledge and economic development. Chapter 7 states that the intelligent network will provide increasingly important services for our homes, such as entertainment news, education, and work-from-home. Chapter 8 discusses how public services can benefit greatly from telecommunications applications; current applications include distance learning, on-line consultation for physicians, job listings, and resource conservation systems, for example.

Part IV discusses the roles of telecommunications in economic development. Chapter 9 describes how the divestiture of AT&T opened new options for states in the regulation of telecommunications, and has caused many states to consider how telecommunications can contribute to their economic development. Chapter 10 discusses why a city should consider telecommunications planning as a strategic investment to attract and retain companies and to stimulate economic development. Chapter 11 discusses how the applications of telecommunications can reduce the problems of distance and lack of population density in rural areas thus providing distance learning, creating large markets for small businesses, providing better market information for farmers and ranchers, and coordination of rural health care delivery and administration.

The last chapter of the book concludes with a discussion of the future of the intelligent networks. Williams warns that while Japan and the European Common Market are in the process of building the intelligent networks, the U.S. has no clear national policy to help build the infrastructure for leadership in the Information Age. In 1910, AT&T defined the telephone as the universal service affording any subscriber the opportunity to communicate with any other subscriber. Williams stresses that we need to redefine universal service for the subscribers of intelligent networks. We are moving from regulation to competition but are not devoting sufficient resources at the national level to provide certain basic services necessary to a citizen's life in the Information Age. There is a need to find a proper balance between market forces versus public services as far as this universal service is concerned.
COPYRIGHT 1991 St. John's University, College of Business Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Dubas, Khalid M.
Publication:Review of Business
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1991
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