The Impact of Fiber Optic Networks on Modern Global Society

It has been noted before that of the three broad components in the realm of modern day Internet Technology – networks, terminals, and services – the first of these, networks, encompasses different varieties of access network available, which are Fixed Telephony, Broadband, Mobile Telephony, Television Networks, and Home Networks.

1) Fixed telephony or dial-up using a modem is the most basic method of making an internet connection. Although it does not have all the advantages characteristic of broadband, it has been the starting point for many internet users, and is a basic alternative for areas of lesser development. In nearly all the industrialized countries, the proportion of homes with fixed telephone lines is very high. In the exceptions – such as Austria, Finland, Portugal and Spain – it is only because of the strong effect of more and more consumers susbtituting mobile phones for land lines. In fact, in Spain, Internet access via dial up telephone network (aka the narrowband) has virtually disappeared. In 2003, half of all Internet connections there were narrowband. Currently, Broadband accounts for 97% of connections in Spain.

2) Broadband speed primarily refers to a means of being able to access the internet several times faster than with standard dial up using modems. The threshhold for exactly how fast this must be to qualify as ‘Broadband’ varies from one agency to another. There are actually a number of differing technologies used in different countries for achieving Broadband speed, including optical fiber; cables designed in principle for television distribution; satellite transmission; DSL, supported through the traditional telephone network; and others still under development. The development model for connectivity is different in each country, and the decisions of regulators in each country have resulted in different market structures.

Because the Internet is evolving rapidly with a large increase in content heavy in bandwidth, such as music and videos, users are finding that more traditional networks often do not have enough capacity to support adequate levels of quality traffic; and this problem will only grow over time, given current levels of growth. Also, broadband is preferred as it does not tie up the phone line, improves speed of access, and makes it feasible to always be connected.

Many internet users in members states of the OECD – Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – are currently undergoing upgrades to fiber optic broadband. The OECD, founded in 1961, now includes most European and English speaking countries, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and Mexico, and was just expanded in 2010 to include Chile, Israel, Estonia and Slovenia. At the end of 2007, the overall proportion of broadband connections relying on optic fiber in all OECD countries was at 9 percent, up from 8 percent a year earlier. DSL continues to dominate the broadband market overall with 60 percent of broadband connections (80% of European ones), and cable is in second place with 29 percent. However, the establishment of optical fiber broadband technology is not at all uniform across all OECD members. Japan and South Korea account for 44.5 percent and 39.2 percent of broadband connections using this technology, with only 1% of such connections being in Europe, which has only just begun renovating its current technology to allow for fiber optics.

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