Technological Advances and Challenges in the Telecommunications field


REMARKABLE PROGRESS in telecommunications technology has had, and will continue to have, an enormous impact on telecommunications manufacturing and service industries. In particular, digital technology that integrates transmission, switching, processing, and retrieval of information provides opportunities to merge various service modes into an integrated whole. This digitalization, merging the communications and computation functions, has been made possible by dramatic advances in device and material technology, including integrated circuits and optical fibers. As the role of digital processing increases, systems and services become more intelligent and labor-saving on the one hand, and more software-intensive on the other.


The invention of transistors and the subsequent progress of solid-state circuit technology revolutionized information technology, bringing such innovations as digital transmission, digital switching, and digital computers. The advent of optical fibers, lasers, photodiodes, and other photonic devices permitted lightwave communication over great distances. Clearly, major systems in modern telecommunication have been deeply dependent on innovations in the area of electronic devices and materials. This trend, often referred to as the microelectronics revolution, will intensify in the years ahead. New systems will depend more on the development of new devices and materials.


As telecommunication technology becomes increasingly digital and computer-oriented, one major problem is the rising cost of software development and production. Although advances in device technology are lowering hard-ware costs, software costs are soaring. The increase is due to the constant demand for more sophisticated and diversified types of software, as well as to the high labor costs associated with software development and production.


Whenever industry has changed in structure, workers in traditional industrial sectors have become obsolete and lost their jobs, and newly emerging industrial sectors have suffered from a shortage of workers. The present structural change brought about largely by information technology is no exception. Skilled workers, such as those who assemble telecommunication equipment, are losing their jobs to large-scale integration and the increasing use of industrial robots. Fewer telephone and telegraph operators and maintenance crews in switching centers are needed because of automation and digitalization. Jobs of general office workers are also threatened by the rapid penetration of word processors and other.