Merriam-Webster online defines telecommunication as “communication at a distance” and telecommunications as the “study of telecommunication.” Such general definitions can lead to numerous variations, such as telegraphy and telephony. Over the last several hundred years there have been numerous ways to communicate at a distance.
What began as telegraphy (pure data) migrated to telephony (voice) and today has been broadened to include high-speed data and entertainment. No set rules define how information flow is handled in the telecommunications arena. A voice call could travel over multiple separate networks and be carried in many different forms between the originator and the destination. The customer receives the service it desires, and the providers deliver it in the most efficient way they can. The same can be said for email, Web content, and television shows.
The definition of telecommunications presented here is very broad. It includes personal communications of all forms, enterprise communications, and the communications to control and manage the networks themselves.
Where Does Communications Take Place?
Telecommunications today knows no boundaries. A wide variety of people connect with one another using wired and wireless devices from a wide variety of locations. Telecommunications devices can monitor babies in their cribs as well as senior citizens with Alzheimer’s. Instant communications, either by voice (mobile phones) or data (instant messaging on PDAs) is possible in almost every corner of the globe. People can view the weather forecast of their exotic vacation destination or read the personal feelings of total strangers in blogs.
Telecommunications has become so commonplace that restrictions are being enforced to limit the amount of communications in certain areas. Schools, movie theaters, and restaurants are limiting the use of mobile phones and PDAs because of the distractions they cause. In some countries access to the Internet is strictly controlled. However, access to people, information, and entertainment has become significantly easier and continues to change how society interacts in business and personal lives.
Since communications has become easier, people are now often expected to be available at all times. Business travelers can and are expected to stay connected while on the road (e.g., this page is being created while wirelessly connected to the Internet in the Atlanta Airport). Such changes can be beneficial and intrusive at the same time.