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Impact on the environment
Telecommunications is a relatively clean and discreet industry that creates very few emissions or pollution and uses few non-renewable resources. But it's not to say it has no environmental impact - it has.

Running cables and wires from place to place, or sending signals between towers, dishes and aerials has an impact on the landscape. If you try to route it all underground, that creates an impact too - every time you need to lay or repair a cable.
Wires over the ground
The easiest and cheapest way to construct a wired telecommunication network is to string the wires up over the ground, suspending them from poles.

It looks basic but that's not to say that there's no expertise and technology involved.

It's a lot more complicated and involved than it looks ...
Laying underground cables
A telecommunications operator can reduce the visual intrusion of its network by laying all cables underground. Nothing could be simpler...

Generally, only up to a point. It's expensive to bury cables underground - and very difficult to reach them for repair, maintenance and replacement once they're there. Also, laying cables underground is quite an involved and complex business.
Laying submarine cables
The difficulties of laying a cable network on land pale into insignificance compared with those involved in laying cable under the sea.

The main problems are in surveying the route beforehand - finding a nice flat stretch of seabed - and also in paying out miles of cable without it snapping. Then you have the problem of making sure the cable remains working thousands of feet underwater - and repairing it if it goes wrong.

Specialised techniques and cable laying ships are a must ...
What is behind your tv
You might think that televisions signals are transmitted exclusively over the airwaves - but that's not so. In fact, transmission from a tower is only the last link in the chain - and even that is changing as television becomes digital and distributed in different ways.

Throughout television history there has always been a large and hidden distribution network - a 'secret' infrastructure of feed points, cables, microwave and satellite links that covers the whole country and circles the globe. For years, this 'hidden' network was only really known to network and broadcast engineers ...
fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...