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Emerging technologies

Satellite Communications

Cable and satellite : looking for broadband

The digital cable and satellite television facilities now serving Britain could provide the backbone of a new broadband network carrying not just digital television feeds, but personal voice and data delivery as well.

Some people are already piggybacking their Internet connections off digital television in this way but relatively few people have cable connection - and the cable operators have been struggling to extend and re-equip their networks.

Satellite provides another possibility, but existing home satellite terminals are one-way receiving devices only.

ADSL facilities

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) : data direct down phone lines

The Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) process uses digital technology to exploit the unused bandwidth on copper telephone lines for carrying a high-speed data stream. The technique is implemented in several forms.

The most common is Asymmetrical DSL (ADSL), which allows voice and data to be sent simultaneously over a standard home telephone line, providing faster download than upload speed (hence asymmetrical). Other variations use different standards and grades of connection to provide high bandwidth connections. Generically they are termed xDSL.

If we were all connected using one of the xDSL techniques, we would be living in a broadband world, where the Internet was really high speed - finally allowing some of the dreams to come true.

Concept image of a fridge with a built in computer screen

Future technology : an address for everything

The most important technical advance in data communication being developed currently may not be a technology - but a protocol.

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) has also been called 'next generation' internet.

The current protocol (IPv4) gives a theoretical maximum of 4 billion Internet addresses. It sounds a lot, but IPv6 provides a lot more. It's been calculated that IPv6 will provide 665,570,793,348,866,943,898,599 addresses per square metre of the surface of the planet Earth!

That will allow machines to start connecting with each other, assuming the economics work out. Sewing machines could download patterns from the Web. Fridges could report when they ran short of milk. Add voice or personal chip recognition into the mix and the future vision becomes one of devices that recognise who and where we are. We will no longer have to seek information - rather it will present itself to us. In theory at any rate.

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...