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Hollywood’s Wireless Communication Pioneer

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

As we contemplate the arrival of 4th-Generation mobile wireless capabilities in the form of the LTE standard, I’m going to take us back in time to reflect on an unlikely and intriguing true story from the archives of radio communication history.

Most of us in the telecom industry know that there has been something of a spirited competition that’s been going on for some time between two very capable wireless technologies — CDMA and GSM.

GSM is far more widely deployed than CDMA – the former is widely considered to be a de facto global standard. Whereas CDMA is mostly limited to the U.S. and Canada, along with a few deployments in Asia. Both mobile radio standards are used to establish and manage the wireless connection between a mobile device and the nearest cell tower.

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The Evolution of Communication Networks

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

When the telephone network became a commercial offering in the waning years of the 19th century, its architecture was quite different than the switch-centric, hub-and-spoke system that we have today. In that first iteration there was no concept of switching, the mechanical or electrical process of setting up a temporary connection between two parties for the duration of the call.

To talk with David on the telephone in those days, I would have had to have a dedicated circuit installed between my house and his. If I also wanted to be able to call my son or daughter, I would have to have additional circuits installed from my house to theirs.

This leads to what is known in the world of network topology as the “n times n minus one over two problem.” N is the number of people who want to be able to communicate with each other, and the little equation yields the number of circuits that must be installed to allow n people to talk with each other. Five people require ten circuits, but beyond that the number goes exponential. For a small city of 35,000 people like Burlington, Vermont, where I live, the number of circuits required to connect the city this way would be somewhere north of 600 million.

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