A World Before Telecoms

A World Before Telecoms

Many of us now have three telephones, one on our desk at work, another at home, and a third in our pocket or handbag. It is hard to remember what the world was like before telecoms were so ubiquitous, but just one generation ago, the population still relied heavily on public phone boxes. Even London’s Metropolitan Police operated via a network of fixed landlines, now mainly remembered as Doctor Who’s transport of choice!

In the early 20th Century, before the telephone gained in popularity, most communication between businesses was done via telegraph. Operators would send and receive messages in Morse Code transmitted using radio waves. Each message would then be decoded and delivered by hand to the final recipient.

Telegraphs (and telegrams) could be sent internationally in minutes, which was far faster than traditional postal networks and offered significant business advantages to those companies rich enough to afford the technology. However the final leg of the journey, getting the decoded transmission into the hands of the recipient, could take quite some time, particularly when that individual was located away from the local telegraph station.

The telegram revolutionized international communication, but the process was still resource intensive. Several people were involved in getting a message from A to B, each one potentially a point of failure. There was also significant outlay involved in creating a customized communications network, to meet the specific needs of a multi-national business.

Modern telecoms owe much of their heritage to transmission-based communications built on the telegraph, but offer significant improvements too. VoIP telecoms use the freely-accessible, publicly-managed Internet to provide the backbone of their service, in a similar way to the way that telegrams needed a network of listening posts to forward messages. VoIP and SIP trunking no longer needs human intervention to forward a call, instantly lowering the chances of operator error. The whole VoIP process is virtually instantaneous, regardless of the distances between caller and recipient, again offering significant business advantages.

VoIP is also making communications fully mobile, with Internet-routed calls now possible to-and-from mobile phones. Long time VoIP provider Skype is to be joined by Apple’s FaceTime Audio service later in 2013, complimenting existing mobile video conferencing solutions for consumers. Meanwhile existing telecoms giant Avaya has released Scopia video conferencing for business users, allowing calls between multiple attendees on any device, in any place, at any time. Modern voice and video tools show how far business communication has come from the days of the plain text telegram, offering a more engaging and immersive medium to ensure the underlying ‘point’ of any message is not missed.

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