Technology Guide 4 : Telecommunications and the Internet

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Technology Guide 4 : Telecommunications and the Internet


  1. What are data communications? What are the issues involved in data communications?

  1. Describe the two main types of data transmission media. What are three common electromagnetic media, and what are the advantages of each?

  1. What purpose do modems serve? What is the difference between simplex, half-duplex, and full-duplex transmissions? What is a multiplexor, and why is it used?

  1. Explain a network topology. What are the three common network topologies, and what are the relative advantages/disadvantages of each? What purpose does a PBX serve?

  1. What is bandwidth, and why is it important? What are the two types of data transmission synchronization, and how are they different? What is a data communications protocol?

  1. What is a common carrier? What is packet switching, and how does it work?

  1. What are some of the differences between paper mail and electronic mail? What is electronic data interchange, and why is it used? What is electronic funds transfer, and what industry is most likely to use it?

  1. Distinguish between a value-added network and a virtual private network.

  1. What is a global positioning system, and how is it used?

  1. What is an open system?


  1. Which transmission media would be the best for ships at sea? For a banking or automatic teller network? For remote news service providers?

  1. Some scientists recommend flip-flopping how people normally communicatethey recommend that voicecommunication move from phone line (e.g., cable) to radio and that radio/television move from radio to cable. What might be advantages to this? Disadvantages?

  1. What type of network topology might be best for an all-campus network? For a departmental network? For a hospital network?

  1. Under what conditions should a firm install a PBX instead of a local area network?

  1. Which is more important, bandwidth or protocol? Why or when?

  1. Why has the data communications industry expanded so rapidly in the last 10 years? Why are there so many new providers?

  1. Under what conditions might (textual) electronic mail be better than a facsimile? When would a facsimile be better than electronic mail?

  1. Relate the concept of open system to connectivity and Microsoft’s Windows.


  1. Contact a local business that uses a local area network of at least 15 nodes (e.g., terminals, computers, and printers). Identify and quantify the resources expended to manage the network on a per-node basis. What is the per-node variable cost of the network vs. The per-node fixed cost?

  1. Imagine you are designing a corporate information network for a fast food chain with 1,200 sites in 16 Eastern states. You hope to be able to predict customer demand and react to customer preferences better by acting collectively on all site sales data. What kind of network topology would be best for this situation? Should the network use the services of a common carrier for circuits, or should it manage its own communications circuits? What kind of communications applications should the network be capable of handling?

  1. Find five recent applications of global positioning systems in air, sea, and land situations. Prepare a report that outlines the benefits and the interfaces with other information systems.

Each member of the group is to be assigned to a company, government agency, or other organization. Each member will conduct an interview and identify the current and future applications of wireless communication. The group will compile the applications and make a class presentation.
Divide the class into two groups: one group advocating commercial development and management of a U.S. information superhighway, and the other group advocating government development and management (either federally or locally). Have group representatives give the respective business benefits of each option.

Minicase 1
Full-Featured Network Connects a City

Community leaders in Cupertino, California, have launched plans to build what may be the nation’s first citywide computer network linking residents, government, schools, and local corporations. For a $20 annual fee, any of Cupertino’s residents with a computer and phone line will be able to shop, job hunt, or obtain information about city programs and services. Local residents will no longer have to visit a city office in person to pick up a form or communicate with local officials. The network will also provide a channel for the city to disseminate information to citizens.

While a handful of U.S. communities have established electronic networks, these have been limited to single applications such as electronic bulletin boards. Cupertino’s network, however, will be full featured. Cupertino schools are expected to be the first on-line with access to database services and the Internet. The plan will eventually include all key institutions that people generally consult for informationschools, libraries, city government, the chamber of commerce, and major employers in the area. Costs?about $20,000 including hardware, software development, and initial deployment.
Questions for Minicase 1

  1. Could security or privacy problems arise through use of the Cupertino network?

  1. How could town managers effectively manage the information available over the networkmaking sure that it is accurate, complete, and timely?

  1. How could town businesses use the network?

  1. People go to city offices for more than just information (e.g., driver’s license renewal, marriage certificates, and building permits). Could these public transactions also take place over the network? What about civic equivalents of bank automatic teller machines for those without home computers?

SOURCE: Adapted from “Town Crier Goes On Line,” Information Week, May 10, 1993.

Minicase 2
Should the Hotel Chain Go Open System?

Eurotel is a large chain of hotels in Europe. Its hotels are scattered all over the continent. The company is using an aged IBM mainframe at its headquarters. Most of its 68 hotels use regular telephones to transmit information. Fax and express mail are used frequently. Headquarters feels that it needs to track numerous individual hotel functions closely. The existing system was found to be ineffective since data arrived too late, information is incomplete, and e-mail communication is incompatible with some hotels.

Stephen Class, the IS director, was looking for an improvement. Here are some of the possibilities he considered.

  1. Scrap the old system, and move to an enterprise open system environment. This option will require finding a Unix-based hotel management system (several exist), a Unix-based DBMS, and 4GL modeling language, and Unix-based hareware (minicomputers, mainframe) for both the individual cities and the hotels. The problem with this option is that it will be necessary to rewrite all the applications, including the reservation system. The connectivity problems in the existing components are just too big, so scraping is the only solution. A large investment will be required, and the projected time for the completion of the project is three to four years.

  1. Upgrade the existing mainframe system. This solution will not solve the problem completely, but there will be some improvements. In a few years, there will be a need for more improvements. The cost is minimal, and upgrading can be done within a month.

  1. Develop a corporate telecommunications network using LAN, WAN, and so on; use as much of the old equipment as possible; and invest money in solutions for the connectivity problem.

Questions for Minicase 2
What kind of telecommunications system would you suggest to build for alternative #1? (Provide a figure.)
What are the major differences between alternatives #2 and #3?
Prepare a list of the major advantages and disadvantages with each alternative.


  1. Black, U., Data Networks, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989.

  1. “Culture of Urgency,” Forbes ASAP, September 13, 1993.

  1. Derfler, F. J., Jr., “Linking LANs,” PC Magazine, March 16, 1993.

  1. Fitzgerald, J., Business Data Communications: Basic Concepts, Security, and Design, 4th Ed., New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1993.

  1. Gilder, G., “Into the Telecosm,” Harvard Business Review, March/April 1991.

  1. Harvey, G., “Making the Information Highway Work,” Business Quarterly, Spring 1994.

  1. “The Heavy Burden of LAN Costs,” Datamation, June 1, 1993.

  1. Keen, P. G. W., Shaping the Future: Business Design Through Information Technology, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1991.

  1. “Quick Response to Nervous Tummies,” Information Week, June 15, 1992.

  1. Roche, E. M., Telecommunications and Business Strategy, Chicago: The Dryden Press, 1991.

  1. Rockart, J. F., “The Line Takes the LeadershipIS Management in a Wired Society,” Sloan Management Review, Summer 1988.

  1. Rowe, S. H. II., Business Telecommunications, New York: Macmillan, 1991.

  1. Schroth, R., et al., “Wireless and the Untethered Organization,” Insights Quarterly, Summer 1993.

  1. Singleton, J. P., and M. M. Schwartz, “Data Access Within the Information Warehouse Framework,” IBM Systems Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, 1994.

  1. Springs, J. D., et al., Telecommunications Protocols and Design, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1992.

  1. Stewart, T. A., “Managing in a Wired company,” Fortune, July 11, 1994.

  1. Strauss, P., “Write Your Own Wireless Applications,” Datamation, September 15, 1994.

  1. “Town Crier Goes On Line,” Information Week, May 10, 1993.

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