Technological advances in telecommunications (3511)


Technological advances in telecommunications (v.2.0)

  • Instructor: David Ellis, PhD
  • jdae (at) (replies sent during business hrs only)

Course description

This course provides a basic review of modern telecommunications technologies, and how they developed from the legacy systems used by telephone carriers in the developed world.

The central theme of the course is the remarkable extent to which, in a few short years, most telecommunications services have been subsumed by the Internet and Internet-related technologies. We pay particular attention to the adoption of Internet protocol (IP) and packet-switched networking, which has replaced conventional voice-telephone technology and circuit-switching. In parallel with these advances in network design, telecommunications has undergone a transformation in backend technologies. One of the most far-reaching of these trends concerns the evolution of local telephone exchanges into data centers to support communications across the public Internet. We also examine how these changes are related to the revolution in ICTs known as cloud computing.

The course is designed to allow students to expand on what they have learned in 2000-level courses such as COMN 2500 (Information and Technology), and 3000-level courses such as COMN 3510 (Considerations in Telecommunications), while preparing them for more advanced work in 4000-level courses such as COMN 4520 (Electronic Information Network Marketplace).

Course outcomes

By taking this course, you can expect to:

  1. understand the limits of your knowledge as a “digital native”
  2. appreciate the advantages of learning without the distractions of phones and computers
  3. learn what sets telecommunications apart from broadcasting and other mass media
  4. learn how the Internet works as an engineering marvel
  5. conduct some basic measurements of network performance
  6. become more aware of the many risks to your online security
  7. develop numeracy skills like how to construct a clear, accurate data table
  8. become a more critical consumer of telecom services like Internet access.

Course materials for download

  • Syllabus: v.2.1 (Jan 21: pdf)
  • Course stylesheet: for all written work except quizzes (pdf)
  • The good layout (pdf)
  • Instructor slidedecks (often edited): Jan 11 (#1-pdf) / Jan 18 (#2-pdf) / Jan 25 (#3-pdf) / Feb 1 (#4-pdf) / Feb 8 (#5-pdf) / Mar 1 (#7-pdf) / Mar 8 (#8-pdf) / Mar 15 (#9-pdf) / Mar 22 (#10-pdf)
  • Netheads vs Bellheads: vocab list pdf


Weekly outline

Wed Jan 11 (#1) – Orientation: course syllabus, grading, student responsibilities

Discussion: What are telecommunications technologies?

Wed Jan 18 (#2) – Network types and topologies (1): your grandma’s landline 

  • Reading (R1): Stephen Ressler, Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), Kanopy video (2015, 30 min: HTML – requires YorkU sign-in)

Wed Jan 25 (#3) – Network types and topologies (2): voice declines, data rises

  • Reading (R2): Steve Steinberg, “Netheads vs Bellheads,” Wired (Oct 1996: HTML)

Wed Feb 1 (#4) – Network types and topologies (3): everything over IP

  • Reading (R3): Severance videos on TCP/IP (2012: Dropbox)
  • Reading (R4): David Isenberg, Rise of the Stupid Network (1997: HTML)

Wed Feb 8 (#5) – Wireline vs wireless (1): from POTS to PANS

  • Reading (R5): Stephen Ressler, Cellular Phone Technology, Kanopy video (2015, 30 min: HTML – requires YorkU sign-in)

Wed Feb 15 (#6) – Wireline vs wireless (2): the broadband Internet 

  • Reading (R6): FCC, Measuring Broadband America: Fixed Broadband Report, 2016 (pdf)


>> Wed Feb 22 – reading week: no class <<

Wed Mar 1 (#7) – Cloud computing (1): the new-ish paradigm

  • Reading (R7):Wikipedia entry – Cloud computing (HTML)

Wed Mar 8 (#8) – Cloud computing (2): virtually everything virtualized

  • Reading (R8): Virtualization—an Introduction, Kanopy video (25 min: HTML)

Wed Mar 15 (#9) – Cloud computing (3): from local exchange to carrier hotel 

  • Reading (R9): Fast Company, “Are We Breaking The Internet?” (Mar 5, 2017-HTML)
  • Reading: data center defined, Webopedia

Wed Mar 22 (#10) – Global IP traffic: welcome to the Zettabyte Era

  • Reading (R10): Cisco, “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2015–2020″ (June 2016: pdf)

Wed Mar 29 (#11) – Course review, notebook grading, course evals

Wed Apr 5 (#12) – Final in-class exam (3 hrs)