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The information superhighway was a term coined in the 90s, but it’s still a useful term in 2020. Never before has the internet been more accessible — or more needed — than it is today. But even with technological advancements such as connected devices in most homes and accessible network connections in many cities and towns, there still remains almost a third of households in the United States that don’t have access to the internet. 

Morgan Kurk is the CTO of Commscope, a company you’ve probably never heard of, but one that more than likely powers the internet lines that run to your home. Morgan joined IT Visionaries to discuss the growing digital divide across the country, how the information superhighway actually works, and why some types of data lines that power your internet connection are on their way out.

Main Takeaways

  • There’s a Lag: Currently one of the biggest issues surrounding communication networks is that of latency. While the lag experienced in Zoom calls and movie buffering is annoying, the bigger issue actually revolves around software. Most internet-based software is designed to operate at the highest capacity and if networks can’t keep up, consumers are going to experience vexing results.
  • A Growing Divide: Currently a third of the continental United States is without access to broadband internet. But there are two ways companies are working to close this gap: the first is through a subsidized government internet, and the second is through a series of satellites that will help provide access to more rural areas.
  • Converging Network: Currently, a lot of internet infrastructures are going through a convergence. Whether it’s a network like 5G, a coax or fiber line, many of the networks these sources operate on are converging to operate more efficiently with one another.

 

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.


 

The information superhighway was a term coined in the 90s, but it’s still a useful phrase in 2020. Never before has the internet been more accessible— or more needed — than it is today. But even with technological advancements such as connected devices in most homes, accessible internet at every stop, there still remains almost a third of households in the United States that don’t have access to the internet. 

Morgan Kurk is the CTO of Commscope, a company you’ve probably never heard of, but one that more than likely powers the internet lines that run to your home. Morgan joined IT Visionaries and discussed the growing digital divide across the country, how the information superhighway actually works, and why some types of data lines that power your internet connection are on their way out.

Commscope is a communications network and equipment supplier that deals in everything from the core of infrastructure networks, to access layers, to the edge of the network, while also dealing in both passing gear and active gear. Kurk likes to say that if you have access to the internet, more than like you are utilizing one of their products.

“The way I like to have you think about this is if you used your cell phone today, if you got on the internet, or if you watch television, you were running over Commscope equipment somewhere,” Kurk said. 

Connecting people and devices is at the core of Commscope’s responsibilities, but Kurk mentioned that as the internet and other forms of communication become more accessible, so too do the intricacies of the network. From DSL cables to coax to fiber, there are many ways to access the internet. Each of those avenues possessed many advantages and disadvantages, and speed is at the center of most issues.

“Right now we are in the midst of the biggest network transformation since the beginning of all of the networks,” Kurk said. “Whether you’re moving from 4G to 5G, the architectures are converging. [All these different systems] are becoming far more like each other than they are being different and discreet.”

Kurk said that there are two main reasons most of these different forms of architecture are beginning to converge. The first of those reasons is what Kurk refers to as the efficiency equation, which is the cost per bit

“Everybody’s trying to get data everywhere,” he said. “Connecting every point of data to everywhere, that’s the area component of it and then it’s the cost per bit. So how much does it cost to move a bit across this network to get to wherever you need to go?”

The second part of the equation is virtualization. Engineers and companies like Commscope used to design very specific chips for individual pieces of hardware in the forms of servers and switches. Now, that process is being converted to streamline the approach.

“We’re moving all of this from one thing to another, which really improves efficiency,” Kurk said. 

While these networks converge in order to benefit the overall workflow, the biggest issue for most users at home remains the overall speed of the network. With more and more employees working from home, simple things like upload and download speeds, video conferencing, and connectivity have taken center stage. But while those are all big issues for the consumer, Kurk stressed the biggest challenge for these networks moving forward will be latency issues, or the lag the user experiences.

“Networks have been getting faster and faster for a very long time,” Kurk said. “The future [of these networks], is actually a parameter called latency.”

Kurk explained latency as the amount of delay, or lag, that the user is experiencing and it’s something networks are constantly trying to optimize for. So why is latency such an integral issue? Kurk mentioned that as more software is built to run at optimal capacity, if the network can’t support the speeds at which that same software is designed to run, the consumer is going to get frustrated. 

“The applications that we are going to just be jazzed about are going to require much more latency and sensitive networks,” he said. “We work in a real-time environment and latency really is stopping us from being in real-time. So things like virtual reality and virtual augmentation, and doing that collectively amongst people that are separated by long distances is not the speed, it’s the latency.”

While networks continue to operate more efficiently and the user experience continues to improve, the growing issue domestically is that a third of American households still are without access to the internet. It’s an issue that has been coined the digital divide, something Kurk referred to as an issue of economics.

“The issue is really one of economics,” Kurk said. “When you have less density, you still need to physically install a lot of media or physically install things to get connectivity. And that makes the economics challenging for customers.” 

According to Kurk, there are two distinct ways that communication companies are working to close this gap. The first is through a subsidized internet through the government. The second is through a series of satellites that will provide internet access to rural areas as opposed to companies having to lay physical lines in new areas.

Commscope conducted a survey a few years ago asking people to identify where they ranked the need for the internet in their homes. The results showed that internet access ranked second among home necessities to only electricity.

So what is the future of the communication space and which forms of cable lines are at the end of their life cycle? Find out by checking out the full episode of IT Visionaries.

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