June 29, 2010

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How Data Travels Along a “Wireless” Network: With Infographic

A few weeks ago, I sent a picture to my coworker Vijay Venkateswaran from my iPhone. Vijay is our Senior Director of mobile broadband products in our Mobile Services Group. I realized after I sent it that I had no idea how the photo traveled from my phone to his laptop.

I mean, I’m pretty sure that it’s not painted on there by gremlins, and I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t just fly in a straight line from my device in New York to his in Herndon. But I couldn’t prove that it doesn’t do that, either.

I asked Vijay how it is that a photo from a phone actually does travel to a laptop, and he told me. And man, it’s really complicated.

We put together this infographic to illustrate the process. It’s amazing to me that it only takes somewhere between a few seconds to a minute, most of the time, for all of this to happen. I can’t believe it works so well as often as it does.

Here’s the graphic – click on the image to see it in full-size, or follow the link here.

How Data Travels: From a Mobile Device to a Laptop

I was pretty surprised by how much time a supposedly “wireless” signal spends traveling along a wire.

Glenn Britt (our CEO) spoke about hybridized wireless/wired networks on an earnings call a few months ago. The following comments are taken from that call, excerpted by WiMax.com.

“This will develop in exciting ways that we really can’t quite imagine today. I think there’s going to be a whole array of products using these types of networks in the future,” TWC CEO Glenn Britt said. “I don’t think any of us can fully imagine what the products are going to be. But it’s an exciting opportunity.”

Road Runner Mobile is already being marketed in Dallas, Hawaii and parts of North Carolina. But Britt says this is just the beginning of many products the company envisions arising from its hybrid wireline/wireless network.

“I think the networks of the future are hybrid networks where similar products are going to be offered to a whole variety of devices,” Britt said. “I think what we’re doing with Clearwire is just the beginning.”

Although Time Warner is working with Clearwire and Sprint Nextel on a 4G wireless voice product, Britt was reluctant to suggest the MSO is planning to market WiMax voice services.

“[It does not] appear we really need that in our product portfolio. But we have the capability if we actually need it.”

Want to know more about mobile and wireless broadband services? Drop your questions in the comments and I’ll see if I can turn them into a future post.

+- 4 Comments

  1. Alex K's reply

    Nice one! I think it is one of these things that we all take for granted… The message just gets there.
    Few people realize the enormous tech-infrastructure behind this. Not to think of all the people working to maintain these systems!
    A bit scary too… if you think that one broken link would probably down a vast part of the system!

  2. Evology Now's reply

    I think the word “wireless” itself is part of the reason we think so little about this. I’m definitely one of those many people that know next to nothing about the infrastructure behind our wireless networks, so this was really cool and informative to see.

  3. Doug's reply

    I completely understand all the ins and outs of this technology and I still find it absolutely amazing! I’ve watched this technology from start to present and it’s been an incredible trip. I remember going from a 1200 baud modem to a 5600 baud, to 9600 baud to 14400 to 56K to finally DSL and then HSD! And that was a space of 10 years! Just wait for the next 10 years!!

  4. Hotel perpignan's reply

    Thank you for your interesting article. I came here by chance.

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