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Fixed-line telecommunications/ wireline technologies

Where the telecommunications infrastructure is in place, the most common option is the fixed-line service. It is sometimes referred to as leased-line because you lease the use of the connection from the telecommunications provider. This means it is an on-going annual budget cost. The cable will normally either be copper or fibre-optic. Fibre-optic cable offers vast bandwidth and is not an expensive medium to purchase, but installation costs can be very high.

Integrated services digital network (ISDN)
These are regular twisted telephone lines that can carry two 64kbps channels plus one 16 kbps signaling channel. So one channel can be used for voice, and the other for Internet access, or two can be combined for video-conferencing, or higher speed Internet access. In developing countries, ISDN is only available in urban and suburban areas.

Digital subscriber line (DSL)
This technology has a greater bandwidth than ISDN. Most ISP’s now offer well in excess of 1Mbps. DSL is mostly used in urban areas of industrialized countries, where copper wire is already installed. The attraction of using existing wiring is that it removes the installation cost of new cable.

  • ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line) provides fast download speeds (theoretically up to 24 Mbps), but slower upload speeds – hence asymmetrical.

Cable modems
Some cable television systems can be used for high-speed Internet access via cable modems. Similar to DSL, cable offers much higher bandwidth than dial-up phone lines, but can result in congestion of a shared cable network when many users are accessing the internet at the same time, and older networks are difficult to convert for two-way connectivity.

Optical fiber
The advantage of optical fiber is its enormous bandwidth, which can be used for high-speed Internet access, or for other functions such as video-conferencing. However, costs are normally extremely high.

Hybrid fiber/coax
A combination of optical fiber and coaxial cable can be used to provide high-speed Internet access and the other services high bandwidth allows, as well as two-way communication. This solution is cheaper than extending fiber-optic line for the full distance.

Case studies

The wireless school connectivity project

The Wireless School Connectivity Project is an initiative that has connected a secondary school in a poor township of Harare, to the Internet using wireless technologies. The concept was developed as a result of participation in a wireless workshop in which the fundamentals of building wireless links was demonstrated as an alternative low-cost approach to connecting schools to the Internet. The wireless technology itself is a bundle of solutions that use the license-exempt Industrial Scientific and Medical (SM) 2.4 GHz frequency band for connecting both the “first mile” to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and distributing the internet using WiFi in the classroom.

Rural schools connected to ICT in southern Sri Lanka

ITU and the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) have inaugurated a project to connect 25 schools in Akuressa, Southern Province of Sri Lanka. Under the “Connect a School, Connect a Community” initiative, ICT tools such as computers and printers as well as Internet connectivity will be provided.