The networking and telecommunications world has seen something of a transformation in 2008, and we can expect more profound changes in 2009 as our reliance on being constantly connected continues to grow.
Over the course of the year there has been a huge rise in the amount of network and internet traffic from social networks and media sharing sites such as YouTube and the BBC iPlayer.
Demand became so high that some ISPs started demanding that the BBC should help pay for the infrastructure upgrades required to cope with the increased stress on their networks.
Businesses have also become increasingly reliant on broadband internet connections due to the growth in hosted applications and software-as-a-service. These have grown to encompass every facet of the business, from end-user applications such as email, office tools and customer relationship management, to back-end systems such as security, backup and web hosting.
Such services can provide a wealth of benefits to an organisation by offering enterprise-class software and management without the need for major capital outlay. However, by delivering these systems over the network, the quality of the connection becomes of paramount importance.
Similarly, there has been a noticeable uptake of technologies such as VoIP, unified communications and video conferencing. As the economic situation worsened over the course of the year, companies sought ways of maintaining close communications with branches and customers, while minimising the cost of travel and phone bills.
To cope with the rise in demand for capacity and reliability, service providers and telecoms companies invested heavily in next-generation networks, including wired and wireless services.
Virgin Media announced the roll-out of its 50Mbit/s fibre-based broadband service, and several announcements were made regarding the progression of BT's 21CN project.
This has mainly been spurred by the release of flat-rate data plans, as well as pay-as-you-go models giving users almost unfettered access to the internet while on the move.
Following several successful pilots, the first commercial WiMax deployments were seen in select locations around the world, and hardware vendors started to release devices capable of supporting the technology.
Overall it seems that, much like differing mobile communication protocols, the battle between the various 4G technologies may have no decisive winner, with various regions adopting their own preferred choice, leaving manufacturers to develop hardware that caters to all users.
From a regulatory standpoint, 2008 saw its fair share of excitement. With the switchover to digital TV well underway the question of how to allocate the sections of the frequency spectrum freed up by the move has been debated vigorously.
This year has also seen some major changes to the internet landscape with the roll-out of several new top-level domains including .asia and .tel, and more importantly the proposals for generic top level domains, which would give anyone the ability to create a top-level domain.
Some organisations have expressed concern over the impact this move may have on the way people access the internet and the potential for abuse by cyber squatters, online fraudsters and other cyber-criminals.
It looks like every section of the networking and telecoms arena has experienced turmoil and innovation over the course of 2008. But with many aspects still undergoing change and progression, it looks like 2009 could be as interesting, and possibly even more so.
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