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My Old Article (2): Unwiring the Internet blunder on the many islands of Indonesia

21 Jul

jammed

JAKARTA (JP): The Internet in Indonesia is like the city of Jakarta: many activities backed up in a terrible traffic jam. “”Slowly but surely we are becoming connected to the outside world,”” says Alika Aurelia, an Internet observer and owner of several information technology (IT)-related companies in Jakarta.

Every day commuters have to face the deranged and crowded streets. So do the subscribers of Internet service providers (ISPs) in Indonesia. Data, from simple text to video streaming, travels through phone lines like cars at peak-hour, jammed and bottlenecked, Alika adds.

The infrastructure of messy streets in Jakarta is to be blame for traffic problems. And the Internet in Indonesia is facing the same problem: poor infrastructure.

With so many alleys and dead-ends, Jakarta also has three main streets: Sudirman, Thamrin and Rasuna Said. In Indonesia today, there are many ISP allies, with three major players: Indosat, Telkom and Satelindo.

The main issue limiting the number of players is the monthly spending on Internet licenses, which cost thousands of dollars per month. And if the dollar keeps floating toward the ceiling, even the main players could crash. Let’s hope not.

License to Speed

The costly license is all about bandwidth. Bandwidth, the complexity of the data for a given level of system performance, allows text (as the data) to be downloaded in a second. It is also possible to download photographs or more complicated data in a second. However, to download a photograph requires more bandwidth.

Large sound files and computer programs require even more bandwidth for acceptable system performance. More complicated data is moving pictures with sound, or movies for short. One can request a movie as a pay-per-view commodity, then the movie is transferred by streaming or downloading methods.

Ultimately, virtual reality (VR) and full-length three-dimensional audio-visual presentations require the most bandwidth of all. Today, VR and 3D movies are still undergoing trial-and-error analysis in technology labs — one of them is the University of North Carolina, where Howard Rheingold, author of Virtual Reality, has experienced early VR technology.

Technology humbuggery

In brief, from simple text to VR, all transmitted and received signals, whether analog or digital, have a certain bandwidth.

In digital cable and fiber-optic systems, the demand for ever-increasing data speeds outweighs the need for bandwidth conservation. There could be an abundance of bandwidth to go around if more and more cables are continually installed, but then again, hard wires are plentiful. Where else can solid cables be placed; under feet or above heads?

With no wires to install instantly, demand exceeds supply. However, there are always other efforts to anticipate a more dynamic, often interactive, multimedia content by “”re-arranging”” the network infrastructure.

One of the efforts could be upgrading the Internet protocol (IP) networking. It shifts from Layer 3 connectivity issues to the construction of intelligent, Layer 4 – 7 infrastructures.

Network layer upgrades

Principally, the IT industry emphasis is turning to specially tuned overlays to the Internet. They are called content delivery networks or content distribution networks (CDNs).

A CDN is a system, frequently an overlay network to the Internet, that has been built specifically for the high-performance delivery of rich multimedia content. A CDN’s raison d’etre is to make the Internet a trusted delivery network for mission-critical, content-rich CDN services.

CDNs address the severe response-time demands, mainly by minimizing the number of Internet backbones that a site requests. This results in streaming or downloadable content encounters becoming much shorter.

The CDN also contains a lookup service that steers a content request to the content surrogate that is closest (geographically or shortest travel time) to the user and/or is the least busy.

Wireless solution

To some extent, Alika remarks, the industry needs to also think of alternative ways such as “”wireless”” communication infrastructure. Either way, restructuring the network systems or building new infrastructure for wireless devices, there are some issues for consideration. Let’s look into the wireless further.

Wireless communication systems carry a signal through atmospheric space without, of course, wire. The early form of the wireless system, or wireless for short, was the “”telegraph”” that went on air in the early years of the 20th century.

Besides radio, television, facsimile and other data communication devices, perpetuating wireless progress has inspired the advent of other devices: from the most complex: full-feature cellular phones, global positioning systems (GPS), cordless mouse or keyboard; to simple baby monitors.

Wireless transceivers are available for connection to portable digital assistants (PDAs) and notebook computers, allowing Internet access without the worry of having to locate a phone jack. One of these days, it will be possible to link any computer to the Internet via satellite, wherever the computer is located on the globe.

In Europe, new high-bandwidth allocation for wireless local area networks (LANs) are expected to be installed where existing LANs are not already in place. With a wireless LAN, a mobile user can also connect to a network through a radio frequency. To some extent, this could be considered as an inexpensive way of tackling infrastructure problems.

If it were possible to introduce this development in Indonesia, with its many scattered islands, it would be a great move toward resolving the infrastructure logistics nightmare. Moreover, if the wireless LANs also communicated directly with a satellite, then this could also cut down the hierarchy of network routing. No traffic jam, no more ill-famed world wide wait.

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Life | Sun, May 06 2001, 7:21 AM

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