Telecommunication refers to telephony and cellular network technology. It includes wired and wireless phone networks. Now that it also includes media sent across the Internet through mobile devices, the term has grown to include a more expansive set of technologies. Generally speaking, the term telecommunication can refer to all types of data transmission, from voice to video.
Telecommunication transmissions can be either digital or analog. The first telephone lines were analog, sending sound through electrical signals. Digital connections use binary computer code (bits, either 0 or 1) to send information. For many years, digital connections to the Internet ran on traditional telephone lines. To transmit computer data across an analog telecommunication system, devices called modems translated the binary code so that it would be understood and transmitted across the line.
Telecommunication now uses advanced technology such as fifth-generation (5G) cellular networks, to move voice, video, and data. 5G supports edge computing, a technology for transmitting and analyzing data at the edge of a network, which can include rural areas that didn’t previously have reliable connectivity. 5G also enables the Internet of Things—smart devices and buildings, including homes, security systems, watches, and refrigerators—to all communicate quickly with each other.
Telecommunication companies include:
This article was updated April 2021 by Jenna Phipps.