What is Bandwidth, Anyway?

PULL QUOTE:

"In today's information age, adequate bandwith capacity is vital to insuring fast, reliable transfer of voice, data and video information."

Bandwidth has been mentioned by the media a lot recently, but just what is it and what can it do? Bandwidth often is referred to as the speed at which information can be transferred from one place to another. Bandwidth is really a measure of fidelity rather than of speed. The higher the fidelity, the more dense the data, so the higher the effective speed of transmission.

In today's information age, adequate bandwidth capacity is vital to ensuring fast, reliable transfer of voice, data, and video information. With the rapid emergence of the Internet as the world's most dynamic information technology as well as the increased use of Intranets, the sending, receiving, and downloading of information is critical to giving businesses a competitive edge.

However, the ease and accessibility of Internet and Intranet technology has created a double-edged predicament for users and providers of information technology-- the vexing problem of bandwidth congestion. Information services that are delivered over today's analog modems are becoming severely constrained by limited bandwidth, but more choices are coming that will increase access to the information superhighway.

This problem is especially prevalent in California where more than 40 percent of all domestic Internet traffic originates or terminates in the state. Telecom capacity on the state's existing infrastructure, especially the fiber-optic networks, is at a premium, particularly between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.

Recognizing this critical problem, telecommunications companies are working to expand their networks throughout California. For example, our company, GST Telecom California, is building a new 500-mile fiber-optic, multiple-conduit network, that will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles. GST is the first Competitive Local Exchange Company (CLEC) to build a North-South, long-haul network linking these two communications hubs.

The network, which will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles, will bring much needed bandwidth capacity to the state's heavily used telecommunications infrastructure. GST's network will provide critically needed fiber capacity to satisfy the tremendous demand for Internet access, as well as local and long distance services throughout the state. The new 500-mile route supports our current operations by linking together our San Francisco, Fresno, and Los Angeles fiber-optic networks.

GST already has built extensive fiber networks throughout the San Francisco East Bay, Fresno and throughout Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Construction is underway on the first segment of the new 500-mile route that runs from Tracy, 60 miles east of San Francisco, through Modesto and Merced to Fresno. Construction has also begun on the second segment in Central California from Selma to Bakersfield, passing through Visalia.

Construction on the final portion from Bakersfield, through Lancaster, Palmdale and Victorville, to Rialto will commence in early September. GST & #237;s southern California network currently extends from Rialto throughout the Los Angeles area into Anaheim, Ontario, San Bernardino, and Ventura County. The new 500-mile, north-south route will complement GST & #237;s infrastructure throughout the state. GST expects to begin offering service on the complete north-south network in the first quarter of 1998. An extension of the network from Coalinga to San Luis Obispo is slated to begin during the fourth quarter of 1997.

Businesses in particular will benefit from added capacity this telecommunications network and those of other companies will provide, as it will give them the increased speed and reliability they need to efficiently transmit voice or access the Internet and other on-line information.

While current levels of residential Internet usage have placed noticeable demands on California's telecommunications network, one can imagine a future with increased bandwidth, where everyone will not only be able to pay bills and buy groceries from the comfort of their own home, but they will be able to do so at overwhelming speeds.

As California and other states wrestle with how to manage bandwidth congestion, government regulators and policy makers must plan for the future. The rapid rate of change within the high-technology industry leads us to the conclusion that phenomenal change and growth are to be expected. In the wake of the federal Telecommunications Act that was passed last year, more telephone companies are lining up to offer local telephone service, Internet access, and a host of new telecommunications products and services.

[Bill Karambelas is vice president and general manager of GST Telecom California--Southern California. GST Telecom California is a subsidiary of Vancouver, Wash. based GST Telecommunications, Inc.

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