Networking technology has had a massive impact on the world today and is among the reasons why it’s so important. It is also one of the primary reasons the economies of nearly all countries didn’t crash during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, besides financial benefits, networks helped us remain connected with friends, families, and colleagues. In doing so, it reduced the mental and physical impact a wide and rapid spread of the virus inevitably causes. But even before that, the transfer of data or energy shaped the society and the culture we know now. With that, let’s dive into network technology.
What is network technology?
Network technology is a technology that enables data exchange between large and small information systems within an infrastructure via the use of communication/network protocols. The infrastructure consists of nodes, which can be a redistribution point or a network/communication endpoint.
The primary network technology representative is a computer network. It uses digital interconnection to link two or more networks for the benefit of mutual traffic exchange. Infrastructure can be open to outsiders (a public network) such as the Internet and its different types or limited to use within a business or educational organization (a private network), referred to as the Intranet or Extranet.
It’s important to realize that both private and public networks rely on the Internet protocol suite.
Examples of network technology
Now that you know what it represents, here are a few well-known examples of network technology:
We’re starting with the network technology you must’ve heard about – 5G. The term refers to a fifth generation of the broadband cellular network standard. It started rolling out in 2019, with predictions that it’ll have close to 1.7 billion subscribers by 2025.
Its coverage is divided into cells, which represent minuscule geographical areas. Every wireless device within the cell can connect to the Internet and phone network via radio waves sent from the cell’s MIMO (multiple inputs, multiple outputs) antenna. Some benefits of 5G include:
- Bandwidth: 5G can operate in bands from 600 MHz to over 100 GHz. However, it will primarily operate in 3 main frequencies: low (600-850 MHz), mid (2.5-3.7 GHz), and high (25-39 GHz).
- Download speed: Low bands will have a download speed similar to 4G, of 30-250 Mbit/s. Midbands allow for speeds of 100-900 Mbit/s, while high band speed goes over 1 Gbit/s.
- Power saving: Although it currently drains the battery faster, the implementation of the 5G network-slicing technology is expected to cut battery usage drastically.
- Multi-purpose: 5G isn’t exclusive to mobile use. Its benefits make it an ideal alternative to LAN (Local Area Network) and WAN (Wide Area Network). It can effortlessly rival and beat high-speed broadband and cable Internet speed, latency, and costs.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a network of physical objects or things embedded with software, sensors, and varying technologies. Their purpose is to transfer data amongst each other or with other systems and devices using the Internet.
Some examples include smart home devices and appliances, smart car systems (traffic control, parking, vehicle control, road assistance, vehicle-to-vehicle/vehicle-to-everything communication), health monitoring devices and emergency alert systems, 3D printers, RFID chips, and more.
IoT also continues to have a wide array of applications in the environment, agricultural productivity, energy, mechanical, military, building, manufacturing, and other areas.
Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) will never make you ask yourself, “Why is my Wi-Fi speed slow?” It introduces technological advancements that raise the theoretical maximum speed to 9.6 Gbps from 3.5 Gbps on Wi-Fi 5. The router can also communicate with 8 clients per 20 Hz channel.
It’s important to note that each channel can be split into 26, 52, 106, or 242 subcarrier Resource Units. Unlike Wi-Fi 5, this router can concurrently communicate with 802.11ax clients that use different sub-channels/RUs by utilizing packed scheduling.
This increases the “density” of devices that can co-exist on the network, boosts the efficiency of every band, and promotes battery saving on both sides. Finally, Wi-Fi 6 introduced a new frequency band, 6 GHz, on top of Wi-Fi 5’s 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
Software-defined Networking is a network architecture technology that seeks to eliminate current network protocols. Simultaneously, it plans to replace them with directly programmable ones. One example is OpenFlow Protocol, which uses an Application Programming Interface (API) instead of, say, TCP/IP protocols. In doing so, it allows virtual control and bypasses the need to use physical network devices such as routers or switches.
By virtualizing the entire network, operators can still have centralized control, but also a vastly better insight into the network. This allows for faster and better troubleshooting and lets the provider streamline the process for individual users or a group of users.
What are the applications of network technology?
These are some areas where the utilization of network technology is noticeable. It is important to get to know about them. So, here are the applications of network technology:
This one is obvious – you’re reading a form of it. Some, but not all examples of communication technology are made possible by network infrastructure.
Websites, blogs, forums, phone and VoIP calls, social media, e-mails, instant messengers, AI-powered webchats, newsletters, video conferencing, SMS, MMS, whiteboards, job-seeking platforms, open access books, and a wide variety of other examples come to mind right off the bat.
File sharing or distributing digital media is an evident application of network technologies. Once again, you’ve experienced one form, when your browser downloaded cookies from our website. You must’ve also downloaded or uploaded binary or text files such as documents, video, audio, image, or software or application-specific file formats, among others.
Sharing assets has widespread use, and multiple ways of distribution – FTP (File Transfer Protocol), Peer-to-Peer (P2P), from centralized or decentralized servers, via WWW hyperlinks, and more.
The process of linking people and objects such as sensors, computer hardware, or software-embedded machines has massively impacted the job market. And while applying network technology inevitably replaces jobs, it also introduces new ones.
Case in point, network engineers oversee the implementation and make sure network technology operates correctly. This includes installation, configuration, maintenance, troubleshooting, upgrades, and reducing network downtime. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer network architects and network engineers will rise 5% and 4% yearly between 2019 and 2029, respectively.
Evolution of Network Technology
Although network technology has become integral to our lives, it didn’t start that way. In fact, the evolution of network technology has been one of the most transformative advancements we have seen in technology. Today, we rely on things like online banking, e-commerce, social media, and even the internet itself, but all this is possible due to networking and network technology.
Since the early days of communication, networking has come a long way. We have graduated from telegraphs to instant messaging services. And in between, we have seen everything from telephones to wireless mobiles, computers, satellite-based networking, and cloud computing.
Earlier, we never even entertained the possibility of having a global infrastructure devoted to networking, But here we are.
Network technology has reached its apex and is likely ready for the next chapter. Today, we are using network technology for almost everything, from interpersonal communication to business, information gathering, education, and even healthcare. IoT devices are also becoming a part of network technology, thus allowing us better control over our homes.
And this brings us to the future. As things stand, chances are we will soon have a few major breakthroughs in networking. In fact, we already have 5G, which has taken networking to the next level by offering much faster speeds, consistency, and low latency. It is also more likely to support initiatives such as autonomous vehicles, AR/VR, and even smart cities.
Types of Network Technology
Based on the classification of technology and how it operates, i.e., transmit and scale, we can divide them into two broader segments: based on transmission and based on scale.
Network Technology Based on Transmission
- Point to Point: A network where two nodes are connected directly by a medium and the sender and receiver can both transmit data through the medium. Here, the nodes have to be accessible during a separate time slot.
- Multi-Point: A network where multiple nodes are connected to a single medium instead. Similarly, any communication between these nodes can occur simultaneously.
Network Technology Based on Scale
- LAN: Local Area Network, a small-scale network that covers 100m to 10km. It is mostly used for personal use.
- MAN: Metropolitan Area Network, a combination of LANs connected through a bridge.
- WAN: Wide Area Network, a very large network, mostly spanning countries. It is a network of multiple smaller WANs made up of either MANs or LANs.
- PAN: Personal Area Network, smaller than LANs. It is generally used to connect peripherals to a device, such as wireless keyboards, microphones, headsets, etc.
- VPN: Virtual Private Network, a private channel running over a public interface, typically used for sharing and receiving data via rerouting.
Impact of Network Technology
Network technology is often considered a building block of effective communication and information technology. In fact, the entire IT and Communication infrastructure is basically a giant network. And since communication plays a huge role in almost everything, it makes network technologies that much more important by default.
Thus, one can imagine its impact on our lives, both good and bad. We are here to list some of the advantages and disadvantages of networking.
The advantages of network technology are:
- Network technology is extremely flexible and can be applied to almost anything that we do online.
- It not only improves our communication capabilities but also makes accessing information much easier.
- Networking has made resource sharing faster and more convenient.
- It is very cheap.
- It also provides alternative methods for data storage.
On the other hand, it has a few downsides, which are:
- Network technology is very robust and centralized.
- It lacks privacy and freedom.
- The technology has also created some security vulnerabilities.
- It has propagated some new threats, such as malware and ransomware.
- It requires oversight, monitoring, and an operator per se.
- Initial setup costs can be very high.
- It also requires skilled technicians and a workforce for better management and efficient upkeep.
Comparing Network Technology Types
Following is a table that compares both network technologies:
|Transmission-based Network Technology
|Scale-based Network Technology
|Efficient data transmission and communication
|Range and coverage of service
|Mostly higher speed
|Varies due to a number of factors.
|Varies, however, and is mostly proportional to network scale
|Point-to-point connections, meshes, and hierarchical structures
|Very complex, especially for larger networks
|Initially costly, but cost-effective in the long run
|Tries to be reliable, which can be a challenge
|Video Streaming, Gaming
|Suitable for large-scale environments