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While deployment of new network technologies has not been steady over the years, it is useful to take a long-term view of how major new telecommunications infrastructures evolve. Since the beginning of this decade, we have witnessed the emergence of new generations of three major communication networks. This article addresses the market conditions, technology innovations, and services driving the need for intelligent all-optical, 3G wireless, and QoS-based packet networks. Market forces such as traffic and subscriber growth, equipment cost reduction, and new technology penetration have a deep impact on network buildouts. Technology innovations abound, especially in the optical domain. For example, Raman amplification, pure optical switches, and tunable lasers have had a major impact on the architecture of optical networks. Many key services, such as streaming audio and high-quality image transfer, were not possible using wireless access because of its limited bandwidth and performance. With 3G wireless technology, a true mobile Internet will become a reality. Businesses have shied away from the use of the public Internet because of service quality. Thanks to advances in MPLS and service intelligence, this is expected to change. For each type of network, we survey the key factors shaping its evolution and implications on network architectures.
Date of Publication: Dec 2002