Dodd (Northeastern U.) writes with the understanding that business people and other non-technical professionals need basic information but also need to be treated with respect, a feat she accomplishes by focusing on the real world of intense industry competition, new technologies that seem to appear in nanoseconds, and very real fears about security an reliability. She starts with basic concepts such as digital communications, speed and capacity, the VoIP system, circuit- switched PBXs and cabling, relating each to business situations, then overviews the industry since the Great Divestiture of 1984, public networks, and specialized network services, and runs through the basics behind advanced technologies, cable TV networks, the Internet, wireless service, wireless broadband, sensor networks, and personal area networks. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
The Essential Guide to Telecommunications, Second Edition, by Annabel Dodd, enters my workspace serendipitously. I'm currently contracted to US West (or "US QWest" as the office wag has taken to calling it), so I'm in some position to benefit from the perusal of this volume and to evaluate its content. Executive summary: It's a professional and accurate volume suitable to be presented to novice employees their first day on the job at any company whose core business involves stuffing bits up the line.
There's metal in this book. At a high level, Dodd provides overviews of the myriad of empowering technologies that are heaped together into the telecommunications grid of this continent and our planet. The discussion ranges over switched services, dedicated services, signaling, T-1 to T-3, ISDN, DSL, Frame Relay, ATM, SONET, lines, modems, set-top boxes, the Internet, virtual private networks, PCS, wireless and mobile, satellites, convergence (of telephone and PC, not harmonic), and a good deal more.
There's also wetware interest here. Politics are inseparable from technical evaluation of the network. Legislatures and regulatory bodies dictate to the carriers in the name of preserving the public interest within institutions that inherently possess tremendous powers over access. The Essential Guide contains sections on "Local and Long Distance Providers,""The Bell System Prior to and After 1984," "Evolution from CAPs to CLECs," and a whole chapter on "Local Competition and The Telecommunications Act of 1996." Dodd allows herself a few judicious observations into social implications, such as the effects that merger mania and "cream skimming" are likely to have on universal service. Al Gore even makes a couple of appearances in quotation.
The Essential Guide is pretty current. The map of the surviving RBOCs correctly shows US West's 14-state region, accompanied by the (now erroneous) legend "Purchase by Global Crossing, Ltd. pending)." Which goes to show you that the industry holds surprises even for the experts.
The glossary is adequate in relation to the book, though the bibliography is a little too sparse for a second edition. There's no paucity of telecommunications literature; having delved (for instance) into SONET in sufficient detail to note sideband signaling, the author might have deigned to cite a few tech pieces on this and other protocols, rather than merely list eight other telecom overview books.
Dodd seems to have progressed from industry to academia, rather than the other way around. Her professional bio, (former marketing manager at Bell Atlantic, current faculty member at Northeastern University) suggests that her insights may have been arrived at empirically rather than in the ivory tower. Her book accurately imparts the freighted technical context and dynamic economic and social ambiance of the telecommunications industry in these exiting times from the perspective of a well-informed and technically astute insider. It's a good read.