The Modem – History Now but Not 6-7 Years Ago

Another history post today. 6-7 years ago, one could still compare technology advances to fixed line modems. Today, that's hardly imaginable anymore for two reasons. First, the speed difference between the few kilobits then and the multi-megabits available today becomes harder and harder to imagine. And second: While 6-7 years ago I still knew people who used a modem for Internet access I can't think of anyone I know who still does that today. I am sure it still exists but it's hard these days to find a spot in Western Europe where no form of high speed Internet access is available. And if it's 'only' satellite Internet access. How quickly times change.

6 Years Ago

… when I wrote my first book, mobile phones where just that, phones. A small screen, black and white only, the processor running at a couple of megahertz and Java ME was a concept in the mind of some but not yet in many devices. And now look at what happened in little more than half a decade: Mobile phones with processors running at speeds beyond half a gigahertz, big color screens, touch sensitive displays, multi megapixel cameras, video recording functionality, GPS, Wi-Fi, etc. etc. Even very low end phones for a couple of Euros have a color screen these days. Not with a very high display resolution but 6 years ago, that would have been truly revolutionary. How quickly times change in the mobile industry!

GPRS Round Trip Delay Time Evolution

GPRS and EDGE might be far far away from current throughput speeds, but when looking more closely, it's evolution is also quite interesting and remarkable: When looking back 5 years or so, GPRS round trip delay times were around 900 ms for subsequent pings and 1200 ms for the first ping. Together with the relatively low overall speed, it took quite long for even small web pages to show up on my mobile device. Things have changed in the meantime, though:

These days, with EDGE data rates, one phase access, Extended TBF Uplink, continued TBF in downlink and pre-establishment of downlink resources when transferring something in the uplink, round trip delay times have come down to less than 200 ms for subsequent pings. In addition, I have noticed that in many networks, Network Assisted Cell Change (NACC) is now used for cell changes to minimize the interruption during cell updates when transferring data while being mobile. With OperaMini for example, that makes web access incredibly quick.

In retrospect, I am quite amazed how much these features have helped with the mobile browsing experience!