Technological advances in telecommunications (COMN 3511)


Technological advances in telecommunications

  • Instructor: David Ellis, PhD
  • jdae (at) yorku (dot) ca (M-F, 9a-6p only)


Course description

This course provides a basic review of modern telecommunications technologies (no smoke signals), and how they developed from the legacy systems used by telephone carriers for most of the last century.

The central theme of the course is the remarkable extent to which, in a few short years, conventional telecommunications services have been superseded by Internet-related functions and technologies. This trend is epitomized by the widespread adoption of the Internet protocol suite and packet-switched networking, in place of voice-telephone technology and circuit switching. Paralleling these advances in network design, telecommunications has also undergone a transformation in the backend technologies that power our personal messaging and social media platforms, such as data centers built around the cloud computing model.

The course will allow students to expand on what they have learned in 2000-level courses such as COMN 2500 (Information and Technology), and 3000-level courses such as COMN 3510 (Considerations in Telecommunications), while preparing them for more advanced work in 4000-level courses such as COMN 4520 (Electronic Information Network Marketplace).


Course outcomes

By taking this course, you can expect to:

  • understand the limits of your alleged knowledge as a “digital native”
  • appreciate the advantages of learning without electronic distractions
  • learn how the Internet works as an engineering marvel 
  • conduct basic measurements of network performance
  • pay more attention to the growing risks to your online privacy and security
  • become a more critical consumer of telecom services like Internet access.

Materials for download


Weekly outline

Wed Jan 8 (#1) – Orientation: syllabus, learning outcomes, student responsibilities

  • Discussion: What are telecommunications technologies?

Wed Jan 15 (#2) – Telecom technologies are Internet technologies (1/2)

  • Reading (R1): TCP/IP videos 1-4: Overview, Link Layer, Internetwork Layer, TCP Layer (Dropbox)

Wed Jan 22 (#3) – Back to the future: when stupid is smart (1/2) 

Wed Jan 29 (#4) – Telecom technologies are Internet technologies (2/2)

  • Reading (R3): TCP/IP videos 5-7: TCP Layer Summary, Security-SSL, Application Layer (Dropbox)

Wed Feb 5 (#5) – Back to the future: TCP/IP, the everything disruptor (2/2)

  • Reading (R4): Kevin Werbach (1997), Digital Tornado: The Internet and Telecommunications Policy (pdf: pp.i-vi, 1-25)

Wed Feb 12 (#6) – Cloud computing: rise of the data center (1/2)

>> Wed Feb 19 — reading week: no class <<


Wed Feb 26 (#7) – Cloud computing: EaaS, aka Everything as a Service (2/2)

Wed Mar 4 (#8) – The triumph of wireless: our love affair with the radio spectrum (1/3)

  • Reading (R7): Radio Prepper (Sept 2018), Radio Frequencies, Bands, Modes and Bandwidth Explained (YouTube video)

Wed Mar 11 (#9) – The triumph of wireless: the standards game (2/3) 

Wed Mar 18 (#10) – The triumph of wireless: the measurement game (3/3)

Wed Mar 25 (#11) – Exam review, notebook grading, course evals

Wed Apr 1 (#12) – Final in-class exam (3 hrs)