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In February 1999, Japan's cellphone giant NTT DoCoMo Inc. (Tokyo) introduced the innovative i-Mode cellular phone system, with ingeniously designed handsets and feature menus that permitted customers to do things like download ring tones and exchange text messages much more easily than with earlier mobile phones. It was the i-Mode's meteoric takeoff, more than any other factor, that convinced communications companies around the world that ”third-generation” (3G) cellular technology--with features like i-Mode's, but even better and faster--was the wave of the future. European cellphone companies paid upwards of US $100 billion for 3G licenses, and the International Telecommunication Union (Geneva, Switzerland) allocated new spectrum generously to accommodate what was often called at the time the ”wireless Internet.”

Now all eyes once again are on Japan, where two 3G cellular systems have been introduced, one by DoCoMo, the other by its long-standing competitor, KDDI Corp. (Tokyo). The two systems are in a race for world domination, and the first lap is taking place in Japan. One system, wideband code-division multiple access (WCDMA), is preferred by the big European players; the other, CDMA2000, is backed by many of the U.S. heavyweights. Both are based on technology commercialized by Qualcomm Inc. (San Diego, Calif.) that allows signals to occupy the same bandwidth at the same time without becoming confused.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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