65. Convergence in essence is the ability of different
network platforms to carry similar kinds of services although
presentation may be constrained by the particular device in question
(television, personal computer, mobile telephone or other).
Convergence facilitates rapid and combined transmission of audio,
video and text. Telecommunications networks can be used for video
material. Transmission systems such as satellite traditionally
associated with television can be used for accessing the Internet.
The transforming potential of convergence was encapsulated in
the submission from AOL UK to the previous Committee in 2001:
"At its heart convergence revolutionises
the role of consumers in the communications industry. Consumers
now have the potential to enjoy: multiple ways of accessing content
... new forms of content ... new ways of controlling content through
interactivity ... and an unfettered ability to create content
and make it accessible to others."
66. As we have discussed above, the Government
has a stated aim of ensuring universal access to the Internet
by 2005. The potential for interactive digital TV to be used to
gain access to the Internet would be a major boost in meeting
this target. However, it is not at all plain sailing. We have
already witnessed the failure of the much heralded WAP technology
for mobile phones and delays to the development of 3G services
(the third generation of mobile telephone technology). If the
take up of digital television does falter as a result of ITV Digital's
failure, and a cheaper and non-interactive set-top box comes into
vogue, then a major opportunity to achieve progress with an important
Government target may have been wasted.
59 HC (1997-98) 520-I, para 9. Back
Ibid, para 10. Back
Evidence, p 156. Back