The Gutenberg era is over. A new digital communications technology has emerged. An electronic superhighway is beginning to girdle the globe as voice, video and data converge, bringing in their wake a new basket of digital, multimedia and interactive communication technologies.
But it is not just the technologies that concern us. It is the social change that accompanies the technologies that must be our prime concern. The new technologies are doing much more. They are changing the way we live-the way we work, relax, manage our money, trade and communicate with each other. The new technologies are changing the way we perceive people, cultures, countries and companies and our expectations of them and also our expectations of ourselves.
The Past Days of Communications
Several preliminary steps occurred in human history which are the basis for all human communication. While it can be argued that the species has always had an underlying basis of verbal and nonverbal language, the organization of the verbal language into discrete components with a lexicon and syntax allowed the eventual development of forms of written communication, which progressed from symbolic drawings to phonemic symbols. A significant revolutionary step in the development of written communication was embodied in the printing press, which allowed a rapid reproduction of written thought and eventually the reproduction of drawings and photographs, as well. However this means of communication is essentially one-way and /or nonreal time.
The first remote communications method that exhibited a real-time nature was telegraphy. The telegraph allowed an instantaneous transmission of text characters to a remote receiver. Telegraphy utilized a coded translation (via the Morse code, among other ) of letters and numbers into an on/off digital representations that could be easily decoded at the remote end by a trained human operator, who listened to the clicks of a remote solenoid . Later, telegraph progressed to a constant-length code that was encoded and decoded by mechanical means. This coded representation became the basis for storage, retrieval, and transmission of text by computers. Although telegraphy provided an important means of communication for critical business and personal one-way communication, it created little change in every day life. This was the first generation of communication.
The invention and proliferation of the telephone, on the other hand, did provide pervasive change in everyday interperonsal communication. Unlike written correspondence or telegraphy, two parties could now give immediate feedback by responding to statement, answering questions, providing needed information, or taking needed action. In addition, the telephone added a critical component" one could not only recognize the other person's voice, but hear the tone, urgency, and emotion that is so important to effective interpersonal communication. Subsequently, the development of wireless voice communication through two-way radio equipment provided similar benefits without the need for fixed wiring.
The deployment telephone and two-way radio systems have brought us instantaneous voice communication. As a result, we can have quick and easy voice access to others around the world, and even in aircraft and ships at sea.
Video communication has also moved quickly to influence our everyday lives. From the early beginnings of television, we have had the ability to communicate fixed and moving images in real time. One-way transmission of video and audio content are now second nature, although recent years have seen the addition of more extensive content selections through cable and direct satellite transmission. Now technological advance will allow new applications for video communication that are not limited to a single direction, one-to-many mode.
These Second generation systems are digital and capable of providing voice, data and fax transfer, apart from a range of other value-added services. At present second generation systems are still evolving with ever-increasing data rates via new technologies such as HSCSD (high-speed circuit switched data) and GPRS (general packet radio service). At the same time, there is an increasing demand from consumers for data delivery, telephony services, global roaming, E-mail, video and Internet access on one single device. These needs have resulted in global standards that are more open, like Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). Applying high-speed data transfer and radio terminal technology (like bluetooth), third generation systems are now evolving to provide the bandwidth required for multiple usage. The 3G enables multimedia and is currently in the process of being standardised under 3GPP ( a Standardisation body with representatives from Asia. Europe and the America which is helping to establish technical specifications). Among the three types of system to be standardised (WCDMA -DS, MC-CDMA and UTRA TDD), Japan and Europe will adopt WCDMA-DS when they usher in 3G in 2001-2002.
For the first time a merging of communications media is becoming practical. Properly implemented, this will make immediately available the vast knowledge base we have been busy computerizing. It will also make direct voice and video communication ubiquitous. Data sharing, with adequate security and safeguards, we allow information and commerce flow freely. We will create a true global village, with instantaneous multimedia communication which will provide substantial increases in productivity, a better quality of life, enhancements in education and recreation, and cross-cultural understanding.
The roots of network convergence can be traced to the advent of digital communications, which reduced information into discrete, identifiable and thus, more easily transferable pieces of information. It also efficiently maximizes the transfer of information by allowing more signals to move through a single communication path. Network convergence utilizes this attribute of digital communication to efficiently and effectively distribute different types of information - voice, video and data on the same communication network. Moreover, network convergence reduces the inefficient flow of voice, video, and data whose different characteristics led to the development of separate communication network that were designed differently, and are often incompatible.
Network convergence has also developed from the implementation of digital packet-switching technologies. Such as IP telephony that permits the transmission of voice, video, and data over computer network that were originally developed only for data transmission.
The New Paradigm
With blurring of geographical boundaries, thanks to the distance insensitive Internet, majority of business and individual are becoming part of a high-speed networking fabric which will enable secure digital communication of voice, data, and video to or from anyone, any where and anytime. Till recently, it wold have sounded like a chapter straight out of science fiction fortunately, the technology now exists to deliver it. Customers now want to pick and chose from narrowcast and broadcast. They want a fusion of voice, data, and video in all possible mixes. In other words, this means the availability of multiple technology choices to fulfill the customer's desire for anytime access to people, information, and commerce.
But convergence does not necessarily sound the death knell of age-old-technologies. In fact, it leaves enough room for many technologies to co-exist and one will not replace the other outright. This is because no one technology can meet all the requirements of the market-place. Hence, each technology will find its niche and redefine new and old classes of service and user terminals. In this context one can safely assume that there will be a rash of new user terminals that will let us communicate in ways we dream.
Convergence is the key today. We can think about convergence in several different ways. One is in terms of the actual industries converging, such as communication, entertainment, and computing. Another is converging voice, video, and data over a common infrastructure or within a common computing platform.
One important factor during convergence is the transformation of the desktop computer through faster processors supporting advanced graphics and multimedia capabilities. The PC today is a collaborative communication and media tool .
Another factor driving convergence is the cost of maintaining three separate networks for voice, video, and data. Corporations can realize substantial saving in equipment, staff, and services by using converged networks.
Enterprises are looking at cost savings in the WAN as the first leverage point for convergence. Using Voice-over-Frame Relay, VOIP and Voice-over-ATM the same WAN lines can be used for voice as well as data, resulting in substantial cost savings.
Next, enterprises want to install the LAN and WAN infrastructure to do real-time video and audio information delivery.
For education, a professor's lecture can be delivered to remote campuses live or as stored video-on-demand files on a web sites, Converged networks can also be used to deliver corporate communications, presentations, and training to employees directly at their desktop.
Its Affect on Data Networks
Convergence is fundamentally changing what a data network is , from a traditional data packet store-and -forward mechanism, to a real-time communication infrastructure. That really changes data network requirements and drives the need for higher bandwidth, class and quality of service, multi-cast support, and policy management.
Many people believe that we still need to run ATM to the desktop to support these new features. Ethernet has evolved into a very suitable technology for delivering these advanced features at about a third of the cost of running ATM to the desktop.
Using Same Application Standard
With standards-based converged applications, we see interoperability between different vendors - high-end videoconferencing systems, for example, can talk to low-end desktop system using the same application standard.
Payload convergence is that aspect of converged networking wherein different data types are carried in the same communication format. However , the payload convergence does not prohibit the network form handling packets, according to their service requirement.
Protocol convergence is the movement away from multi-protocol to single protocol (typically IP) networks. While legacy networks are designed to handle many protocol and one type of data, converged networks are designed to handle one protocol and provided the services necessary for multiple types of data (such as voice, one way video, and interactive video).
Physical convergence occurs when payloads travel over the same physical network equipment regardless of their service requirements. Both multimedia and Web traffic can use the facilities of an edge network, even though the former has more stringent bandwidth, delay and jitter requirements than the later.
Device convergence means the trend in network device architecture to support different networking paradigms in single system.
Application convergence represents the appearance of applications that integrate formerly separate functions. For example. Web browsers allow the incorporation of plug-in applications that allow web pages to carry multimedia content such as audio, video, high-resolution graphics, virtual reality graphics and interactive voices.
Technology convergence signifies the move towards common networking technologies that satisfy both LAN and WAN requirements. For example, ATM can be used to provide both LAN and WAN services.
At the technical level, digital transmission has the potential to deliver integrated interactive text, video, voice and data to a mass audience what we might call 'real multimedia'. However, historically each part of the spectrum and mode of transmission became associated with a different form of communication : point-to-point communication became the province of the telephone, and wireless transmission became associated with broadcast news and entertainment . This is now changing with digital compression techniques the limited transmission capacity of existing telephone and cable infrastructures can be expanded to deliver a range of multimedia services that previously could only be carried on expensive broadband networks. Similarly digital compression allows point-to point communication to be conducted increasingly by advanced forms of radio transmission.
Nowadays digital technology allows a substantially higher capacity of traditional and new services to converge towards the same transporting networks and to use integrated consumer devices for purposes such as telephony, television or personal computing. Convergence is happening already on a global scale. One key message is that convergence should not lead to additional regulation. Current rules should be reviewed to check whether they will still be relevant in the light of convergence. The countries need to have the right regulatory framework in order the maximise the benefits of this convergence in terms of job creation, growth, consumer choice, cultural diversity. Traditionally, communications media were separate. Services were quite distinct - broadcasting, voice telephony and on-line computer services. They operated on different networks and used different "platforms". TV sets, telephones and computers. Each was regulated by different laws and different regulators, usually at national level. Nowadays digital technology allows a substantially higher capacity of traditional and new services to be transported over the same networks and use integrated consumer devices for purposes such as telephony, television or personal computing.
Telecommunications, media and IT companies are using the flexibility of digital technologies to offer services outside their traditional business sectors, increasingly on an international or global scale.
The extent to which convergence will really transform markets and the speed of any changes are two crucial factors affecting the debate on regulation. There is a wide range of views, falling between the two main camps, the maximalists and the minimalists.
According to the maximalist, most current regulation originated in an era when distinctions between sector were clear. Convergence will increasingly blur all the distinctions between services, all networks will be able to deliver any service to any platform .
The minimalist point of view holds that convergence will have a more limited impact, that it will not alter the specific nature of different types of service. Its proponents argue that media policy should actively promote social, cultural and ethical values whatever technology is used for delivering services. They favour two sets of rules, one for economic aspects and another for service content, in order to guarantee efficiency and quality, as in broadcasting today.
A powerful motor for job creation and growth
Convergence is not just about technology. Convergence is a debate about the impact of technology and a quantum leap towards a mature Information Society.
The Changes will offer many new opportunities for citizens to enrich their lives, not just the economic dimension, but the social and cultural ones as well. The global nature and interactivity of new communications media like the Internet are already opening new vistas, far beyond traditional, national media. Convergence will certainly expand the overall information market and be the catalyst for the next stage in the integration of the world economy. Even small business can market globally, thanks to the low cost of the World Wide Web site.
If India can embrace the promise of convergence, by creating a supportive environment, change will be a powerful motor for job creation and growth, plus increased consumer choice and cultural diversity. By putting in place the right regulatory framework, governments and policy makers will have a key role in ensuring a supportive environment.
India On The Threshold Of Convergence
The convergence in India has arrived faster than expected. The convergence would help in web casting, video on demand, internet via cable. The much awaited delivery of Internet through cable network has already started in Delhi and Mumbai.
The optical fiber cable carries more bandwidth resulting in more signals being carried with superior clarity. . the cable companies are expected to rule the roost due to investments made by them in the cable networks. The upgradation of cable network (optical fiber). The MTNL poses tough competition for all the players. As it can pup the broadband network on its exiting network at a very low cost.
The cable operators deliver the cable and satellite channels to the consumers. With more and more channels going pay to air, would open up subscription revenue for the broadcasters. In future it will emerge a major source of revenue and much large than the advertisement revenue stream . the channel will be carried on two platforms - Direct to Operator (DTO) and Direct to Home (DTH). Both the services have user addressability in ear of convergence.
Direct To Operator (DTO)
The DTO is a step, moving towards subscription channels. In DTO channels are digitized and encrypted by the broadcaster. It operates using C band. The signals are downloaded by the cable operator by using the Integrated receiver decoder (IRD) and distributed to cable homes.
The DTO transmission helps in saving of the cost, tracking the subscription revenue but calls for additional investment for the decoders for down linking of signal.
It is capitalizing on price sensitiveness of consumers of India, who would not be willing to subscribe to the high cost DTH services. The subscription of the convergence is expected to the Rs 250 per month per subscriber in India.
Direct To Home (DTH)
It offers an alternative to the DTO service addressing superior reception with advance level of multi channel subscription revenue for broadcaster. The digitized channels are broadcast using the Ku (above 4800 Mhz). The consumers have the option to receive more than one signal which are downlinked by the consumer directly by using dish antenna at their home.
DTH can broadcast more than 100 channels using IRD, which ensures conditional access on payment of subscription. The investment of dish antenna and other hardware is borne by the consumer. The installation cost of DTH is high enough to deter price sensitive consumer of India and it is estimated that subscription of 2 million consumers would be needed to make the service profitable.
DTH can be broadcast using C band (below 4800 Mhz) or Ku Band (Above 4800 Mhz). The transmission at C band needs dish antenna of 3-4 meters. This C band preposition does not seem to be possible in metros where the potential consumer of the DTH would reside.
The Ku band, which requires antenna of 60-75 cm , would attract the attention of consumers. The government currently, does not permit the transmission of signals at Ku band in India. We expect these issues to be addressed in the broadcasting bill.
The growth of Cable and Satellite has opened a new vista for the Indian media sector. In a short span of two years, more than 60 (national, regional and foreign) channels are broadcast in India. It is expected that more than 30 new channels would be launched in the next three years.
The popularity and growth of channels would be driven by originality and quality content (five to six hour a day of Original Programming). The entertainment has found its roots in the regional market also. The growth of regional channels wold come on the expense of falling advertising revenue of the regional print media.
The US experience suggests that while the average TV homes were able to receive 57 channels in 1998, the number of channels actually viewed were 13 - the term 'viewed' is defined as 10 or more continuous minutes context and delivery for loyal audience. The current mushrooming of channel suggests that shakeout in the industry inevitable.
The total advertising on the C&S TV was Rs 27912 million for 2000 E. Since majorities of the channels are free to air and subscription market is yet not developed, we have made our assumption on the basis of free to air channels. Although the subscription market is larger than the advertising market it will add substantial revenue to the broadcasters.
Content is Key
Content has emerged as king in the fierce battle of television channels. The success of channel is dependent on the quality of content, which attracts the attention of an audience. The content would drive the success of the channel. With more than 40 ( national and regional) channels on air and 30 more lined up in the next two years. Demand for content is expected to grow by 40 percent for three years.
The television software industry is valued at Rs. 5840 m. Content has high recyclable value, no storage cost and can be exported. A successful and good quality content has high recyclable value and can also be delivered through various delivery mechanisms such as Compact Disc, and Web Casting.
Current original programming is 5 hour per day per channel and with the competition intensifying it could be increased to seven hours/day/channel. This would translate into substantial opportunity of the content providers. As the industry experience suggests, the average production by a content producer is six to eight hour a week . this translates into an opportunity for 35 producers in the current demand scenario and more to join the fray.
The content is shown either on terrestrial or C&S Network . the popularity of content depends upon the understanding of the audience and making the right genre of program for the target audience. The availability of intellect and low manpower cost has made the Indian content popular world over and exports of content has opened a new revenue stream for the content provider.
A good quality content has a recyclable value, can be exported and can add to the revenue stream of the IPR holder. The content producers working with DD have built up a substantial library (IPR) of content and are exploring the same.
The merger between telecommunications, computer and broadcasting is going to change the way people will work, play and live.
The 'convergence' of these technologies has given birth to the prospect of multimedia services which will offer interactive compute based applications that will combine text, graphics, audio and animation features into a media experience for users.
The increasingly competitive environment in the multimedia industry promises tremendous user benefits through increased savings in time, greater choice, and an explosion of innovative services and products. This is the promise, to date, truly interactive services allowing the viewer to descend through a series of levels of information are still at the experimental stage.
The development of multimedia services will not replace judgment value that is provided by the traditional media. Hence, the traditional media will still have a large role to play in the new multimedia world.
Multimedia has the potential to vastly increase the range of services available, and offer its users a larger choice of applications but new technology alone will not ensure success; it is the people who use it who will decide the future of multimedia. The users' wants and needs; how they will manage the flood of options; and, above all, whether or not they will pay for the freedom of choice are what counts.
Convergence : technological and institutional
'Convergence ' has become a cliche of the information age. In its current usage it refers to two distinct though related phenomena :
Recent examples of new, convergent services include: