|“||most commonly expressed as:||”|
|“||the unification of all earlier media forms (print, audio, video, animation, and telephone) in a single medium brought about by digital technologies. In the broader sense convergence is also referred to in the context of network convergence (the efficient coexistence of voice, video and data communication within a single network) and platform convergence.||”|
|“||the result of digital technologies whereby information (voice, text, audio and video) can be converted into digital form and transmitted through different networks and accessed from different end-user terminals. The result is a convergence of services of ICT, media and telecommunications industries. Examples include the convergence of broadcasting and telecommunication and the convergence of television and personal computers. The latter example means that consumers can watch television via the computer or have internet-access via television.||”|
|“||a process over a 3-to-5 year period of NGN evolution during which traditional circuit-switched networks (including the Advanced Intelligent Network (AIN)) and IP-based data networks will coexist and interoperate to enable end-to-end transmission of voice communications, until IP based networks subsume circuit-switched networks.||”|
|“||[t]he point at which all the Internet-working devices share a common understanding of the routing topology.||”|
The U.S. communications infrastructure consists of many different technologies and systems. For over a century, each of these developed independently from the others, and different regulatory structures were developed to manage the distinct characteristics of each industry.
For example, the telephone system, which was designed to provide two-way voice communications, operated as a virtual monopoly for almost a century based on the principles of common carriage and universal service. The broadcasting industry, both radio and television, concentrated on delivering one-way information and entertainment to a wide local audience, and has been regulated as a user of a scarce resource, the radiofrequency spectrum. Satellites have been providing national and international connections for voice, data, television and radio signals for many years. The cellular industry uses radio waves to extend the reach of the telephone network to mobile users. And finally, the computer industry has developed with little government regulation, except in connection with certain technical aspects. Each of these industries provided a different service based on different technologies, and consequently has been subjected to different rules and regulations.
As a result of digitization and the increasing use of computer processing power in more and more telecommunications applications, however, systems and services that once were separate have now begun to overlap.
|“||The rise of digital communication, associated with computer technology, has led to the irreversible melding of what were once the separate fields of communications and computers, with data forming an increasing share of what is being transmitted over the digitally modulated fiber-optic cables spanning the nation and the world."||”|
This convergence is not merely the result of combining computers with communications, but of combining many services and applications that historically had been separate. Thus, convergence can be separated into three distinct phenomena:
- Convergence of technology, where computer power and communications technologies are integrated to improve functionality and offer new applications. For example, the marriage of computer power to radio technology was crucial in enabling cellular telephones to be developed. Computers route calls to the correct cells and handle hand-offs as mobile users move from one cell to another. The networks that allow cellular users to roam are actually interconnected computer databases.
- Convergence of applications, where voice, data, and video services can be offered over the same network. Today, networks of all kinds — whether originally developed to transmit voice, data, or video — are being improved in order to carry all kinds of information in many different combinations.
- Convergence of networks and companies through mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures. This type of convergence is not between similar technologies and providers, but a combination of systems.
Impact of convergence
"ICT convergence significantly impacts consumers, industries, and governments. For consumers, the integration of smart devices with peripheral devices, ubiquitous networks, and robust cloud data centers is changing experiences involving entertainment, travel, healthcare, and shopping. For industry, ICT convergence extends employee productivity with collaborative tools, reduces travel expense with videoconferencing, and enables customized products to develop across many industries."
- Towards an Information Society Approach, at 1.
- Background Report on Cross Media Rating and Classification and Age Verification Solutions, at 5.
- The A to Z of Audiovisual and Media Policy (full-text).
- Information Technology Progress Impact Task Force Report on Convergence, at 2.
- NSTAC Report to the President on Communications Resiliency, at C-2.
- Making IT Better: Expanding Information Technology Research to Meet Society's Needs, at 24.
- The Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World, at xiv.