Developments in communications
19. The UK communications sector has developed and
changed markedly over the last 10 years.
- From introduction of mobile telephony in 1983,
use in the UK rose steadily to about 12 per cent in 1997 but has
recently enjoyed a huge spurt in ownership from 27 to 73 per cent
of UK adults between January 2000 and August 2001.
- Narrowband home access to the Internet has also
grown very fast recently from 4 per cent in 1996, 12 per cent
in 1998, to 45 per cent by the end of 2001. A narrowband connection,
over the fixed telephone line, is available to 93 per cent of
the population. Broadband connections, available to about 65 per
cent of the population, has been taken up by about 1 per cent
of UK households.
From a standing start in 1998 digital televison (DTV)
is now in 39% of homes (a huge rise from the figure of 4 per cent
for 1998). By the end of 2001, of these homes:
- 65 per cent have satellite DTV (available to
99 per cent of the population)
- 21 per cent have cable DTV (available to about
65 per cent of the population)
- 14 per cent had terrestrial DTV (available to
about 55 per cent of the population)
20. The difficulties and inevitable risks of predicting
technological developments and their rate of progress to market
are amply illustrated by the following extracts from reports of
the Government's Foresight programme.
- Advances in the compression of video images led
to the prediction that "it now seems unlikely that there
will be a volume demand for channel capacities greater than 2Mb/s
hence reducing the requirements for a broadband network to a level
that is only 30 times greater than the widespread public telephone
1999 Foresight was predicting that capacities of 10Mb/s to the
home would be common - see below).
- "Most forecasts of UK mobile telephony users
by the year 2000 are in the range of 10-12 million". (The
actual figure was nearly 32 million).
- As late as March 1999 the developments set out
below were seen as likely to become commercially available as
indicated. The deadlines for the obsolescence of the fixed network
telephone (2007) and high speed household Internet services (2004)
have yet to pass. However, the remainder of these developments
are not available widely, if at all.
|Unified personal numbering for everything
|Go-anywhere personal numbering
|Office / home PCs have no wiring except a power cord
|50% of telephone communications made via the Internet
|10 Mb/s to home common
|Fixed network telephones are no longer sold
|Fridge front e-mail based on cordless communications
|Movies can be stored in televisions
Extracts from the Forward Look Paper, ITEC Group, Information,
Communications and Media Panel, Foresight, Version 11, 23rd March,