Article - Issue 7, February 2001

A recent Government White Paper recognises the importance of the communications revolution

Patricia Hewitt MP

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As engineers, you will be well aware of the recent developments in communications that are transforming society. Engineering is at the heart of the communications revolution. I will read the article in this issue of Ingenia on the future of mobile technology (4G) with considerable interest as it is very relevant to the vision set out in our White Paper, A New Future for Communications.

The article also nicely complements work done within my Department to understand future trends and demands in communications and media. The Mapping the Future of Convergence report published by the Radiocommunications Agency last year developed four very different but plausible scenarios for the future of convergence. A broad range of experts from industry and academia joined my officials in building these scenarios.

There are already many examples of convergence. Digital media are revolutionising the information society. As the IT, telecommunications and broadcasting industries merge, they are creating new products and delivery methods. These important developments are forming new markets, new areas of competition and new collaborations. The range of choice for consumers in terms of content, services and delivery method is greater than ever before.

More and more people are gaining access to the internet through personal computers, televisions, mobile phones and games consoles. High-speed phone lines give households access to a whole new range of communications services and experiences. Using their TV sets people are able to bank, email, shop from home, and view what they want when they want, no longer bound by national schedules.

Engineers have a key role to play in making all this happen. Government also has a part to play and our White Paper describes our response to the new communications environment.

The centrepiece of the White Paper is the establishment of a new unified independent regulator – OFCOM – to replace the present patchwork of separate bodies. OFCOM will have the breadth of vision and expertise to understand the converging communications landscape and to act effectively and decisively in response to fast-changing circumstances. The new body will be more flexible and better able to serve and protect consumers, listeners and viewers and will play a pivotal role in facilitating the development of the UK’s communications industry. The possibilities for the future should only be restricted by our imagination, not by an outdated regulatory system.

Our White Paper sets out in detail the Government’s vision of the UK as home to the most dynamic and competitive communications market in the world and describes our proposals to help achieve this. I invite you to read the White Paper, which can be found at www.communicationswhitepaper.gov.uk, and to let us have your views.

Patricia Hewitt MP

Minister For Small Business And E-Commerce, Department Of Trade And Industry

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