By Carl Rijsbrack, Alcatel's VP of marketing and communications, fixed solutions division
Convergent applications are here now and the consumer electronic equipment supporting them is in the shops, French equipment maker Alcatel predicts.
The firm says terminating the broadband connection to the house, the home gateway is the box of magic which manages all the functions and facilities made possible by digital high-speed IP networks.
All communication and entertainment units from phones to televisions, games consoles, PCs, laptops, video and hi-fi equipment can be connected to the gateway via fixed or wireless networks, it said.
Alcatel also predict that digital IP networks and open standard internet web services, telcos, equipment manufacturers, software developers and systems integrators are quickly designing the new value added applications.
In the converged household, the television has evolved from delivering the passive and isolated experience familiar to most couch potatoes into something more dynamic and interactive, Alcatel said.
Acting as the users' entertainment hub, all content can be played out on screen and new, personal features added. Telephone calls can be directed from the remote control to any handset or unit.
Already used to interacting with broadcasters, people can now interact with other users to watch and comment on the same program in real time regardless of their location.
Telephones are changing too becoming more user friendly, feature rich multi-media access devices and distinctions between fixed and mobile networks are breaking down.
Soon there will be just one phone capable of switching calls seamlessly between networks according to whether the individual is out or at home.
This seismic revolution in communications is all about encouraging people to play with, manage, control and manipulate equipment and their own and broadcast content to suit their individual needs.
Eventually people will carry around one device and have one contact number for all communications whether at work, home or on the move.
Keeping up with consumer demand for faster, smarter and easier communications, telcos added 50 million broadband lines in 2004 and are developing next generation networks.
Alcatel realizes this trend with its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), a platform that makes it easier for operators to upgrade networks to support converged applications and seamless interoperability between multimedia content.
Since all user data is stored in a common location and provisioned from a single point it can be accessed by any device on any network.
Individuals can rate and recommend programs, subscribe and "˜comment' on content either via personal on-screen avatars or by using the remote control to dial up and talk.
In the world of mobile phones, presence awareness makes it possible to discover which member of a group is available or nearby. Mobile phones are ubiquitous but people want to control who can contact them and when.
Yet there is no single killer application in this brave new world of communications but more a cocktail of products and applications.
Convergence implies a user centric environment which people can quickly, simply and dynamically tailor according to their personal preferences and which they may choose to share with a group. It is about easy and consistent access using the same systems/log-ins regardless of the device.