referred to as the convergence of service modes; the result is a drastic change for telecommunications products and services.
For example, telecommunication has already merged with information processing to provide data communication or on-line processing. Facsimile communication service provided by common carriers and electronic mail service provided by the post office will soon merge, eliminating the physical delivery of documents to and from customers. The difference between videotex by telecommunications services and teletext by broadcasting services will be minimized when cable television systems acquire two-way capability.
One benefit of the convergence of service modes is that it provides economies of scale; that is, many kinds of information can be provided in various forms through a variety of media at a reasonable cost. These benefits, however, will be lost without a reevaluation of regulatory measures, which traditionally have been organized on the basis of separate services. Because services cover broad areas that transcend national boundaries, international compatibility of these regulatory measures is necessary to ensure the unobstructed flow of information globally.
The invention of transistors and the subsequent progress of solid-state circuit technology revolutionized information technology, bringing such innovations as digital transmission, digital switching, and digital computers. The advent of optical fibers, lasers, photodiodes, and other photonic devices permitted lightwave communication over great distances. Clearly, major systems in modern telecommunication have been deeply dependent on innovations in the area of electronic devices and materials. This trend, often referred to as the microelectronics revolution, will intensify in the years ahead. New systems will depend more on the development of new devices and materials.
Characteristically, the technology supporting electronic devices and materials is capital intensive and quickly obsolete. Year after year, billions of dollars have been spent worldwide for research, development, and production of sophisticated devices, which, through keen competition in the marketplace, became cheaper and cheaper and eventually obsolete. Because of the rapid progress of large-scale integration that permits a sizable system to be mounted on a single chip, system manufacturers must also face the issue of capital-intensive investment and quick obsolescence.
As telecommunication technology becomes increasingly digital and computer-oriented, one major problem is the rising cost of software development and production. Although advances in device technology are lowering hard-