1.3.8 The converged network
Modern networks are constantly evolving to meet user demands. Early data networks were limited to exchanging character-based information between connected computer systems. Traditional telephone, radio, and television networks were maintained separately from data networks. In the past, every one of these services required a dedicated network, with different communication channels and different technologies to carry a particular communication signal. Each service had its own set of rules and standards to ensure successful communication.
Consider some schools that were cabled for a computer network 30 years ago. Classrooms were cabled for the computer network. They were also cabled for a telephone network. And, they were cabled for a video network. These networks were disparate; meaning that they could not communicate with each other, as shown in Figure 13.
Advances in technology are enabling us to consolidate these different kinds of networks onto one platform referred to as the 'converged network'. Unlike dedicated networks, converged networks are capable of delivering voice, video streams, text, and graphics between many different types of devices over the same communication channel and network structure, as shown in Figure 14. Previously separate and distinct communication forms have converged onto a common platform. This platform provides access to a wide range of alternative and new communication methods that enable people to interact directly with each other almost instantaneously.
On a converged network there are still many points of contact and many specialised devices, such as personal computers, phones, TVs, and tablet computers, but there is one common network infrastructure. This network infrastructure uses a common set of rules, agreements, and implementation standards.