Network convergence is the efficient coexistence of telephone, video and data communication within a single network. The use of multiple communication modes in a single network offers convenience and flexibility not possible with separate infrastructures. Network convergence is also called media convergence.
In response to consumer demand, convergence has been evolving on the Internet ever since its inception. Nowadays, texting, Web surfing, VoIP (voice over IP), streaming media, videoconference applications, online gaming and e-commerce are all extensively engaged in by consumers, businesses, educational institutions and government agencies. All users demand high quality of service (QoS), quality of experience (QoE or QoX), robustness, moderate cost, standards compatibility, ease of modification and upgrading, security, privacy and freedom from malware.
As network convergence evolves, major challenges confront network developers. Sheer demand for bandwidth is perhaps the most significant. As applications become more sophisticated and users exchange data of increasingly rich content, network resources can become overwhelmed. A key to effective network convergence therefore lies in the design, installation and maintenance of adequate hardware. Another challenge is the fact that the implementation of new technologies is limited by the extent to which investors and taxpayers are willing to support them. Still another key issue is the need for standards that ensure seamless operation with multiple end-user platforms and evolving communications modes. New technologies sometimes bring new types of traffic that place previously unknown demands on network hardware, operating systems, resources and software.
See also: fixed-mobile convergence