A Glimpse into the Future: South Korea
Imagine if the UK's average connection speed was quadrupled to 17.5Mbps; superfast broadband penetration was cranked up nearly two-and-half-times to 83%; and the DAB network upgraded to send live TV to our mobiles. How far in the future would you have to go to see what that might be like?
Sadly the TARDIS outside Television Centre is in for a service. But if you do want to find out, take a look at South Korea. I was in Seoul earlier this month at the Korean Communications Conference to find out more about how Korea's impressive communications infrastructure is challenging some of our assumptions about broadcasting.
One of those assumptions is that people instinctively prefer to watch TV on a big screen whilst relaxing on their sofas. That might look like the case in the UK, where consumption of the BBC's TV services via smartphone is only about 0.04% of total consumption, and 0.05% by tablet. However it's not obvious in Korea, where mobile TV is now very popular indeed, driven by faster mobile broadband and Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB, essentially an upgraded DAB).
DMB allows high-quality TV reception on-the-move. Introduced by Korea in 2004, it's now very widely used on mobile phones, personal media players, tablet computers and is routinely fitted in cars. And whilst the auction for 4G spectrum is yet to take place in the UK, 4G LTE started in Korea midway through 2011.
These developments have meant that bigger mobile phone screens - between a tablet and a smartphone - have become extremely popular, squeezing the market for devices such as the iPad.
A second assumption challenged by South Korea's experience is that consumers by instinct prefer linear broadcasting to on-demand. In the UK, catch-up viewing of the BBC's TV services makes up about 1% of total viewing. On some measures, in Korea around half of total viewing is now via catch-up.
As the home of the world's best and fastest communications infrastructure, Korea also lays claim to some of the most innovative companies shaping consumer technology's future. They are leading the way in how we may interact with our TVs, already producing models that provide voice and motion control as well as face recognition. Significantly more advanced systems are in development however, including 'brain wave TV' which, via headgear, can identify broad categories of viewers' thoughts.
A potentially nearer-term consumer technology is holographic TV. At the moment, holographic technology is occasionally used for exhibition or advertising displays and can use a lot of data to transmit, but many pundits - such as the Korean Communication Commission's Dr Sang-il Park, a former CTO of Samsung - believe it will be far more significant and popular than current 'basic' 3D. It's certainly clear from Korean manufacturers that there is a lot more 'smartness' to come in TV manufacture, including artificial intelligence.
My sense after visiting South Korea is that in the UK we shouldn't be complacent about the continued success of the traditional broadcasting model.
The UK sector may evolve very rapidly indeed as the speed, availability and convenience of digital and IP functionalities reaches a tipping point into the fully mainstream.
John Tate is Director, BBC Policy & Strategy and Chairman, BBC Studios & Post-Production