Ofcom has been busy crystal-ball gazing again, this time plotting out what we'll be doing for entertainment in the year 2028, and how much radio spectrum we'll need to do it.
Besides the fun of futurology, Ofcom's predictions are used to establish policy. Last time it was health and transport, this year it's entertainment - which will apparently need a lot more radio spectrum, despite the fact that broadcast TV will cease to exist and the spectrum is all going to be utilised by the mobile phone companies.
The report (pdf) was compiled by a group of consultants under instruction from the regulator, and proposes three possible scenarios for 2028, with divergent spectrum requirements.
The first imagines TV viewers following broadcast schedules of HD-TV - with some in 3D - mostly broadcast over satellite but with a few terrestrial channels too. PVRs and the internet are used to catch up on missed episodes, but most viewers enjoy the shared social experience of having watched the same TV program last night. That might sound unlikely, but we are constantly surprised by the number of people with Sky+, TiVo or similar who still watch live TV when the broadcaster dictates it.
The second, slightly more optimistic, future predicts the internet providing most TV while satellite is used for live events. A household server is used to browse for content from iTunes or similar, which is then streamed around the house over wi-fi. The important bit here is the removal of the broadcaster almost entirely. Users get their content direct from producers or aggregators, such as iTunes: global suppliers who care nothing for local content or production.
The third option is similar, but replaces the home server with a mobile phone. Content becomes very personal and held in the hand. The report doesn't believe anyone's going to watch a lot of TV on their phones - users will link their handset to a big screen when they want to watch anything more than a few minutes long. Screen size is not the only issue for mobile viewing: apparently users are uncomfortable watching TV in public, as they are concerned they'll miss things going on around them, such as a mugger reaching for their bag.
You'll notice that the focus is very much on video viewing, a leaning for which the report makes no apology. Newspapers are in a quite possibly terminal decline, whilst live gigs are on course to supplant recorded sales as the biggest income for the record industry - perhaps as soon as 2012. So the future of entertainment is apparently in video.
Somewhat undermining their authority is the assertion, by the report's authors, that the cause of the decline in music sales is solely illegal copying. The fact that modern teenagers are expected to pay for mobile telephones, designer label clothes and knives, as well as the latest 45s, isn't considered pertinent.