ITU

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Joint APT-ITU Workshop on the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs)

Bangkok, Thailand, 6 February 2012

Inaugural Address

Distinguished colleagues and friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be with you today for this joint ITU and APT event. Thank you all for joining us.

I would like to thank APT for hosting the event and Mr Kraisom Pomsutee for his kind welcoming words. I would also like to thank my good friend Mohamed Amir who has been working very hard with my ITU colleagues here with me today to make sure this event is a success.

2012 will be a very busy and significant year for ITU. In addition to the Radio Assembly and the current World Radio Conference there are a group of other very important events at the end of the year. I am referring of course to the Global Standards Symposium, the World Standardisation Assembly, and of course the subject of this event, the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).

These events begin on 19 November, and WCIT itself will take place 3 – 14 December 2012. All the events will take place in Dubai.

During the ASTAP meeting in Manila last October it became clear that there was a lack of awareness of WCIT and the issues on the table for the conference in many countries, and as a result it was agreed to hold this information session to sensitise people to the topics in advance of the next preparatory meeting in March, especially for those who have not be able to participate in the ITU Council preparatory group.

The WCIT will be the first event of its kind since the conference in Melbourne in 1988 which produced the current International Telecommunication Regulations.

The current ITRs have served us well – particularly by facilitating the liberalization of telecommunications services – but there is general agreement that they now need to be updated to reflect the significant changes that have taken place in the ICT sector over the past 24 years.

It is generally agreed that light regulation is necessary, and what can be seen emerging is a recognition of the need to lay down principles on topics that concern us all and which require agreement at an intergovernmental level. Topics such as:

  • Human right of access to communication
  • Security in the use of ICTs, and protection of critical national resources
  • Charging and accounting, including taxation
  • Interoperability and interconnection
  • Quality of service
  • misuse and hijacking of international numbers
  • enforcement
There has been a lot of speculation in the media that Internet governance will be one of the main topics for discussion at the conference. However while many of the above mentioned topics relate in some way to the Internet, currently there are no contributions on the broad issue of Internet governance.

Back in 1988, the three key pillars underpinning telecommunications were time, distance, and location. These have all become almost entirely irrelevant in terms of global telecommunications services today.

Changes in the landscape also include the liberalization and privatization of much of the telecommunications sector since 1988, and also the increasing convergence of technologies and services, which blur the traditional distinctions between telecommunications and computer technology – and between voice, video and data traffic.

The 1988 agreement had the positive effect of encouraging the liberalisation of the existing international infrastructure, permitting it to be used competitively and efficiently, and creating the conditions that helped the Internet to develop.

The market alone would not have created that international infrastructure but thanks to the ITRs the industry was able to take advantage of the extensive infrastructure that had been built under monopoly regimes.

Today there is a need for coordination and consolidation between the various stakeholders at both the national and international levels, and for this to take place under a commonly agreed international framework.

There needs to be a level playing field at both the national and the international level, to avoid abuse of power by dominant national and international players.

Data volumes are increasing much faster than the infrastructure needed to carry it. There is a risk of an ‘infrastructure gap’ developing which needs to be addressed internationally.

ITU recognized the need to review the ITRs in the light of these developments and at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in October 2010 it was agreed that a Council Working Group would look at proposals for reviewing the ITRs and prepare a report to a WCIT in 2012.

The Council group will next meet in Geneva 23-25 April and the final meeting will take place 20-22 June 2012. The publication of its report will be on 29 June 2012 (5 months prior to WCIT) and will include a consolidation of all the proposals it has received.

Member States are asked to submit their proposals for the work of the conference at least four months before the start of WCIT, that is by 3 August 2012.

In preparing for WCIT it is necessary to reach out to the entire ITU membership, as well as the multi-stakeholder community, to encourage input to WCIT, because the ITRs will eventually affect all the world’s citizens.

WCIT will act as a catalyst for the future development of the whole ICT sector.

In the interests of sustainable and equitable growth of global ICTs I strongly urge you all therefore to take a continued and active role in the preparation process.

I hope that the presentations over the next few days will help shed some light on the importance of the ITRs and this conference at the end of this year.

I hope this will be an interactive few days so please feel free to ask any questions that you may have as we go through the presentations which will be given by our two ITU experts in the field: Richard Hill and Preetam Maloor; under the guidance of our moderator Mohamed Amir.

One of the advantages of events such as this is the chance to exchange views with your peers from other countries. So I am pleased to offer you such an opportunity this evening by inviting you to a reception beginning at 17.30.

I hope you all find this event beneficial and enjoyable.