Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you in Barcelona this morning for the opening session of the Government Mobile Forum, which will be discussing ‘The Roadmap to a Mobile Broadband Future’.
This is a subject that is very close to my heart.
At the ITU, our mission is to connect the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. This we do together with our 193 member states and more than 700 sector members drawn from industry, academia and civil society organizations – including many of you in this room.
I firmly believe that if we can succeed in achieving our mission, then we will see unprecedented social and economic improvement for all, and that we will continue to make bold steps in accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals – and indeed other sustainable development goals as we move forward.
We have made the most extraordinary progress in the first twelve years of the new Millennium.
In the year 2000, around half the people in the world’s richest countries had a mobile phone and mobile penetration in Africa was under 2%.
Today there are more than six billion mobile phone subscriptions globally, and mobile penetration in Africa is well over 50%.
At the beginning of the Millennium, around 280 million people used the Internet worldwide. In not much more than a decade that figure has grown almost ten-fold to reach just over a third of the world’s population.
And yet we still have far to go.
Because two thirds of the world’s people – some 4.5 billion people – are still offline.
This means that:
- Two thirds of the world’s people are still locked out of the world’s biggest and most valuable library.
- Two thirds of the world’s people are still refused access to the world’s biggest market place.
- And two thirds of the world’s people are still denied the extraordinary opportunities now available to the other third.
Mobile broadband is clearly going to be a vital part of the solution, and we must continue to mobilize to ensure that all the world’s people have affordable, equitable access to the Internet.
Central to this is the crucial issue of spectrum. ITU’s membership already made some bold decisions during the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2012 that lay the foundations for ensuring that the digital dividend is used effectively for mobile broadband.
As we look ahead to the next the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015 we must seize the opportunities to ensure that operators have what they need to deliver mobile broadband and to deliver on our responsibility to connect everyone.
This is why ITU and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development three years ago – to advocate for increased broadband access and rollout globally; not just for its own sake, but to accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
We now have close to 60 Broadband Commissioners – all leaders in their field – representing governments, industry, academia and international agencies, and they are doing great work in advocating the importance of policy leadership.
And it is great to see that many of our Commissioners are here in Barcelona this week for Mobile World Congress – and indeed a number of them run some of the biggest and most influential companies in the mobile telecoms sector.
Ladies and gentlemen,
ITU firmly believes in the social and economic benefits of improved connectivity for all.
To achieve this, however, it is clear that there will need to be a massive increase in the rollout of broadband infrastructure on a global scale, and in particular mobile broadband infrastructure.
This was in fact one of the key achievements of the World Conference on International Communications, WCIT-12, which was held in Dubai last December.
The newly revised International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) coming out of WCIT-12 contain many gains and achievements, and notably, concerning mobile telecommunications, include valuable new provisions on international roaming which will be of great benefit to consumers.
The new provisions on International Mobile Roaming will help to ensure: transparency of end-user prices for international mobile services; satisfactory quality; greater cooperation and competition to avoid ‘bill shock’; and the avoidance and mitigation of inadvertent roaming charges in border zones.
The issue of roaming cannot and should not be ignored. Rather than waiting for solutions to be imposed I would encourage all of us to see this as an opportunity for industry to work together with government to find solutions that work for everyone.
A total of 89 ITU Member States signed the revised ITRs in Dubai in December, and many others will accede to the treaty after they have gone through national consultations, ahead of the treaty coming into force at the beginning of January 2015.
Most importantly, the new treaty charts a globally-agreed road map that promises to bring the digital era within reach of the 700 million people around the world who still do not have mobile phone network coverage and the 4.5 billion people not yet online.
WCIT-12 was really all about creating the right environment for telecommunications infrastructure investment and roll-out – because connecting the unconnected is at the heart of what ITU does.
Thanks to WCIT-12, a healthy digital ecosystem – where everyone on the planet can participate – is now within our grasp, and all stakeholders, including governments and businesses, must do their utmost to ensure that we deliver on this promise.
As an institution, ITU has successfully been an influential but neutral global convener throughout its long history, and we are firm believers that only open, transparent and inclusive processes will lead the way to successful policy making.
This is why we continue to act as a bridge builder, promoting a multi-stakeholder approach to dealing with telecommunications and ICTs.
In this regard, I am very much looking forward to the fifth World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum, WTPF-13, which will be taking place in May.
WTPF-13 provides a global forum for our members to examine international Internet-related public policy matters, at their request – and let me stress here that WTPF is a forum, not a treaty-making conference.
The WTPF exists precisely so we can have a global debate on key issues in the world of ICTs. WTPF-13 is a unique opportunity to air the issues as they are seen among fellow experts, and the Forum will enable all stakeholders to contribute their unique perspective to the discussions and help the global community chart a common course forward.
The preparatory process towards WTPF-13 has been open and inclusive. It was led by an informal expert group that was open to all stakeholders, irrespective of whether or not they were members of ITU.
The expert group recently concluded its third and final meeting and approved six draft Opinions, by consensus, for further discussion at the Policy Forum in May. These include:
- Fostering an enabling environment for the greater growth and development of broadband connectivity;
- Promoting Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) as a long term solution to advance connectivity;
- Supporting multi-stakeholderism in Internet governance;
- Supporting operationalizing the enhanced cooperation process;
- Supporting capacity building for the deployment of IPv6; and
- Supporting IPv6 adoption and the transition from IPv4.
These opinions cover a wide range of Internet-related global public policy issues of significant relevance in today’s world – and I am confident that they will serve as a good basis for fruitful high-level discussions at WTPF-13.
Just before WTPF-13, on 13 May, we will be hosting a high-level Strategic Dialogue to discuss the importance of investment in infrastructure and the changing nature of ICT regulation.
The focus will be on broadband – the critical infrastructure essential for national competitiveness in today’s global economy – and I am sure that many of the issues we discuss here in Barcelona will form a key part of the inputs to that dialogue.
One of the crucial challenges is the surging growth of data which is putting unprecedented pressure on existing telecom networks. Governments and industry must work together to ensure that emerging business models ensure sufficient return on investments made on network upgrades.
So, the question then, is who pays for what? Some say the market will fix this. Others are calling for a larger role for regulators to set a fair playing field.
This is exactly the kind of debate we will have at the upcoming Global Symposium for Regulators to be held in July in Poland when we will bring together regulators and industry leaders from around the world.
To conclude, we all agree that broadband will be central to future social and economic development, and for many parts of the world this will be mobile broadband.
To realize this potential, the old models need to be updated and it has never been more urgent for us to work together to create the solutions to drive future broadband-enabled prosperity.