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7th ITU Global Symposium for Regulators
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
5 February 2007

Opening Speech by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré


Your Excellency Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Governmental Sector Development and Chairman of the Supreme Committee for the Supervision of the Telecommunications Sector, our gracious host, Mr. Mohamed Al Ghanim, Director-General, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, United Arab Emirates, distinguished Chairmen, Directors General and Presidents of the Regulatory Authorities, members of the private sector, invited guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is my greatest pleasure to welcome you to the 7th annual Global Symposium for Regulators. I would like to extend a special word of thanks to our host, Mr. Al-Ghanim, for inviting us to hold the GSR here in the United Arab Emirates, and for his kind acceptance to chair this year's GSR. He and his entire staff have gone out of their way to welcome us with true Emirates hospitality.


We have gathered here to discuss the road to next-generation networks. The road to NGNs marks a turning point for the industry, consumers, and for policy makers and regulators. Today also marks a turning point for my career in the ICT sector. The last time I addressed the Global Symposium for Regulators, I stood before you as Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau. Now, thanks to your kind support at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, I stand before you as the new ITU Secretary-General.


I also stand on this podium together with the new BDT Director, Mr. Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, my friend and colleague. While I will always remain active in the GSR as ITU Secretary-General, I now pass on immediate responsibility for the GSR to Mr. Al Basheer. I have every confidence in his ability to ensure that the GSR continues to thrive and meet your needs. I would also like to especially recognize the participation in this GSR of Messrs. Matthias Kurth and Marc Furrer. I am grateful that you continue to support ITU and the GSR by your presence here in Dubai.


Of course, any transition is bittersweet. I will miss my role in the Way Forward Session of the GSR that has always brought forward excellent suggestions on how we can best respond to your pressing concerns. However, I look forward to the challenges ahead.


As you know, my campaign for the post of ITU Secretary-General stressed several important issues: bridging the digital divide, cybersecurity and emergency communications. Regulatory reform is of key importance to all three. That is why I was delighted when the ITU Plenipotentiary adopted Resolution GT-Plen/4 on the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) in Antalya. This resolution crystallizes the will of ITU members to hold the GSR on an annual basis, and ensures that only a future Plenipotentiary could change this decision. This Resolution also recognizes the key role that regulators play within ITU. This reflects the key role of regulatory reform in the growth of the ICT sector.


Regulatory reform is at the very heart of the tremendous progress developing countries have already made to improve access to ICTs. Liberalization and competition have brought far greater benefits over the past few years than decades of universal access efforts channeled through incumbents. During the time that I served as BDT Director, the number of mobile subscribers in developing countries increased from a little over 165 million in 1999 to nearly 1.4 billion by the end of 2005. Sixty three percent of the total 2.2 billion mobile subscribers worldwide in 2005 were in developing and emerging countries like Brazil, China, India, Pakistan and Russia which are continuing to push these numbers ever higher.


The widespread deployment of mobile services is the result of regulatory reform � the licensing of competitive operators � combined with innovative business practices � such as pre-paid cards�and leveraging new technological developments, such as less costly mobile networks and new applications like SMS. These three factors: regulatory reform, innovative business practices, and leveraging new technological developments will continue to drive growth in the ICT industry, and enable developing countries to bridge the digital divide. The trick now is to extend the success of the mobile miracle to broadband internet access, and from there to next-generation networks, services and applications.


Regulatory reform -- and your work over the next three days -- is vital to the essence of the ITU's mission. We need to work together to leverage the promises of next generation networks to ensure that the WSIS targets of connecting all the world's villages to ICT by 2015 are met. I invite all of you to re-double your efforts at home to ensure that these WSIS targets become a reality.


I can ensure you that the whole of ITU will play its part. TSB is developing the technical standards for NGN networks to ensure interoperability between different vendors' user terminals and network equipment. The deployment of NGNs in developing countries will rely heavily on wireless technologies, and BR will play a key role in ensuring the necessary spectrum for these services is allocated so that developing countries can benefit from economies of scale in the production and manufacture of equipment and network infrastructure. BDT will ensure that the benefits of NGNs are realized by all of the world's people.


I can also assure you that the newly elected ITU management team is working together, coordinating efforts between and among the three sectors and the general secretariat. We have also renewed our pledge to coordinate and work closely with our partners, cementing existing relationships while forging ties with new partners. I am delighted that some of our key partners in the field of regulatory reform, infoDev and the World Bank, are here today. I am also pleased to announce that ITU is forging close ties with Telecom Sans Frontieres to increase our effectiveness in ensuring emergency communications. I have also instructed my staff to re-double their efforts to increase the number of ITU Sector Members. I know that several members of the private sector who were not ITU-D members have decided to become ITU-D members to enjoy the benefits of the GSR. I thank you for this support and welcome you to the fold.


As part of improved coordination, I have made efforts to provide better support to BDT in the organization of this year's GSR. For example, ITU Corporate Communications is ensuring better media coverage of the GSR. I intend to build on this in the years to come to ensure that BDT gets the support it needs to guarantee that GSR flourishes.


The road to NGNs requires both long-range and short-term actions. It is by no means certain that the vision of NGNs we have today will become a reality. Certainly the kinds of next-generation networks deployed and the services offered will vary country by country, region by region. One key issue is interconnection -- to ensure that competitive bottlenecks remain open. Many regulators have already begun these discussions to plan for the road ahead. For other regulators, issues like universal access, quality of service, the enabling environment and international internet connectivity, are more pressing, requiring more immediate attention.


As I mentioned, the third plank in my campaign platform was cyber-security. Like NGNs, cybersecurity requires both long-range planning and short-term action. Short-term, the time is ripe to beef up anti-spam laws and to ensure they are vigorously enforced. Enforcement of anti-spam laws is today's missing link in the fight against spam and the viruses, phishing attacks and other cybersecurity threats spam carries. The model-anti-spam law we presented at the last GSR is a good place at which to begin these discussions.


The migration to NGNs represents a unique opportunity to analyze and evolve our regulatory frameworks. Often, in times of great change, what's needed is a return to the basics. While the future of NGN development is far from clear, we can all use one guiding principle in designing our regulatory frameworks: How can we craft the best regulatory framework to achieve the WSIS objective of ensuring that all of the world's people have access to ICTs?


I hope these thoughts will guide our discussions over the next few days.


Ladies and gentlemen, I don't wish to take any more of your valuable time. I wish you all a fruitful and frank exchange.

 

 

 

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