Ladies & Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you here to the ITU today.
We are delighted to have this opportunity to welcome you here to the home of
important standardization for mobile communication systems such as IMT (3G) or
the IMT Advanced family of mobile broadband systems. And we are looking
forward to debating the valuable role that mobile telephony can play in
promoting sustainable development.
ICTs have, of course, long been recognized as key drivers promoting social and
economic development around the world and boosting innovation, jobs and
investment everywhere. None more so, however, than mobile telephony.
According to ITU’s latest data, some 4 billion mobile subscriptions are
currently in existence today, which suggests that over half the world’s
population have access to a mobile phone, by some estimates. This is the first
WSIS goal to have been achieved – we are close “to ensuring that more than half
the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach”.
Over two-thirds of these subscriptions are based in the developing world.
Competition, new technologies and applications and flat-rate pricing models in
the mobile market have allowed an ever greater number of people across the world
to join the information society.
Between the end of 2005 and the beginning of this year, the number of mobile
cellular subscriptions globally has grown at a stunning rate of over 20%
year-on-year. The regions with the highest growth rates are the developing
regions. Africa's annual average growth rate over the last three years stood at
no less than 40%.
This makes mobile telephony one of the success stories of the developing world
and a technology of intense interest to all those working in development, who
strive to reduce poverty and improve the lot of poorer people around the world.
Many people’s first experience of a communication device is through a mobile
Now, however, the roll-out of advanced mobile broadband networks offering access
to the Internet is enabling service providers to introduce innovative
applications with broad market acceptance. The opportunities opened up by mobile
banking, credit transfers, long-distance telediagnosis and public health text
messages are enormous, and we are still only at the start of what can be
achieved. I look forward to hearing more from my colleague, Dr. Lilia Perez-Chavolla,
on the potential of mobile applications for sustainable development.
Building on its work with IMT (3G) mobile technologies, ITU is now working on
standards for new-generation mobile IMT-Advanced technologies and low-power,
energy-efficient mobile technologies. Much of the standardization work involved
in ensuring inter-operable mobile communication technologies has been carried
out here at ITU.
Today, ongoing convergence in computing and mobility has led to the deployment
of single-platform systems including smartphones, sophisticated mobile devices
and super-computers offering value-added services including games, music,
movies, TV, weather forecasts and location services. Mobile devices are now
becoming navigation tools with in-built GPS (Global Positioning System), social
networks and digital identities, offering secure and targeted services according
to user’s attributes and geo-location.
However, while mobile coverage has improved significantly across all regions,
penetration rates of high-speed broadband connectivity in developing countries
remain low, and these services are far too expensive. How many advanced mobile
broadband services are widely used, in the developing world? And what is
the impact of the recent financial crisis on the deployment of mobile networks
around the globe?
The current financial crisis is challenging the industry and governments and
policy-makers everywhere, but at the same time, it could help shake up the
industry and overturn the established order, revitalizing the industry.
ITU has monitored the impact of the financial crisis on the telecommunications
industry since it first erupted in September 2008. In February of this year, we
published our report, “Confronting the Crisis: Its Impact on the ICT Industry”.
On 21 April 2009, we held a one-day Strategic Dialogue on the Financial Crisis,
preceding the World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF), which united a range
of speakers from different backgrounds across the ICT industry to discuss how
the financial crisis was affecting their business and prospects for the near
Our research has shown that the mobile industry has emerged relatively unscathed
from the financial crisis in developing countries, where massive growth is still
being seen in monthly additions in large developing markets including Egypt,
Nigeria, Brazil, China and India. Handset turnover and shipments in developed
economies have been impacted more severely, but growth is forecast to return to
the mobile devices market later this year – Nokia’s decision not to downgrade
its forecasts for the handset market this year is being interpreted as the
bottoming out of the mobile devices market in Q1 2009.
ITU is continuing to monitor the evolving impact of the financial crisis and we
are preparing the next edition of our “Confronting the Crisis” report series for
World TELECOM 2009 this October, when we shall host a follow-up Summit and
Strategic Dialogue on ICT investments for economic recovery. Our research has
shown that astute operators are seizing the opportunity and taking this time to
reposition and invest to emerge stronger, when the recovery happens.
ITU remains committed to bringing together partners from industry, government,
technical and financial institutions to bridge gaps in ICT infrastructure,
supporting affordable connectivity and applications to stimulate economic
growth. ITU is working with industry and Governments to help the industry
reposition itself and emerge stronger and more resilient from these challenging
ITU has launched several work programmes and initiatives that seek to reduce
digital divide – for example, with its “Connect the World” programme, ITU has
launched a strategic partnerships with the private sector including mobile
operators and equipment vendors to promote the deployment of communication
networks in developing countries that need them the most.
ITU remains committed to mobilizing financial and technical resources worldwide
for the extension of wireless broadband infrastructure to promote economic
development around the world, especially in developing countries.
ITU is also continuing its body of work on the standards enabling the roll-out
of advanced mobile networks, to ensure interoperable, reliable, secure and more
accessible communications. In my view, the mobile industry can only emerge
stronger and more successful from these challenging times, so that they lead the
way out of this crisis and continue to boost access to mobile communications
everywhere. Our challenge remains to facilitate the work of the private sector
through intelligent and flexible policy-making and standards, to enable as many
people as possible to enjoy the benefits of access to ICTs.