Speech from Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General

International Symposium on Telecommunication
Teheran, Iran
27 August 2008

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

What a pleasure to be here with you today in Tehran, one of the great cradles of human civilization. I cannot think of a more appropriate venue in which to come together to discuss and debate the information and communication technologies that represent the next great leap forward for humankind.

As engineers, radiocommunication experts, software developers and network specialists, you’ll be spending the next two days focusing on the latest trends and technological advances that will help you deliver the services tomorrow’s users demand. A quick glance at the agenda confirms that you have a fascinating programme ahead of you.

I very much doubt that any of you here today need an introduction to the work of ITU. As the world’s oldest intergovernmental organization, we’ve been leading the development of the world’s networks and services for over 140 years. Through our 21 Study Groups spanning our three Sectors – Telecommunication Standardization, Radiocommunication and ICT Development – we continue to pioneer the technical standards that serve as the platform for the ongoing evolution of our industry.

As the broker of global consensus on the technologies and frameworks that will underpin the next wave of innovation, ITU is active in every facet of ICT development, from access networks, transmission, next generation networks and broadband, to billing and numbering, satellite systems and of course wireless, which continues to notch up exponential growth while expanding its reach into new areas.

In 2007, ITU-T alone produced over 160 new and revised standards, covering everything from core public phone network functionality to next-generation services like IPTV.

And to meet the needs of an industry where today’s breakthrough technology quickly becomes yester-year’s legacy installation, we’ve dramatically streamlined our processes, paring back the average development time for an ITU Recommendation from four years in 1988 to around just one year today.

The pace of work continues to accelerate: 13% more ITU-T Recommendations were approved in 2007 than in 2006, and, with the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly set to kick off in Johannesburg, South Africa in October, this year’s achievement is already set to be higher still.

In September last year, to promote and enhance worldwide access to globally-agreed ITU Recommendations, we also took the radical step of making over 3,000 core ITU standards downloadable directly over the Internet, free of charge. As hoped, this move has been particularly beneficial to developing countries, which downloaded over 300,000 copies of ITU-T standards in 2007.

Looking ahead, priority areas of focus include Next Generation Networks, multimedia codecs, digital identity management systems, fast broadband platforms, and of course the next wave in cellular mobile, which is being developed under the auspices of our IMT-Advanced project.

Work on NGN is progressing apace. ITU’s NGN Global Standards Initiative represents one of the largest, most wide-ranging global standardization projects ever undertaken, involving cooperative work between leading standards-making bodies worldwide to define the networks that will deliver tomorrow’s converged, broadband-based services.

Already, we’re beginning to see early deployments of NGN technologies, which have the power not only to cut operational costs and enable advanced new services, but also to reduce the carbon footprint of ICT networks through more energy-efficient technologies.

Audio and video codecs is another area in which ITU continues to make history, through standards like H.262/MPEG2-video, H.264, and the JPEG T.80 and T.800 image coding series.

H.264 is the world’s first truly scalable video codec, and is already used in cutting-edge products like the new Apple iPod, as well as multimedia offerings from companies including Intel, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.

In the area of converged services, ITU’s H.323 family is at the heart of the overwhelming majority of Voice over IP systems. This market is now poised to take off on a global scale, with analysts forecasting IP phone revenues doubling to reach six billion dollars within the next five years.

ITU is also the recognized leader in new digital authentication systems that will be essential to building trust and confidence in online transactions. ITU Recommendation X.509 is already the default industry benchmark for public key certificates, and last year our special Focus Group on Identity Management launched a Global Standards Initiative designed to develop a global digital identity management framework to assure worldwide interoperability.

Supporting the boom in multimedia applications, ITU also notched up a major achievement with VDSL2, which supports 100Mbps upstream and downstream transmission rates – a tenfold increase over ADSL. This technology is now being rapidly adopted by telcos worldwide as part of new ‘triple-play’ bundled voice and multimedia offerings like high-definition TV, video-on-demand, videoconferencing, very fast Internet and ‘intelligent’ voice telephony.

In the wireless realm, IMT-Advanced represents another huge, cooperative standardization effort that will deliver a new global platform on which to build the next generation of mobile services – fast data access, unified messaging and broadband multimedia.

ITU-R has now commenced the submission and evaluation process for the terrestrial components of the IMT-Advanced radio interface, with work on this exciting new family of standards scheduled to culminate in 2011 with ITU Recommendations on the IMT-Advanced air interface.


At the same time, last year’s World Radiocommunication Conference saw ITU broker agreement on new harmonized global spectrum allocations for IMT-based systems. The conference also brought an important new technology into the IMT fold. As we saw very clearly at our ITU TELECOM event in Cairo in May, WiMAX has great potential as a platform for wireless broadband service delivery, and could help the world’s developing regions quickly bridge the broadband divide.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ve spoken at length about ITU’s technical leadership, and our current standardization priorities. But ITU is much more than just a standards-maker. Our remit also covers policy-making activities, and a strong commitment to promoting ICT development.

In the policy arena, we’re actively promoting our new Cybersecurity Agenda, which aims to create a broad, workable global framework to quash the growing tide of cybercrime that is now plaguing our networks. The Agenda continues to garner avid support from both the public and private sector, and I’ll be shortly presenting the strategic recommendations of our High Level Experts Group to ITU Council for action.

Before the end of this year, I’ll also be launching a new element of this Agenda aimed specifically at protecting children from criminals seeking to target them with pornography, gambling and other illicit activities. While the Internet has enormous potential for education, if we are to promote ICTs to our youth we must first make sure that the Net is a safe place for them to be.

ITU is also taking the lead in addressing the impact and potential of ICTs in climate change. Following two ITU symposia earlier this year, we succeeded in getting this issue onto the agenda of the recent G8 summit in Japan, where world leaders agreed to promote work on energy-efficient technologies and better exploit the power of ICTs in areas like environmental monitoring, early warning systems for disaster response, and climate modeling and forecasting.

Last but not least, ITU also plays a vital and growing role in promoting access to ICTs in the developing world. ICTs are now recognized as the key engine for economic growth. That’s why we’re committed to connecting the last three billion, and to ensuring that the world’s emerging economies get access to the broadest possible range of services, at affordable prices.

Our Connect Africa event, held in Kigali last year, drew unprecedented levels of interest from the public and private sectors alike, and succeeding in garnering 55 billion dollars in investment pledges.

The success of this event has encouraged us to convene more regionally focused Connect events around the world, starting with Connect CIS, which will be held in Belarus in 2009. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to announce a Connect event for the Middle East region, should a host country express an interest in serving as a venue.

In a similar vein, I’d like to take a moment to hail Iran’s crucial and very welcome efforts in helping ITU establish a brand new ICT Institute for Afghanistan. The Iranian government has contributed over 6 million dollars in funding for this important regional project, which will provide young Afghans with the chance to build careers in a fast-growing sector while helping the country as a whole build the ICT knowledge base that will be fundamental to its ongoing development. I’m very happy to report that this project is now in its final stage, and should be open for business before the end of this year.

Distinguished colleagues,

I am confident that this event’s stimulating discussions and debates will be valuable in helping to meet the demands of your users and will also help to serve your national development agendas.

We are fortunate to be working in the most exciting, and empowering, industry in the world; so let us profit from our time together, and embrace the many opportunities before us.

Thank you.