Ladies and Gentlemen,
Firstly, let me thank ITSO for your kind invitation to be here today at your
It is always a personal pleasure to be at the heart of the satellite community.
I was just a small boy when the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, was
launched into space in 1957, and I have been a passionate believer in the power
of satellites ever since. As many of you know, before joining ITU, I also spent
some 11 years working at Intelsat.
At the World Summit for the Information Society in 2005, we committed to
connecting the world’s unconnected by 2012 – bringing access to ICTs to every
village on the planet.
Progress in meeting this ambitious goal to ‘Connect the World’ has been more
Just ten years ago, at the end of 1998, there were 844 million fixed line and
319 million mobile subscribers, for a total of just under 1.2 billion
But by the beginning of this year, those numbers had increased far beyond our
most optimistic forecasts, to reach 1.3 billion fixed line and an astonishing
3.3 billion mobile subscribers.
Within the next few weeks, there will be more than four billion mobile
subscribers worldwide – an incredible achievement.
Technologies such as ground-based mobile communications, fibre-optics and
broadband wireless have done a huge amount in a very short space of time to
bring many more of the world’s people into the ICT fold, and will continue to do
We have precious little time, however – only a very few short years – to meet
the WSIS and Millennium Development Goals. The ambitious target is to connect
all the world’s villages, hospitals, schools and governments, and to ensure that
the whole world’s population has access to television and radio services.
This is no mean task. In regions such as the Pacific, the population is sparsely
spread over vast areas of remote land and sea. And in many developing countries,
most people live in rural and isolated areas, with virtually no infrastructure
Satellite communications will, I believe, be essential in helping us achieve our
goals and bridging the digital divide.
No other technology can so quickly achieve large-scale coverage of
widely-dispersed populations, or deliver quality connectivity to remote and
And if we can connect the furthest offshore sailor at sea and the alpinist
climbing an isolated mountain peak, then surely we can also connect the world’s
remaining unconnected villages too?
In the past, the satellite industry has too often been absent from the
development sphere. Mainly, that has been an issue of price. Building, launching
and operating satellites is an expensive business, and satellite capacity has
historically been too costly for many people in the developing world.
We must not be discouraged in our goal to connect the world, however – and the
satellite industry must be active in seeking creative ways of achieving it.
Constructive public-private partnerships are one way forward, for example,
through the use of universal access funds – recognizing that in many parts of
the world access simply cannot be delivered by any other means than satellite.
We should be working together – governments, intergovernmental organizations and
the industry – to ensure this happens. That way, we can leverage the power of
satellite technology to promote affordable access to high-speed Internet
services to under-served, remote and sparsely populated areas around the world.
To achieve this goal, and establish a framework for satellite broadband service,
we must also recognize the criticality of three components: the identification
of harmonized frequency spectrum worldwide; the use of an open and global
transmission standard; and the harmonization of the relevant regulatory
ITU is actively working in all three areas – through our World
Radiocommunication Conference; through our collaborative standardization
efforts; and through our work with the global regulatory community to develop
best practice frameworks.
If we are successful, there is no reason why access to high-speed Internet
services via satellite cannot be delivered at prices and conditions which are
comparable to terrestrial broadband technologies.
Surely, this is one of the major benefits of having a satellite operator with
public service obligations. The rich world is already very well-served with
access, connectivity and technology, but we must never forget the hundreds of
millions of people who have yet to gain access to the benefits of ICTs.
I am confident that ITSO will play its part in helping connect the unconnected,
and I am looking forward to working together with you to ensure that the
essential role and future potential of satellite communications will not be