Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me say how pleased I am to be here with you this morning, as we embark on
two days of intensive discussions about the shape of the region’s ICT future.
I’d like to take a moment to welcome Montenegro to the ITU as our newest Member
State, and to thank the authorities for organizing this important event in such
a marvellous and historic venue.
As policymakers and technical experts, I doubt many of you need much of an
introduction to the work of ITU. As the world’s oldest intergovernmental
organization, we’ve been leading development of the world’s networks and
services for over 140 years.
Creating globally-agreed standards is one of our core activities, and one which
continues to ramp up as technological development accelerates.
Looking ahead to emerging technologies, priorities include Next Generation
Networks, fast broadband platforms, and of course the next wave in cellular
mobile, which is being developed under the auspices of ITU’s IMT-Advanced
Work on NGN is progressing apace. ITU’s NGN Global Standards Initiative
represents one of the largest global standardization projects ever undertaken,
involving cooperative work between leading standards-making bodies to define the
networks that will deliver tomorrow’s converged services.
Since supporting the boom in broadband multimedia applications, ITU’s VDSL2
standard supports 100Mbps upstream and downstream transmission rates – a tenfold
increase over ADSL. This technology is expected to be rapidly adopted by telcos
worldwide as part of new ‘triple-play’ bundled voice and multimedia offerings.
And 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 mobile multimedia.
ITU-R has commenced the submission and evaluation process for the terrestrial
components of the IMT-Advanced radio interface. Work on this exciting new family
of standards is scheduled to culminate in 2011, with ITU Recommendations on the
IMT-Advanced air interface.
At last year’s World Radiocommunication Conference, ITU successfully brokered
international agreement on harmonized global spectrum allocations for IMT-based
That conference also brought an important new technology into the IMT fold. As
we saw very clearly at this year’s ITU TELECOM events in Cairo and Bangkok,
WiMAX has great potential as a platform for wireless broadband service delivery,
and could help many countries bridge their broadband divide.
Here in the Balkans, WiMAX has generated much market interest, but little in the
way of concrete deployments. I hope ITU’s endorsement of this technology, and
the clear focus we’re now seeing from leading vendors, will help make the
benefits of this technology more accessible to emerging markets worldwide.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These are some of ITU’s technical standardization priorities. But I imagine many
of you are more familiar with ITU’s policy-making activities, particularly in
the area of ICT regulation.
I believe the importance of effective regulation simply cannot be over-stated.
Policies and frameworks conducive to investment, to competitive service
delivery, and to the deployment of new technologies, are the critical ‘other
half’ of the ICT development picture.
Without them, the best technologies in the world will never get to the people
who need them, and economies will never get the chance to fully leverage the
power of ICTs to stimulate growth across all industry sectors.
Here in the Balkans, many of you have been making substantial progress in
gearing your frameworks to the challenges of the next wave of converged service
offerings, and in opening your markets to the competitive forces that will drive
faster network and service rollouts and help keep prices affordable for users.
Our host, Montenegro, is a fine example of the rapid advances that can be made,
given the right environment.
With larger European economies languishing at under 3% annual GDP growth,
Montenegro is currently reporting growth of over 10% per annum, thanks to a boom
in industry sectors like tourism and construction. Teledensity is now well over
100%, thanks to the rapid uptake of cellular mobile. And at over 14%, Internet
penetration is above the regional average.
But while some neighbouring countries have been enjoying similar levels of
success, across the region as a whole there’s still some way to go, particularly
in areas like broadband.
A quick comparison between the Balkans and the Baltic states to the north shows
that while fixed line penetration is roughly equivalent across the two regions,
the Baltic states boast almost twice the broadband penetration.
This is important for several reasons. Broadband can no longer be considered a
‘luxury’ technology. As multimedia content floods onto the Web, access via
dial-up is becoming untenable.
Users forced to contend with slow connections not only miss out on the full
interactive experience, but are increasingly missing out altogether, as
data-heavy sites become impossible to load.
This has critical implications for the region. Education will suffer. So will
delivery of government information and services. Crucially, so will prospects
for stimulating growth through business development and foreign investment.
As markets around you mature, opportunities abound for the Balkan economies. But
one thing is certain – no country will be able to take advantage of these new
investment opportunities without a fast, modern and reliable ICT infrastructure.
ICT is the lifeblood of business, and the motor for every other economic sector.
That is why it is essential that all countries of the region work together to
modernize their networks and their ICT regulatory frameworks. The rise of
markets in the CIS, Asia and parts of Africa which are eager to attract
investment means there is no time to lose. Those who fail to move quickly will,
quite simply, get left behind.
New technologies and new approaches can help leapfrog old impediments. I’ve
already mentioned WiMAX as a powerful new IMT-2000-compliant technology with
much potential for delivering wireless Internet affordably, and across difficult
terrain. Other fast technologies like HSDPA are also gaining ground in countries
across the region, with deployments already operational in Bulgaria, Croatia,
Romania and Slovenia.
To accelerate the rollout of new technologies and services, governments and
operators can look to innovative approaches based around the concept of
This concept served as the theme of ITU’s Global Symposium for Regulators, held
earlier this year. At a simple level, it means the cooperative sharing of
equipment and facilities like towers and switching stations between operators to
cut deployment costs.
At a broader level, it means leveraging many more exciting possibilities through
the sharing of costs and civil works between ICT providers and providers of
other utilities and infrastructure like power lines, roads, train lines, town
drainage networks, and more.
Governments and regulators can do much to encourage such initiatives, which
benefit the state, private industry and users alike by cutting costs and red
tape, and making services accessible more quickly, at a lower cost.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You have enormous opportunities within your reach. ICTs are the key to unlocking
these opportunities, and need to be accorded a top priority in every national
and regional development agenda.
As valued members of the ITU family, you can rely on us for assistance and
support as you work towards building the frameworks and networks that will serve
as the platform for your future growth. We look forward to working with you.