Ladies & Gentlemen, Honoured Guests, My dear friends,
HIGHLIGHTS OF ITU TELECOM ASIA 2008
It is my honour and privilege to be invited here to address you today. I am
especially pleased to be with you, as we are here to celebrate a birthday - the
21st birthday of GSM.
I am returning after a very successful ITU TELECOM ASIA 2008 held in Bangkok
last week, which focused on new business opportunities to sustain growth in the
dynamic ICT industry in the Asia-Pacific region as well as on the younger
generation of users and innovators.
With over two billion telephones, including 1.4 billion mobile subscribers, and
42 per cent of the world’s Internet users, Asia is a region of superlatives in
the ICT arena. It is also the world’s largest broadband market with a 39 per
cent share of the world’s total at the end of 2007.
21st ANNIVERSARY of GSM
Through its analysis and research, ITU has long monitored the pulse of the
telecommunication industry. Over the past fifteen years, the world has witnessed
the transformation of telephony markets to become mobile, competitive and mostly
privately-owned – developments we anticipated and tracked in our renowned World
Telecommunication Development Report series.
ITU also launched Asia Pacific Telecommunications and ICT Indicators Report
2008. ‘New Generation, New Values’, the theme of ITU TELECOM Asia 2008 addressed
the demands of a young population that is clearly setting the tone for a new
generation of ICT developers and development.
STRONG GROWTH IN MOBILE
In 2002, we passed the milestone of mobile phones outnumbering fixed-line
telephones and in August last year, we surpassed the milestone of three billion
mobile phone subscriptions. Now, one in two of the world’s inhabitants have
access to a mobile phone.
At the Geneva Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in
2003, world leaders and governments agreed on a set of international goals for
connectivity to be achieved by 2015. ICTs are a key means of achieving the UN
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and making up the substantial shortfalls to
achieving the MDGs that still persist, before 2015.
Today, mobile telephony represents the best tool for meeting the WSIS targets
set by world leaders, thanks to investments and efforts by governments and
mobile operators alike around the world. More importantly, new applications that
use the power or mobile telephony – such as m-banking, telediagnosis and SMS
alerts – are helping people to improve their lives for the better. The power of
communications cannot be understated. Investment is the engine that is driving
this mobile revolution.
MOBILE INDUSTRY INVESTMENT IN DEVELOPING MARKETS
The mobile market continues to invest heavily in the roll-out of new
infrastructure and new services. For example, the GSM Association predicts that
investment in mobile communications in sub-Saharan Africa alone will be worth
some US$50 billion over the next five years (on top of the US$35 billion already
committed to the region). This will make a significant impact, in bridging the
One area where new investment is yielding tangible results is the success
achieved by 3G (IMT) mobile operators. By the end of 2007, 3G networks had been
launched in 108 countries, with some 812 million 3G subscribers worldwide. One
in every four mobile subscriber is now using a 3G device, and taking advantage
of the much richer range of services that it brings.
MULTIPLIER EFFECTS OF MOBILE INVESTMENT FOR THE ECONOMY
Investment in mobile offers significant benefits with strong multiplier effects
for the national economy:
- According to the GSM Association’s pioneering studies in East Africa,
the mobile industry as a whole can contribute as much as 3.5-5% to total
- Further, a 10% increase in mobile penetration could result in a 1.2%
increase in the annual growth rate in GDP.
It is therefore vital to ensure that funds that are collected for the purpose
of universal access are re-invested promptly.
ENABLING ENVIRONMENT & NETWORK-SHARING
Through its annual regulatory survey, ITU has tracked the transformation of the
industry to become increasingly competitive and privately-owned. ITU monitors
these trends in its renowned annual Trends in Telecommunication Reform series.
By 2006, three-quarters of all mobile markets worldwide were subject to
competition. Competition between existing operators and new entrants has helped
stimulate fresh investment, led to the introduction of new services and improved
In light of credit and investment constraints, ITU foresees fresh impetus for
infrastructure-sharing agreements. Such infrastructure-sharing enables operators
to meet customer demand for faster speeds, wider coverage and greater capacity
more cost-effectively. The eighth GSR held in Pattaya (March 2008 Bangkok) was
also focused on innovative infrastructure-sharing and open access strategies to
promote affordable access for all. The outcome is the best practice guidelines
on Infrastructure-sharing which is also the subject of the ninth edition of
ITU’s Trends in Telecommunication Reform series, to be published in September
The experience of GSM has shown that, by following principles of mutual benefit,
open standards and a competitive market, mobile telephony has developed both as
a must-have essential communications tool and as a vibrant industry in its own
right, earning billions of dollars in revenues each year.
These are principles that ITU endorses in its everyday standardization work,
where ITU is committed to developing open and accessible standards drawing on
the expertise of its diverse public and private sector Members. ITU established
clear principles for the security of IMT (3G) networks and recommended early on
that the security provided by mobile broadband 3G networks should be comparable
to contemporary fixed networks.
COLLABORATION FOR CONNECTING THE UNCONNECTED
ITU is pleased to be working closely with the GSMA under a Memorandum of
Understanding signed at the 7th Global Symposium for Regulators in Dubai last
year. This project will strengthen cooperation and improve access to mobile
phone services to bridge the digital divide in least developed and developing
nations. It concentrates on three key areas: supporting developing market
projects for low-cost access to ICTs in underserved areas; industry and
government cooperation; and benchmarking of the global industry, on the basis of
our close monitoring of the markets.
ITU also appreciates the initiative by GSMA in the establishment of a
Developmental Fund for shared access to voice and data services for people
living under 2$ per day and ITU encourages investment in sustainable projects
that seek to extend access to mobile services in the developing world.
The experience of ITU and GSM has shown that, by following principles of
mutual benefit, open standards and a competitive market, mobile telephony has
developed both as a must-have essential communications tool and as a vibrant
industry in its own right, earning billions of dollars in revenues each year.
I would invite you to join with me in celebrating not only how far we have come,
but how far we still have to travel together. ITU is both pleased and proud to
join with the GSM Association in recognizing the pioneering work that our two
organizations are carrying out to extend the benefits of mobile communications
to as many people as possible around the world. This is a challenging task, but
a rewarding one, and I would ask you to join with me in recognition of the
success we have achieved together.