6: July - September 2003 English: PDF
In this edition:
1. Broadband - Opening up to
2. Broadband case studies
3. The dark side of the information
4. Call for ICT success stories
Broadband — Opening up to the
was the topic of the latest ITU New Initiatives
workshop held in Geneva from 9 to 11 April 2003. This
theme was chosen following a survey of ITU Member
States and Sector Members that ranked it a topic of
high current interest. The workshop was the eleventh
in the series organized by the Strategy and Policy
Unit (SPU). Richard Horton, Senior Programme Manager
at the Commission for Communications Regulation in
Ireland, chaired the meeting. An earlier workshop on
"Economic and regulatory implications of
broadband" was held in May 2001. A CD-ROM
containing output from the workshop will be available
in June 2003 and can be ordered from the ITU
Sales Service. More information about the workshop
is available at: www.itu.int/broadband.
At the start of 2003, there were some 62 million
“broadband” subscribers worldwide (compared with 1.1 billion
fixed-line users) enjoying a range of service speeds from 256 kbit/s
to 100 Mbit/s. The term “broadband” is used here to describe
high-speed, high-capacity communications for which digital
subscriber lines (DSL) and cable modems are currently the most
commonly deployed platforms, followed by metro Ethernet,
fixed-wireless access, wireless local area networks (WLAN),
satellite and other technologies. Current broadband applications
include Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, video/audio via
broadband, online gaming and telecommuting.
With a few exceptions, the take-up of broadband has been
relatively slow. Even where infrastructure is available and the
cost affordable, demand for broadband has tended to remain
sluggish. It appears that uninitiated consumers do not always
perceive the benefits that high-speed data delivery can bring. To
help understand this and other pressing issues in the development
of broadband and to look at possible solutions, “Promoting
broadband” was selected as the topic of a recent ITU workshop.
The vast majority of today’s users are in the developed world
but, even among OECD countries, there are large disparities, not
only in service availability but also in terms of quality of
access and price per Mbit/s. Figure 1 shows the penetration of
broadband in the fifteen economies where adoption has been most
Why promote broadband?
- For governments, broadband is seen as crucial infrastructure
for achieving socio-economic development goals. For instance,
in the Republic of Korea and
Hong Kong, China, which are currently the leading broadband
economies, telecommunication expenditure as a percentage of
gross domestic product (GDP) grew up to three times faster in
the last ten years than the global average, following the
introduction of broadband networks. Broadband can also
facilitate the provision of public services, such as
e-learning, telemedicine and e-government.
- For telecommunication companies, broadband offers a route to
offset the current slowdown in the industry. In the Republic
of Korea, the average revenue per user (ARPU) for a broadband
user is up to seven times higher than for a narrowband user.
Worldwide, the broadband market was estimated to be worth some
USD 22 billion in 2002.
- For consumers, broadband makes possible a much wider and
richer range of applications, especially when higher-speed
services are available. Faster access to richer information
and the always-on nature of broadband are an attraction for
users. In a user survey in Japan, 70 per cent of users
reported that broadband had increased their usage of the
Internet. In Iceland, some 40 foreign television channels are
broadcast over the broadband network, greatly increasing the
choice of services available. In Estonia, the typical
connectivity requirement for providing broadband to each
school has risen to 100 Mbit/s, and a further rise to 1 Gbit/s
is projected, but it is generally difficult to estimate future
bandwidth requirements (see Box: Estonia — Tiger, Tiger,
- For businesses, in particular small and medium-sized
enterprises, broadband brings advantages previously only
available to larger companies in terms of access to high-speed
communications, and the ability to reach a worldwide audience.
Broadband also adds flexibility to the workplace through
teleworking and remote network access at fast speeds.
Success factors for broadband uptake
Economies that have been successful in promoting broadband are
generally those that have tackled both supply and demand issues.
These economies are also characterized by a number of common
factors, some of which are highlighted here.
Informing the public about broadband — The benefits of
broadband may be hard to appreciate until they have been
experienced. An element that is common among successful broadband
economies is that potential users are well-informed about how
broaband can be useful to them personally. Some lessons could be
learned from video game console manufacturers, who are very aware
of this power of exposure to their products and have invested
heavily in demonstration consoles in shops for people to try,
hoping a brief experience will convince potential buyers that they
need a console at home.
Schools also provide an ideal environment to realize the
educational benefits of information access. Many governments have
launched initiatives to provide funding for the supply of
broadband to schools. In the United Kingdom, for example, the
Government announced in November 2002 that it would provide
funding for broadband connections to all schools by 2006.
Some service providers have also expanded access to schools by
connecting them either for free or at reduced rates. Swisscom, for
example, is offering free Internet connections for all
Switzerland’s public schools. Under its “Internet for
Schools” initiative, the company plans to have all schools
connected by 2005.
Competition — Both inter-modal and platform-based
competition (cable modem, DSL, fibre and wireless in countries
such as Canada and Iceland) and/or inter-operator competition help
drive up broadband deployment and take-up.
Innovation — Promotion of innovation in relation to
broadband technology and applications by both government and
private industry has been a key factor in the success of countries
such as Japan with its rapid fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) build-out
and its Ubiquitous Network Initiative), Iceland (which offers
broadband across power lines as well as via DSL and cable modem)
and the Republic of Korea (through the provision of converged
Applications — Development and rollout of pure-play
broadband applications, such as online games in the Republic of
Korea, has attracted a critical mass of users and demands a
high-capacity connection offered by broadband. Broadband offers
users the possibility of receiving voice, data and broadcast
entertainment (“triple-play”) over the same service.
Pro-competitive regulation — A key regulatory strategy
employed by a number of countries is an open access policy, which
encourages shared access to networks. Canada is notable in this
regard, having unbundled both its copper and cable networks. Low
charges for local loop unbundling and collocation are also
Price — Affordable, innovative and transparent pricing
schemes, such as flat-rate packages, are important to help promote
user take-up. In Finland, for instance, a new entrant operator
recently bundled a shared DSL connection to a number of
subscribers in an apartment complex for USD 6 per month.
Marketing — Aggressive promotion of retail broadband
services to consumers and user-friendly packages, which can be
installed by the user (“plug and play”) help create awareness.
In Hong Kong, China, potential customers are offered
competing low-priced DSL services from hawkers at street stalls.
Benchmarking — Timely and reliable statistics in relation
to a country’s broadband penetration, coverage and usage are a
valuable policy tool to allow governments to measure their
progress against other countries and address bottlenecks.
The other side of the picture shows a number of factors that
can stifle broadband rollout. These include continued monopolies
and low levels of competition, high or metered pricing, the
imposition of caps on volume that could be downloaded within a
flat rate, lack of competition in the middle mile and State
subsidies that produce market distortion. Broadband deployment has
also been significantly slower in those economies where there is
cross-ownership between telephone and cable television networks as
this reduces the potential for inter-modal competition.
Tiger, Burning Bright
Broadband in education:
Estonia launched the Tiger Leap National Programme in
1996 in an effort to make a developmental leap by
introducing ICTs, into secondary schools. The targets were
to achieve the ratio of one personal computer per 20
students, an Internet connection to each school, and basic
computer training for all teachers. Today, the programme
has accomplished most of its goals. Through Tiger Leap, 75
per cent of all Estonian schools have broadband Internet
connections and the remaining schools have a dial-up
option. More than 63 per cent of teachers have received
training courses, acquired basic computer skills, and have
been given guidance in using contemporary ICTs in
Investment in IT education and the promotion of
broadband access in Estonian schools has been a
significant factor in spreading the use of ICTs more
broadly, beyond the boundaries of the education system.
The programme has attracted considerable backing from
local governments, the private sector and international
investors, and has helped to shape Estonia’s progressive
reputation. Today, 35 per cent of the Estonian population
uses the Internet, 38 per cent uses personal computers,
and 18 per cent have their own home computers.
90 per cent of government agencies’ computers are
connected to the Internet. These figures place Estonia
among the leaders in usage of IT in upper-middle income
countries (see left chart). Estonia’s broadband
penetration (at 1.70 per cent of the population in
September 2002) ranks it among the world leaders.
Some six years after the introduction of Tiger Leap, a
new generation of Estonians, accustomed to fast
information access and equipped with ICT skills, is
reaching university level. As these students grow older
and continue to demand fast access to information in
different areas of their lives, the demand for ICT-related
competence can be expected to continue its rapid growth.
Government’s role in promoting broadband
Apart from creating the right policy environment, governments
can also play an important role in stimulating demand and
formulating national, regional and local programmes to support the
deployment of broadband, especially in areas of market failure or
through universal service policies. Broadband promotion campaigns
that seek to highlight applications, content, and benefits of
broadband through public service announcements have proved useful
in some countries.
- In Singapore, for example, the “e-Celebrations”
campaign, developed by the Government through mass media
advertising to raise awareness of broadband and information
and communication technologies (ICT) in general, has met with
success. This campaign forms an integral part of the Singapore
ONE initiative, a collaborative effort between the Government
and industry to implement a nationwide broadband network and
deliver interactive online applications and services to all
- The “Try Before You Buy” programme in Wales (United
Kingdom) is another innovative approach to increasing
broadband awareness, where Government-funded ICT business
support centres showcase and demonstrate broadband connections
and applications to businesses so they can try the technology
before they subscribe.
- In the Republic of Korea, the focus of government policy has
shifted over time, from building up domestic manufacturing
capability in the 1980s, to building broadband backbones in
the 1990s, to developing e-government applications and
training users in the current decade. Although it is the
private sector which has created that country’s broadband
success, the government has played an instrumental role in
imparting the shared vision of the creative, knowledge-based
- In Malaysia, a National Broadband Steering Committee has
been formed to develop a national plan. The target is to reach
12.5 million broadband subscribers (compared with just 25 000
in early 2003) by 2007. The action areas identified in the
programme are demand development, public sector broadband
deployment, supply-side intervention, regulatory change,
institutional change and funding.
- In Canada, both federal and provincial governments, as well
as local communities, have been active in policies to promote
broadband. The federal policy on “Connecting Canadians”,
launched in 1998, aims to make Canada the world’s most
connected country. A national broadband taskforce reported in
November 2001 and proposed a number of schemes designed
specially to reach unserved communities and particular user
groups that would not expect to be served under a normal free
market operation. Canada also has a number of local-level
projects and, more recently, a National Pilot Programme
entitled “Broadband for Rural and Northern Development”
Effective regulation plays a key role in achieving competition
in broadband markets, by promoting facilities-based competition,
for example. Some common approaches include the lowering of
licensing barriers to facilities-based market entry and ensuring
reasonable cost access to rights of way. Although a competitive
multi-player market is desirable, effective competition can also
be achieved where there is strong inter-modal competition between
cable modem and DSL operators. In some cases, however, this may
require the mandatory divestiture of cable television networks by
incumbent telecommunication carriers.
Countries can also promote competition in broadband markets by
encouraging the deployment of alternative networks, for example
using wireless technologies. Hong Kong Broadband Networks has had
considerable success in using fixed-wired access combined with
Beyond concentrating on last-mile access, regulators will also
have to ensure that other bottlenecks in the supply of broadband
services do not emerge. In particular, high leased-line prices may
significantly increase the cost of providing broadband access.
Developing country experiences
Developing economies are beginning to provide and promote
broadband. Experiences vary based on several factors, including
geography and population. Many developing economies fall into a
vicious cycle of high prices and low take-up. Users cannot afford
the initial prices and thus providers cannot negotiate better
rates for higher bandwidth.
Two viable methods for promoting broadband include connecting
schools and using community telecentres to give users access to
broadband without the vast fixed costs of wiring to homes.
The COMPARTEL programme in Colombia provides a good example of
extending access through community telecentres.
Other countries, such as Jordan, have addressed broadband
through government initiatives including e-government, e-health
and e-learning. Projects include initiatives that focus on
training teachers to interact and deliver material via computers
and broadband connections.
Broadband case studies
The ITU commissioned a number of case
studies for the workshop on Promoting
Broadband which took place from 9 to 11 April 2003 at the ITU
headquarters in Geneva. The countries covered include Canada
Kong, China [PDF],
and Republic of Korea [PDF]
dark side of the information revolution
Republic of Korea 's ICT developments have brought
economic and social progress, it is not all a bed of roses :
thorns of different shapes and sizes have surfaced. One example is
online game addiction, which has become a major problem. The
excessive use of online games is particularly noticeable among teenagers and young
adults , who play at home or at one of the some 25 '000 PC " bangs "
(online game rooms). One user
died in a PC bang, after three days of continuous games playing, so
engrossed in the game that he forgot to eat, drink, or sleep. This
cyberlife can sometimes be more gripping than real life, and that even
when surrounded by other people isolation
and vulnerability present real risks. In recognition
of this kind of problem, the Korean Education Research and
Information Service (KERIS) has launched a research study into the problem
of alienation among young people. In addition, the Ministry
of Information and Communication (MIC )
has established a "Centre
of Internet Addiction Prevention and Counselling"
to help combat the problem. The Centre is equipped with group and individual
counselling rooms and provides free advice to addicts. It also has plans to
focus its programme on the prevention of addiction. Parents and teenagers alike
will be addressed and will be
able to attend lectures on the topic.
While this example may be an extreme one, the cybercafé
and games culture has other less flagrant,
harmful consequences for children.
Who knows how healthy it is for young people to spend several hours a day in
front of a PC screen ?
The strain put on the eyes, the brain and ears have not yet been fully
studied. And the growing
propensity for young people to remain sedentary for long periods of time may
entail long-term health risks, the repercussions of which may become
more apparent in the future. Is cyberculture sowing the seeds of a society
in which people may become detached from their psychological and physical
well-being, or may become socially dysfunctional?
The signs are
that PC bangs and online games are indeed
modifying social interaction. As one observer says "[PC bangs are
]...rabbit warrens of high-bandwidth connectivity ...where young adults
gather to play games, video-chat, hang out and hook up" .
They allow people to pretend to be someone completely different. Avatars,
personalized online personas, allow internauts
to assume new personalities. Although just a game, how
much will real life become a pale shadow of the exciting virtual world?
In such cases, the temptation to escape into another world is not helping
young people adapt to their real-life circumstances.
Content-related problems are not a uniquely
Korean phenomenon. Stories about
paedophile or racist sites have appeared in many countries. But a country
like Korea, with ubiquitous access, is probably even more vulnerable to
harmful sites. A Korean children's
portal carried out a survey and found that more and more youngsters
were affected by adult content websites. The survey (which addressed
children under 13 years of age) revealed that 28 per cent of the respondents
had access to adult websites. Some 53 per cent accidentally came across
these sites and 32 per cent accessed them through spam or unsolicited
emails. Some 85 per cent of those
youngsters surveyed said that spam was a serious problem. New
problems need new solutions,
and government intervention in this field includes the declaration on 'The
Principle of Netizen Ethics',
issued in June 2000. The Korean Government has also organized several
campaigns on ethical awareness.
situation of the Republic of Korea as a
leading and groundbreakingly Internet-connected population means that it has
very few countries it can look to for advice. Conversely,
as it is already grappling with the
issue, other countries that
are starting to experiment with broadband access will
be able to learn from Korea's experience and, hopefully, to forestall many
of the adverse social effects.
Excerpt from the case study on Republic
Call for ICT success stories
work of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) includes bringing to
the attention of policy-makers, governments, industry, academia and the
general public issues relating to the broader telecommunication and
information technology environment.
As part of the preparations
for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), to be held in Geneva
in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005,
ITU’s research and analysis unit, the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU), has
gathered and published “ICT
Success Stories” from around the globe. These are illustrations of
projects that have successfully deployed information and communication
technologies (ICT) in various fields and in innovative ways. The projects
form part of endeavours to promote the goals of the United Nations
In order to extend and
improve the website, we would like to add additional success stories. To
that end, all ITU Member States
and Sector Members, as well as any other interested parties, are invited to
submit project descriptions as candidates for inclusion in the website. The
description should include:
web reference for more information.
Please send your
contributions, or any comments, to: SPUmail@itu.int.
We sincerely thank you in advance for your contributions.
|For further information on Policy
and Strategy Trends, please contact: ITU Strategy and Policy Unit,
International Telecommunication Union, Place des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 20
(Switzerland). Fax: +41 22 730 6453. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
. Website: www.itu.int/spu/