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Developing countries to lead telecoms growth: ITU chief

Posted: 15 Oct 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:TelecomWorld? communications? IT? wireless broadband?

The global communications and information technology industries are in soul-searching mode, the secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union, Yoshio Utsumi, confessed at the opening of the organization's quadrennial TelecomWorld show.

It is trying to come to terms with the hammering the sector has taken since the 1999 show, and "is trying to understand what went wrong."

Trying to sound as upbeat about the prospects for the sector as he could, the Secretary General noted that despite the downturn, fixed line networks grew by 7.5 percent per year worldwide since 1999, or 306 million extra lines, while mobile networks grew by 28.3 percent each year, with an extra 840 million subscribes since the last event, bringing the total up to nearly 1.1 billion subscribers.

Itsumi said that while the sector is becoming more commoditised, "it is also getting closer to the utopia of universal access".

And he acknowledged the main opportunity for the sector to rebound is coming from lower income and developing countries around the world.

"Pent-up demand, simpler equipment, and more affordable communication services are dovetailing with a regulatory and economic framework that makes doing business possible where it would not have been possible imaginable a few years ago," said Utsumi.

Meanwhile, in advanced countries, big issues facing leading telecom operators include how to enable broadband on mobile and how best to structure the new 'rules of the data world' versus rules of traditional voice world, observed Nikesh Arora, board member of T-Mobile International AG & Co.

Speaking at a keynote session entitled 'Reconnect', Arora acknowledged the Industry's new skepticism on broadband on mobile, especially after the Industry has spent over $100 billion on 3G licenses in Europe alone. However he assured the industry that broadband on mobile "is a phenomenon here to stay."

Sean Maloney, EVP and general manager of Intel's communications group concurred, suggesting Wi-Fi and its 'grown up' brother Wi-Max, which is capable of high data rates at up to 70km, "will be the means to connect the 500 million people who cannot get broadband access through other means such as DSL. It is an amazing opportunity and we see many companies and countries already laying the foundations for this."

Maloney also called on governments everywhere to free up chunks of the spectrum under 1GHz so that communities in the developing world can take advantage of the wireless broadband explosion in a cost effective way.

Meanwhile, facing the saturation of voice traffic, the drive to seek new opportunities and to create new non-voice services is even more intense and pressing for a Japanese operator like NTT DoCoMo. Keiji Tachikawa, president & CEO of NTT DoCoMo, laid out his company's goal to increase its non-voice traffic, currently 20 percent of its business, to 70 to 80 percent by 2010.

In achieving this goal, Tachikawa said that he has set an eye on an opportunity to create a much broader customer base for future mobile services, including "humans, machines, PCs, refrigerators, sensors, automobile and pets like dogs and cats."

Tachikawa said "we want to enable mobile communication services for anything that can move or is portable. New services should include not only person to person for cell phone and video phone applications, but also person to machine for browsing the Internet, and machine to machine for remote control applications."

- John Walko and Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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