Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ITU - Global Symposium for Regulators

Regulators Focus on Broadband Access, Sharing

Encouraging investment and growth in information and communication technologies (ICT) is the goal of delegates to the 8th annual Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-08), underway in Pattaya, Thailand.

Heads of national regulatory authorities and policy makers from both developed and developing countries will focus on widespread and affordable broadband access.

GSR-08 has been organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) and NTC of Thailand. It is chaired by General Choochart Promphrasid, Chairman of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC).

Attendees will also explore issues related to:
• liberalizing of international gateways
• opening access to submarine cable networks
• passive sharing of mobile towers and rights of way for fibre backbones to reach rural users
• reduced costs through promotion of active and passive network sharing in a competitive environment to provide real consumer choices
• the goals and role of functional separation
• regulating international mobile roaming rates
• improving spectrum practices to promote IMT services
• sharing end user devices and innovative applications in developing countries
• addressing new regulatory issues raised by IPTV and mobile broadcasting

The Minister for Information and Communication Technology of Thailand, Mun Patanotai delivered an address on behalf of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej at the opening of the Symposium.

"The Government of Thailand emphasized the development of basic infrastructure for information technology, such as extensive and adequate high-speed communications networks at appropriate, fair and competitive prices," said the Prime Minister in his statement. "This would serve as the main network supporting Thailand's development into a knowledge-based society, reducing the urban-rural divide and enhancing national competitiveness."

Elaborating on the theme of the Symposium - Six degrees of Sharing - ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré said, "Sharing of views, experiences and best practices among regulators is the only way to address the challenges posed by today's technological and market developments."

General Choochart Promphrasid, Chairman of NTC and Chairman of GSR-08, explained that Six degrees of Sharing would help build an enabling environment through modern regulation and policy harmonization.

He said, "This gathering of heads of national regulatory authorities from both developing and developed countries will foster the substantive sharing of views and experiences through an open dialogue between regulators."

Referring to the objective of the World Summit on the Information Society of providing universal access to ICT for all the world's citizens, the Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau Mr Sami Al-Basheer pointed out that end user devices - mobile phones, laptops, multimedia gaming devices - are the ultimate sharing tools.

"What is access, if not sharing?" he asked. "When people communicate over the phone, by email, or through video clips and social network sites, they do so to share information, views, business information and personal feelings."

The theme, Six Degrees of Sharing: Innovative Infrastructure Sharing and Open Access Strategies to Promote Affordable Access for All emphasize
• Basic and Passive infrastructure sharing
• Open access to international capacity
• Business-sharing
• Active infrastructure sharing
• End-user sharing
• Policy and regulatory harmonization

Looking ahead at the 2015 connectivity targets, which coincide with the Millennium Development Goals, Dr Touré added, "It is only by working together that smart policies and practices can be put into place to ensure that the target of connecting the world to ICT within the next seven years can be met."

He emphasized that connecting the world would lead to sharing the benefits of the Information Society by all.

"This year's GSR will explore how regulatory reform can reduce the high investment costs associated with the deployment of new technologies," Dr Touré said. "We will examine a range of sharing strategies designed to cut the costs of network rollout, and each one has a role to play in ensuring that countries meet their development goals by 2015."

Over the next few days, Regulators and policy makers will identify a set of Best Practice Guidelines related to passive and active infrastructure sharing, open access to international capacity, and harmonized regional policy and regulatory approaches.

Industry leaders propose inputs to GSR-08
Feeding into GSR-08, the Global Industry Leaders' Forum (GILF) met yesterday, 10 March to provide proposals regarding key regulatory and policy issues affecting the ICT/telecommunications industry.

The high-level platform for industry leaders led to an interactive exchange with regulators and policy-makers, covering issues related to universal access and rural connectivity, emergency telecommunications as well as stimulating business investment and expansion.

Wrapping up the outcomes of the industry leaders' meeting, Chairman of GILF Mr Sanjiv Ahuja, who is also Chairman of Orange U.K. and CEO of Augere, made a commitment on behalf of the ICT industry to do what is right.

"We will serve our customers fairly, properly and with respect, and satisfy the needs of the local economy and the community that we function in," said Mr Ahuja. "We will compete fairly, openly, fiercely and vigorously in every market in which we participate; in return we ask the Regulators to give us as much leeway as possible within the laws of the country." He added that as "leaders of industry we have to balance our shareholder interests with consumer interests in the regulated business that we work in."

Addressing one of the key themes of GSR-08, he noted, "Network sharing is a potentially powerful tool operators can use to cost-effectively extend telecommunication services, including broadband connections to many millions of people."

The meeting was opened by Mr Mun Patanotai, Minister for Information and Communication Technology of Thailand. He said GILF offers a unique opportunity for industry leaders to interact face to face with regulators and policy makers with mutual benefits for all concerned.
"GILF is an opportunity for business leaders to express their views on how national regulatory frameworks impact their ability to invest and roll out networks to all the world's citizens," said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.

Speaking at the opening Press conference, he said there are currently 3 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide, which represents half the world's population. "Our goal is to ensure that all the world's citizens will have access to information and communication technology services by 2015," Dr Touré said.

GILF proposals to GSR-08:
•Surplus funds raised through levies, such as Universal Service Funds running into billions of dollars, should be used to extend ICT access to underserved regions
•Support infrastructure sharing that meets the needs of Regulators, operators and investors
•Strengthen emergency communications by harmonizing rules and regulations to facilitate transborder relief efforts as outlined in the Tampere Convention; explore feasibility of a single global emergency call-in number
•Stimulate investment by reducing taxes, tariffs and duties on handsets and telecom equipment
•Release unused spectrum for productive and innovative commercial applications and services ICT exhibition

As part of the interactive exchange between industry and Regulators, a showcase of ICT solutions included demonstrations and exhibitions by leading companies, such as Microsoft, Nokia/Nokia Siemens Networks, Rohde & Schwarz, Shin Satellite, the GSM Association and the WiMAX Forum.

As part of the interactive exchange between industry and Regulators, a showcase of ICT solutions included demonstrations and exhibitions by leading companies, such as Microsoft, Nokia/Nokia Siemens Networks, Rohde & Schwarz, Shin Satellite, the GSM Association and the WiMAX Forum.

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