Asia needs more spectrum efficiency, affordable internet to reduce digital divide – ITU

ITU urges Asia to reduce digital divide

11 MAY 2015

DYNAMIC SPECTRUM ALLIANCE GLOBAL SUMMIT, PHILIPPINES: The Asia-Pacific region has high cellular penetration yet fairly low internet uptake, an issue which needs to be addressed by governments as well as the private sector, according to Christian Gomez, the ITU’s spectrum regulation and policy officer.

Gomez highlighted how three-quarters of 20 countries in Asia have less than 45 per cent of their population connected to the internet, but 95 per cent have more than 70 mobile subs per 100 people.

On the positive side, there has been a rapid rise in internet penetration over the past few years in many countries across the region. In China and Vietnam, for example, the percentage of individuals using the internet jumped from about 15 per cent in 2006 to more than 45 per cent in 2013.

But just five countries in Asia – Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea — have internet penetration rates above 60 per cent.

Gomez (pictured), speaking at the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) summit in Manila on Friday, said that to improve connectivity and enable sustainable wireless infrastructure growth countries need to make more spectrum available, ensure more efficient use of the spectrum resources and make services more affordable.

ITU GomezHe noted it’s also vital to have concrete goals. The ITU’s Connect 2020 agenda calls for connecting an additional 1.5 billion people, achieving 55 per cent household internet penetration globally by 2022, ensuring 60 per cent of individuals use the internet globally by 2020 and making telecoms/ICT services 40 per cent more affordable by 2020.

In the developing world, it aims for 50 per cent of households to have access to internet by 2020 and 15 per cent of households in less developed countries to have internet access by 2020.

In terms of making more spectrum available, Gomez expects November’s WRC-15 event to provide 50 per cent more spectrum than existing levels. More countries also are committed to the uptake of digital dividend band plans and other globally harmonised bands, such as 1.8 and 2.6GHz.

Spectrum efficiency
To use spectrum more efficiently, he said there are a number of emerging alternatives for increasing sharing, including license-exempt access and TV whitespace, which the DSA is exploring through various collaborative efforts.

He sees an opportunity for the ITU and the DSA to work together to bridge the digital divide.

“Licensed spectrum sharing and license-exempt are all needed and each of these models has a place. So no need to get into a discussion about if one is better than the other,” stated Gomez.

He noted that it’s also important for markets to be stable enough to encourage investment as well as competition. “Regulators are there for a reason. We need a balance between moving quickly to accept new technologies, but we can’t change the rules of the game.”

In addition to implementing suitable licensing mechanism to attract long-term investment, he said each country needs national targets on how to achieve its goals over a specific timeframe. “There’s no point having lots of spectrum if you don’t use it efficiently.”

He closed his presentation by encouraging everyone to work together to continue the industry’s success in expanding mobile connectivity by connecting the unconnected to the internet.


Joseph Waring

Joseph Waring joins Mobile World Live as the Asia editor for its new Asia channel. Before joining the GSMA, Joseph was group editor for Telecom Asia for more than ten years. In addition to writing features, news and blogs, he...

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