LIVE FROM ITU TELECOM WORLD 2011: Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union, today said that mobile communications will be the “key enabler” in meeting targets for increased broadband penetration, stating that “everyone is talking about how do we bring the mobile miracle, and turn it into the broadband miracle.”
Speaking to Mobile Business Briefing, Toure (pictured) said: “we are really proud that today the world has over 5.6 billion users of mobile communications, and we hope that those mobile devices will become broadband devices.”
Noting the strong growth in mobile penetration since its introduction, compared with the take-up of fixed line services, Toure said that the industry “has done their part” in driving growth. In order to ensure that this continues, governments have a key role to play in enabling continued expansion.
“We want to see governments using their position to put a broadband vision in place, putting the right legal and regulatory framework in place, to back that up, so the private sector comes in and plays its rightful role in competing, investing, creating jobs, giving new services and applications,” he said.
With mobile and broadband penetration already at high levels in developed markets, countries on the other side of the “digital divide” may seem less appealing candidates for investments, due to dispersed populations, low ARPU potential – or both. With this in mind, finding appropriate economic models is crucial.
“We have seen different case studies, of different scenarios in different countries. We talked about here the Australian model, where the government has invested in the basic infrastructure and is selling it back to the operators, and giving them a price cap countrywide. That is a very good model that is working in Australia,” Toure said.
“We have some models where they have as a condition of the licence that operators move into rural areas, with penalties if they do not meet those goals. We have some other scenarios where countries collect universal service funds, and reuse these to give to operators or by launching tenders,” he continued.
“There is no universal solution, there is no universal model. We are just ensuring that there are some universal principles of transparency, of reaching out to operators, of informing about the rules of law, and that you don’t change the rules and laws during the game,” he said.
Echoing earlier comments from Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, Toure noted that taxation is also an important issue to drive growth.
“We are asking governments, in my role as the Secretary General of the ITU, to ensure they take the necessary actions to reduce taxes, if not eliminate them. To eliminate taxes not only on services, but on infrastructure. Because that way, you do not penalise the tool that is helping other sectors develop,” Toure said.
“I guarantee any minister of finance that I meet, that they will meet their revenue targets while doing so. Because usage will double, the number of customers will double, and the opportunities for other sectors will also double. We have seen that wherever we have made that bet, we have won, and that is very important for us,” he argues.
The issue of spectrum allocation was also discussed, especially with regard to the allocation of the “digital dividend” frequencies, with Toure asserting that “this is an issue that will continue to be debated, but we are very comfortable in ensuring that the operators will have the right capacity and the right spectrum that they need for growth.”
“The challenge is how we reallocate this spectrum. How do we make sure that this is reallocated without excessive costs to operators? That is important, because when we debated that here this week at ITU Telecom World, we tried to explain to governments that ultimately it is the consumer who will pay for this,” he said.