Bávaro, 29-31 January 2003
Remarks by Mr. Ahmed Toumi
Director General & CEO
International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO)
Thank you Chairperson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me first of all to congratulate INDOTEL and CEPAL/ECLAC for the high quality organization of this Conference, and sincerely thank the Dominican Authorities for the hospitality we all enjoyed since we arrived in this beautiful city. It is indeed my great honor to address the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Conference for the World Summit on the Information Society.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, otherwise known as ITSO, let me say a few words about the Organization.
Back in 1965, at the initiative of the U.S. Government, a small group of states got together to create the highly successful INTELSAT Organization. In doing so, international communications were extended to currently 200 countries in the world.
On 17 November 2000, the Assembly of Parties of the Organization took the historic decision, which became effective on 18 July 2001, to restructure the operating activities into a commercial entity under the supervisory authority of ITSO. As a result, the primary mission and role of ITSO is to ensure that the new Company, "Intelsat", will continue to provide international public telecommunications services on global and non-discriminatory basis.
Critical to the mission of the Organization is the worldwide introduction of competition among commercial satellite operators as an important instrument to secure and promote, for the long term, international public telecommunications services to all countries of the world.
It is important to note that today, over 70 countries that account for more than 60% of the world population are satellite dependant for their national and international telecommunications services.
Now coming back to the issues before the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). As presented by the honorable representatives of governments, I am pleased to concur that bridging the "Digital Divide" should be the highest priority of the World Summit. On several occasions it has been noted that combating the Digital Divide needs practical solutions -- specific programs that ensure access to ICT services at affordable costs
I would like to focus exclusively on this important issue and add that the mandatory first step to narrow this gap is to provide all countries suffering from this gap with an adequate ICT infrastructure.
By adequate, I mean not only ensuring basic telephone services -- as this alone will not be enough to reap the full benefits of the information society. Rather, by "adequate, I mean finding a way to provide broadband connections as well as soon as possible. Indeed this new broadband technology provides faster speed and greater capacity that not only will permit under-served areas of the world to make more effective and efficient use of the Internet, but also will open up a whole new world of data that can be accessed, distributed and downloaded-in seconds. As such, broadband holds the promise of expanding education opportunities, improving health care, increasing government' responsiveness to citizens and generally enhancing their competitiveness in a more globalizing economy.
And that means that the new and more serious digital divide, in the information society era, will be between broadband connected and non-broadband connected countries or regions.
But how to leapfrog to broadband when many of the concerned countries still experience a serious lack of basic telephone services?
When considering different broadband technologies (such as cable, terrestrial wireless and satellite), I express the view that satellite technologies have an immense potential to bring high speed Internet services to all developing countries on a timely basis, and I am convinced, on an affordable basis as well. There is no doubt that this technology could be the shortcut to broadband world.
I must say that broadband deployment is not only an issue for developing countries, but also for the most developed ones. Statistic shows that an important part of their populations are out of the reach of conventional broadband technologies.
To achieve a universal broadband connection goal, we need to encourage the build-up of a "global broadband satellite infrastructure." This infrastructure would be composed of new satellite technology with capability of delivering high-speed Internet services, and in which all satellite and telecom operators, on voluntary basis, could participate to provide broadband services.
Now, in promoting the emergence of such a global broadband satellite infrastructure, and given the strategic importance of broadband, do we need to create an international cooperative that is directly managed by governments, as was the case with INTELSAT in the sixties. I don't think so. My conviction is that the competitive market will be able to make possible this emergence if we create an appropriate environment that would minimize regulatory costs and uncertainty for those actors who seek to invest in this broadband infrastructure.
So how should we go forward?
We need to forge a new and pioneering partnership between all stakeholders.
To this effect, simply each stakeholder, within its competencies, would be required to cooperate in order to:
1) Identify a frequency band and a limited number of orbital locations that is exclusively dedicated to broadband satellite services, and is available on a worldwide basis. 2) As satellite communications are international by nature, agree on a common technical standard for satellite high-speed Internet services. This standard would permit system interoperability, promote global economies of scale and foster competition among equipment manufacturers and service providers. As a result, end-users would benefit from lower tariffs, as well as affordable low-cost terminal equipment. 3) Agree on common regulatory principles that would allow the creation of a worldwide market for satellite broadband services and equipment.
In doing so, we will just reiterate what always has been the practice in the ITU whenever the telecommunications community has identified a service that has high economic potential or is vital for global public safety.
Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I admit that this represents a very challenging task. But, I am sure that you share my conviction that bridging the Digital Divide is worth all of our efforts and commitment.
In conclusion Mr. Chairman, I hope that many of the participants in this Conference share my vision that an information society for all mankind requires the creation of a global information infrastructure -- an infrastructure in which satellite technology, as called for in the first ITU Development Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994, could play a central role.
I believe that this global broadband satellite infrastructure also is a possible response to the ITU's call for global action and mechanisms to enable the provision of a wide range of ICT services, with higher performance and at affordable costs.
As the innovative public-private partnership I described is essential, I sincerely hope that the Governments participating in the forthcoming World Summit on the Information Society will express their political willingness to initiate the necessary steps to make this proposed partnership a reality.
I urge all of you to consider this project among the Plan of Actions to be presented at the Summit's first session. A full description of this project can be found in the contribution of ITSO to the WSIS entitled "Global Broadband Satellite Infrastructure Initiative".
Finally, I wish you all great success in your deliberations.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.