Nº 8 2012 > ITU Telecom World Timeline 1971-2011
Telecommunications for all
TELECOM 83, which took place from 26 October to 1 November 1983 under the theme Telecommunications for all, was the first to be held at Palexpo a new Convention and Exhibition Centre in Geneva inaugurated in December 1981.
The event accommodated 659 exhibitors in over 70 000 m2 of exhibition space. All in all there were 77 000 visitors to the Exhibition.* But the biggest change was that the Forum added a new topic of debate — the legal and regulatory aspects of telecommunications. There was also the well-established film festival, the “Youth in the Electronic Age” art competition, and the telecommunications and electronics Book Fair.
A particularly powerful spotlight was put on TELECOM 83, because the United Nations had declared 1983 World Communications Year. TELECOM 83 thus served as the Geneva “summit” of World Communications Year.
The Exhibition: For all countries and regions
TELECOM 83 took place just a year after the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Nairobi, where the principle of ITU organizing world telecommunication exhibitions had again been discussed. It was the general opinion at the Plenipotentiary Conference that these world exhibitions:
- were beneficial for all administrations, public telecommunication entities, users and manufacturers;
- provided for information transfer, as well as dialogue and discussion, of technological advances and their importance for development.
The plenipotentiaries encouraged administrations to organize, in cooperation with ITU, specialized exhibitions with an “emphasis on the needs of telecommunication infrastructure of each region”.
TELECOM 83 was an Exhibition of ITU member countries, their entities and industries — in other words “an exhibition for all” — as ITU-Secretary-General Richard E. Butler put it. As such, the event was designed to contribute towards the accelerated transfer of information and the development of a modern telecommunication infrastructure.
Being “an exhibition for all” did not, however, mean that every telecommunication administration or entity had to present an exhibit. Exhibitors displayed their products, while others set out their development plans. Senior officials of administrations and operating agencies of member countries were able to visit the exhibition and participate in discussions, putting them in a better position to make complex technological choices.
For the first time ITU financed fellowships to enable more members of the Union to participate. Many developing countries were encouraged to display their products, and least-developed countries had their own pavilion.
The Exhibition was an excellent setting for international contacts and business relations. Executives of administrations of ITU member countries and leading representatives of the international financial investment community joined manufacturers, system managers and operators from all over the world in an exchange of ideas on information and technology in all fields of telecommunications and electronics.
The Exhibition opened on 26 October 1983 in the presence of some 1500 international dignitaries, among them the ministers responsible for telecommunications and information of most of ITU’s member countries, and leaders of industry. Speakers at the opening ceremony included Léon Schlumpf, the Swiss Minister responsible for Transport, Communications and Energy; Pierre Wellhauser, President of the Geneva State Council; and ITU Secretary-General, Richard E. Butler.
TELECOM 83 saw the first appearance of China and AT&T at a TELECOM event.
Other attractions on the showfloor were:
- the national pavilions of countries (listed here as they were called then) such as Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Yugoslavia;
- the great pavilions of industrialized countries such as Austria, Belgium, Canada, Federal Republic of Germany, France, German Democratic Republic, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics;
- the joint pavilion of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden);
- the presentation by the 36 least-developed countries;
- the hall of international broadcasters, with participants ranging from Radio Switzerland International to Radio Beijing;
- national and international operating agencies, space communication organizations, and manufacturers such as INTELSAT, EUTELSAT, and the European Space Agency;
- the attractive individual stands of international corporations such as GTE, IBM, ITT, LME, NEC, Northern Telecom, Philips, Raychem, 3M and others.
National days were celebrated for Austria, Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, India, Italy, Japan, the Nordic countries, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
With increasing interdependence, the technological, financial and policy problems of telecommunications were taking on a worldwide dimension. Hence, at the Forum, a brains trust of several thousand top executives — representing ITU member countries, administrations, manufacturers, commercial users and international organizations — joined leading representatives of the financial investment community from around the world, lawyers, systems managers and operators to discuss the planning, financing, management and implementation of the world telecommunication network, and the convergence of computing and communication technologies.
The Forum was in three main parts, with three different themes, covering the managerial, technical and legal aspects of telecommunications. There was also a special plenary session on telecommunication development. The Forum was organized by ITU in cooperation with 50 national and international engineering societies from all five continents, along with the American Bar Association and the International Bar Association.
One world, one network
In Part I of the Forum, under the theme “One world, one network”, government leaders, senior corporate managers, chief scientists from government and industry, and representatives from international and financial organizations debated the technological and infrastructure requirements of industrialized and developing nations. They also addressed the future need for financing national, regional and international telecommunication development plans.
This first part of the Forum provided a general perspective, outlining the interdependent roles of marketing, investment and finance, regulation and provision of services, technological development, and social priorities. The topics ranged from commercial aspects of telecommunications to the adoption of national and international strategies in the new technological environment. Emphasis was placed on the role of new technology in developing countries, and the way forward for worldwide telecommunication systems development. Another subject was the integrated services digital network (ISDN), at that time under consideration as the worldwide information highway of the future. Other topics included the evolution, commercial characteristics and financial needs of the telecommunication market; social responsibility; communications operating policy; user requirements; the impact of technological advances on the community; implications for society of expanding telecommunication systems; and the role wireless services would play in global communications networking.
Telecommunications for all
In Part II of the Forum, under the theme “Telecommunications for all”, technical and scientific experts introduced recent advances made to solidify the world telecommunication network and to offer telecommunications for everyone. The focus was on the complex and diverse technical aspects of present and future communication systems. Technical highlights included an extensive discussion on recent and planned development of cellular radio systems, and a similar comprehensive treatment of ISDN technology.
Discussions on technology trends emphasized the increasing part that software was playing in the global communications environment, and optical fibre took its place as an emerging telecommunication technology in its own right.
Rural communication systems, beginning to be recognized as a high priority in many areas across the globe, were discussed during a special session.
Legal aspects of telecommunications
Part III of the Forum, under the theme “Legal aspects of telecommunications”, was organized by ITU in cooperation with the American Bar Association and the International Bar Association. Speakers examined the legal aspects of international telecommunication and scrutinized international regulations relating to the transnational transport of information.
With the changing nature of technology, it was beginning to be understood that the orderly growth of the global telecommunication infrastructure could not continue without an informed and considered response from those who linked the user to the technology. It was believed that such links, whether direct or indirect, centred upon cost benefits for the supplier, the user and the provider. Furthermore, there was awareness that those links had to be regulated by national and international law.
Part III of the Forum was therefore concerned with: the legal aspects of transborder data flow, and the security and control of content; the structure of political control of resources, ownership of networks, and operating monopolies; the international treaty-making process to define the scope of deployment of technology to the user; and the conflict between operational needs and the technological ability to meet operational requirements.
Special plenary session
In response to the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference decision to intensify ITU’s regional presence and activities, the special plenary session highlighted regional telecommunication network development. Under the chairmanship of Jean Jipguep, ITU Deputy Secretary-General, the heads of regional telecommunication organizations, such as the Pan‑African Telecommunications Union, the African Postal and Telecommunications Union, the Arab Telecommunication Union, the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL), and the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity, as well as the President of the ITU World Plan Committee, spoke on matters concerning regional telecommunication development.
“The Golden Antenna 83” film festival
In “The Golden Antenna 83” film festival, an international jury judged the 79 competing films in five categories. The entries came from more than 20 countries, and from international organizations. Entries were submitted on 16 and 35 millimetre film, videotape and slides in multiple projectors.
The international jury included representatives of the permanent missions in Geneva of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and of the French and German administrations. The jury also included public relations and audio-visual specialists from the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Bureau of Education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Red Cross, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
“Youth in the Electronic Age” art competition
The 1983 “Youth in the Electronic Age” competition for young artists aged 8 to 18 years attracted some 690 entries from 37 countries. Most entries were the winners of national competitions, some with more than 100 000 entries at local and regional levels. The young imaginations found many ways to express themselves. As well as the customary drawings, water colours and oils, some participants used cloth, which was dyed, woven and sewn into striking wall hangings. Wood was inlaid and carved, creating very original sculptures. Photos, collages — even stained glass — were used to depict ideas about “Telecommunications for all” and World Communications Year.
Some entries were created by groups of students or even entire classes. Space was a common theme, as was the concept of telecommunications linking people around the world. There were also scenes of communal telecommunications in rural villages.
The international jury included members of the permanent missions in Geneva of Canada, Chile, China, the Federal Republic of Germany, Jordan, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The French and the Swiss PTT also sent representatives. An art Director of UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, the Director of Creative Arts of the International School of Vienna and international artists were also among the judges.
The winners were announced at a special ceremony held during TELECOM 83 on 30 October in Palexpo.
The books on show at the fair were presented in more than 40 booths, and ranged from secondary school textbooks to highly technical monographs on all aspects of telecommunications and electronics. Visitors to the Exhibition and Forum participants were able to purchase or order on the spot publications which might have been difficult to obtain back in their own countries.
For the first time, Palexpo, the new Geneva Exhibition and Convention Centre, was the venue for TELECOM.
Extensive documentation made available before, during and after the Forum, as well as simultaneous interpretation into English, French and Spanish, added to the value of the discussions. Modern presentation techniques and an audio-visual system that projected an image onto three large screens brought the session chairmen and speakers into close contact with the audience.
* Source: Telecommunication Journal, Vol. 50–V/1983.