Nº 8 2012 > ITU Telecom World Timeline 1971-2011
By 1995, TELECOM had become the worlds largest event dedicated to the telecommunications and information technology industries, and its increasing importance was reinforced by the attendance of Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa.
TELECOM 95 featured a spectacular opening ceremony sponsored by Intel Corporation, which included keynote addresses by Nelson Mandela, Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, Andrew Grove, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Intel Corporation, Kaspar Villiger, President of the Swiss Confederation, and Olivier Vodoz, President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Mandela said ITU was a body of crucial importance for the entire African continent. “We need a vast expansion of our communication and information network and ITU, as the principle driving force behind international policy, technological development, cooperation and skills transfer, is an indispensable agent in this regard,” he stated.
He went on to underline the importance of communication and access to information to human beings around the world, and stressed the need to work towards eliminating the divide between information-rich and information-poor countries. He invited ITU to organize its Africa TELECOM 1998 event in South Africa.
“We are absolutely delighted that President Mandela, who is such an inspiring figure to the world because of his lifetime of struggle against injustice, should feel that TELECOM is an important enough event to fit into his very demanding schedule,” said Dr Pekka Tarjanne, Secretary-General of ITU.
Industry convergence drives strong growth
TELECOM 95 was the 7th World Telecommunication Exhibition and Forum organized by ITU, and attracted 1066 exhibitors. The explanation for the growth since 1991 was the rapid convergence taking place at that time between three major industries: telecommunications, information technology and broadcasting. Computer and communications equipment companies were rushing to gain a foothold in the emerging multimedia market. To fully benefit from the new interactive technologies that they were developing, they needed the world’s telecommunication networks to transport their applications to users.
The trend towards convergence was reflected in the TELECOM 95 theme of “Connect!” With close to 190 000 participants, including more than 100 ministers from the 184 ITU member countries, TELECOM 95 showed remarkable growth. Attendance was around 18 per cent higher than at the 1991 event.
“What we hadn’t quite fully expected when we made our predictions about the size of the show two years ago was the degree and speed of change in the industry,” said Jean Jipguep, Chairman of the TELECOM Board. “Anyone working in the areas of telecommunications, information technology or broadcast entertainment is well aware of the convergence currently taking place in what were once discrete fields of endeavour,” Mr Jipguep added.
The rapid growth of computer networks, including the explosion in the use of the Internet, meant that traditional information technology (IT) providers now had to work telecommunication technologies into their latest offerings. Likewise, the major telecommunication carriers were upgrading their networks with highly sophisticated intelligent switching equipment designed by software developers to enable delivery of a host of new applications.
Interactive software applications
At the opening ceremony, Andrew Grove illustrated the convergence in the industry by showing how personal computers would open the door to a host of new interactive applications. Dr Grove’s multimedia presentation involved live communication links to Africa and Japan, and was developed with the assistance of several of the world’s leading telecommunication and computer companies. Dr Grove was acknowledged as one of the pioneering figures in the computer industry. Since Intel was founded in 1968, it had become a leading manufacturer of computer chip and was, by the time of TELECOM 95, aggressively moving into the new markets opening up as a result of the rapid increase in the computing power of the personal computer.
Microsoft´s Telecommunications Manager, Tony Bawcutt, said the show was becoming increasingly relevant to the company’s marketing strategy for the years ahead. “Microsoft has been expanding its market participation to include personal communications, enterprise server products, groupware, network services and broadband information on demand,” Mr Bawcutt explained. “We plan to leverage the installed base of Windows users as they become major adopters of communication services, and provide platforms for network providers upon which such services can be developed and deployed.”
The increased involvement of software companies in the telecommunications industry was also demonstrated by the presence of Oracle for the first time. The company’s Senior Vice President of Telecommunications, John Black, said Oracle had decided to exhibit because of TELECOM 95’s focus on the convergence of telecommunications, entertainment and computing. “As the world’s largest information management company, Oracle offers an array of solutions for the telecommunications industry. The business of TELECOM 95 is Oracle’s business, and we are happy to participate in this important event,” he said.
Telephone companies were in a strong position to shape the evolution of the new information superhighway, owing to the sheer scope of existing telephone networks, which were continuing to show a high rate of growth. Some 34 million new lines had been added in 1994, while 18 million new mobile subscriptions had been registered. Although growth in cellular subscribers was still outpacing growth in main lines, the percentage increase in main lines in 1994 was the highest in over a decade. Mobile cellular subscribers grew 61.3 per cent during 1994 while fixed-line subscribers grew 6.7 per cent.
“Many of the participants at TELECOM 95 will be vital players in the development of the newly emerging Global Information Infrastructure,” said Dr Pekka Tarjanne.
While there were fewer telephones than television sets in 1995, they greatly outnumbered personal computers. The development of sophisticated technologies such as high-definition television (HDTV) and video-on-demand meant that the entertainment and broadcasting industry was using more and more of the technology that was once the exclusive province of telecommunication engineers.
As Ray Smith, CEO of Bell Atlantic, said “Soon we will have televisions that can listen, PCs that can speak, and telephones you can watch.”
The theme of TELECOM 95 — “Connect!” — set the tone for the Forum, which was attended by 3912 participants. The Forum programme consisted of two summits — Strategies and Technology — along with a special session dedicated to the Internet, Internet@Telecom95.
At the Strategies Summit, participants heard how electronic networks were now key for the exchange of information. “The myriad of new technologies will make it possible for a user to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time, and will conquer the barriers of time, national boundaries, and languages,” said Hiroshi Ichihara, President of Japan’s KDD. “Such an information and communications revolution will also bring about a revolution in market and social structure.”
Convergence was driving telecommunication operators to look for substantial capital requirements to foster growth of telecommunication networks. “By the year 2000 alone, over USD 1 trillion in new capital will be necessary in order for countries and companies to achieve their telecommunication goals,” said Michael McKeever, Managing Director of Lehman Brothers.
The Technology Summit focused on the development, standardization and implementation of new technologies, which were rapidly breaking down barriers between the formerly separate fields of telecommunications, information technology, and audiovisual entertainment.
“Together with the telephone, the PC is changing the way we communicate in business and home environments,” said Intel’s Corporate Public Relations Program Manager, Ursula Herrick. “It’s essential that the computer and telecommunication industries get together to develop new products.”
“Father of the Internet” awarded ITU silver medal
The special Internet session took place over the weekend of 7 to 8 October 1995 and focused on the rapid developments taking place on the Internet and in the field of online services. The session discussed the role of the Internet in the overall communication infrastructure, as well as the challenges and problems inherent in this new means of information exchange.
The seminar featured a number of key speakers including Vinton Cerf (often referred to as the “father of the Internet”), Jim Clark, founder of Netscape Corporation, Christian Huitema, Research Director at INRIA, and Tony Rutkowski, Executive Director of the Internet Society. Mr Cerf was awarded a special ITU silver medal by Dr Pekka Tarjanne for his outstanding contribution to the development of the Global Information Infrastructure, of which the Internet forms an integral part.
Senior representatives from major online service providers such as CompuServe, America Online, Microsoft Network, MCI and AT&T also took part in the seminar. A half-day session was dedicated to emerging Internet applications and featured presentations from Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, VocalTec, First Virtual, Digicash, and Apple.
Innovations of TELECOM 95
In the context of distance learning, the addition of interactivity to broadcast services proved to be of considerable benefit, particularly to developing countries, where conventional methods of education were increasingly unable to respond to the growing demand for learning. Interactivity superseded the basic limitations of the broadcasting systems of the time and was fundamental to the educational process.
One of the important partnerships to emerge from the 1995 edition of TELECOM was the announcement that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and ITU would be launching a pilot project to explore the use of the emerging technology of interactive broadcasting for distance learning.
This pilot project would result in the installation of a broadcast-based interactive distance- learning system in one or more developing countries. The aim would be to satisfy a critical need for in-service teacher education. Initial support had been obtained from the United States Department of State, AT&T (South Africa), and Hewlett Packard.
“We wholeheartedly acknowledge their kind contribution and interest in this project for the benefit of telecommunication development,” said Ahmed Laouyane, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.
Other innovations at TELECOM 95 included the Programme for Development and the newly industrializing countries (NIC) Pilot Project. The Programme for Development provided invitations to 170 engineers and human resource specialists from 85 developing countries to come to Geneva on fellowships in order to visit the Exhibition, participate in the Forum, and concentrate on issues of immediate importance to their specific countries via a special three-day workshop.
The NIC Pilot Project provided exhibition space free of charge for 13 companies from newly industrializing countries. The companies were selected because of their success in their home markets, and their innovative products. The aim of the project was to provide exposure to worldwide markets, to the benefit of both the companies themselves and those interested in viewing the latest technological developments.
The biggest change at TELECOM 95 was the array of software companies that exhibited for the first time at what had traditionally been a telecommunications industry event. The programme reflected this and marked a new direction for TELECOM for the years ahead.