Nº 1 2015 > ITU Telecom World 2014
ITU Telecom World 2014
Viewpoints from Doha
ITU Telecom World 2014, a platform for high-level debate, knowledge-sharing and networking for the global information and communication technology (ICT) community, took place on 7–10 December 2014 in Doha, Qatar. The event was hosted by the Government of Qatar, with the support of leading international communications company, Ooredoo. It was attended by a range of well-known figures from the ICT world: ministers, consultants, policy shapers, leading industry CEOs, renowned academics, and futurists.
The show floor highlighted technologies and investment opportunities through the presence of national and thematic pavilions and industry showcases. Top global players included Cisco, Huawei, Intel, LS Telcom, Nokia, Ooredoo, Rohde & Schwarz, Vodafone and ZTE, along with countries Argentina, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Chad, China, Hungary, Nigeria, Malaysia, Qatar, Tanzania, Thailand and Zimbabwe, while Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda came together within the Smart Africa zone. Forum discussions at the event covered the key trends and developments in technology, regulatory and policy issues, business models, services and applications, focusing on three major scenarios: disruption, cross-sector partnerships and the intelligent future. Moderators, speakers and panellists spanned a mix of high-level players from government, as well as all facets of the industry. Sessions took a variety of different formats from top media-moderated Big Conversations to ministerial round tables and panels.
DAY ONE — 7 December 2014
The spectacular Opening Ceremony at the Qatar National Convention Centre assembled an impressive line-up of high-level participants. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Prime Minister of Qatar, stated, “We are extremely proud to host a great number of telco corporations as an important hub”. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ooredoo Group, underlined the need for partnership: “Among us are many of the world’s largest technology companies, high-ranking government representatives and policy shapers from across the world, as well as a new generation of entrepreneurs and app-developers. Feel our power, our combined experience and know-how. Together we can make the future happen sooner”.
An exclusive one-day Leadership Summit: Future in Focus offered an inspiring journey into the future of the ICT industry, business and society. Renowned futurists and international experts came together with leaders from public and private sectors to explore scenarios to understand how policies, strategies, business models and regulatory approaches might develop.
Panellists agreed that the world is going digital very fast. The convergence of many different strands of technology (such as solar technology, bio-tech, nano-tech, neurotechnology, 3D printing, sensors and artificial intelligence) is pushing down the half-life of an average business competency from 30 years to 5 years. Three billion newly-networked minds coming online are unleashing innovation, creation, and disruption, all influenced by local language, culture and context, taking us in new directions via radically different intermediaries — today, a third of 15–30 year olds get their online news solely from Facebook!
The Summit also saw the demonstration of Roboy, a next-generation robot, which offers new and very different insights into human-robotic interaction and even the functioning of the human skeleton. One panellist stated that robots are neither a tool nor technology, but partners, and may even become competitors. Alarm was expressed that robots might exploit us as humans, forcing us to produce successful models in ever greater numbers, or let less-successful versions die — just like biological evolution. The real question is not whether we wish to continue with robots or not — robots are already here, in large numbers — but whether we can guide their development without being overrun: will robots understand us or scare us?
The Summit agreed that policy-makers need to stay abreast of a huge range of upcoming technological developments in order to respond with adequate strategies. However, panellists expressed concerns over the growing gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory evolution. Telcos’ core business now goes far beyond simply providing connectivity — competitors now come from a number of other industries (see article on The great telco conundrum). Today, change is the norm, rather than stability. Telcos must manage data and become a trusted custodian of consumers’ data, creating a new class of economic asset, while keeping data safe and secure. New issues are arising as to who owns the data, and whether/how to regulate the use of others’ data. In the future, according to one keynote speaker, every company may become a software company.
There were also debates on Natural disasters, the Road to 5G and LTE standardization. The challenge in 5G is to build an effective ecosystem with cells, machines, connected devices and backhaul. In theory, 5G could enable all Seoul’s subway passengers to watch HDTV channels simultaneously. However, most future uses of 5G are still unknown, and network management is complex. LTE standardization should include best-practice knowledge from countries already using it — such as Qatar, where LTE was introduced three years ago as a pilot for data and video. The first day also witnessed Vodafone’s launch of Qatar’s first virtual store, and a record-breaking speed demo of 4.1 Gbps over TDD-FDD LTE by Nokia Networks, Ooredoo Qatar and China Mobile, enabling mobile users to download a full-length 5 GB high-definition movie in 11 seconds, while uploading a 5‑minute 30 MB video clip in under a second.
DAY TWO — 8 December 2014
At the session on Affordable international backhaul, there was broad agreement on policy frameworks to promote ICTs, including support for local IXPs, promotion of demand, and market liberalization. Participants emphasized the importance of getting a balance of technologies, leveraging submarine cable, terrestrial fibre, satellite, and access technologies from Wi-Fi to WiMAX, drones to balloons, in a mix that makes sense in each individual market. Open access is likely to differ in each country, depending on market structure. Open access must extend across broadband value chains to include data centres, servers and transport.
The session on Broadband roll-out in emerging economies saw participants debating universal access and it was underlined how broadband can underpin vibrant local economies and combat rural-urban migration. In Indonesia, a proportion of telco revenue is paid as spectrum fees into a universal service fund; however, the fund’s rules are rigorous and few funds have been paid out. Participants emphasized that governments should not see telco revenues as an easy target.
The session, “A regulator’s nightmare”, emphasized that regulation must strike a balance between rules and flexibility. At the session, “A call to arms for regulators”, it was agreed that regulation must be enabling, not controlling, and focused on best practice in a local context. One panellist urged regulators to work differently, considering the public institutions and users of ICT services rather than focusing on operators and suppliers. Regional regulation is complex — for example, there is no single view among 23 European regulatory authorities on how market consolidation should be addressed. As the Internet of Things (IoT) develops, policy-makers must allow the private sector to experiment before establishing any regulatory framework, or risk closing down viable solutions. The panel agreed on the need for “collaboration, balance, and working across the entire ecosystem”.
The session on Networks in the cloud emphasized the many different touch points of cloud and telcos, from software defined networking (SDN), network virtualization, cloud platforms for enterprises, software developers and API platforms, with different types of intersection between the network and the cloud. It is vital for operators and regulators to distinguish between the different types and their implications to avoid confusion. The incoming Director of the ITU Standardization Sector (ITU–T), Chaesub Lee, was optimistic that “the market and standards will work out, as they have done for decades — one might be ahead of the other at different points, but players are investing, and the interoperability needed for public networks will follow”. Who owns data, and who keeps it secure? Security mechanisms are present in each layer, but panellists expressed concerns that the cloud is not yet secure overall.
At the session on Convergence of broadcasting and broadband, participants debated differences between broadcasting at once to many (for example, for major events where a big peak in traffic is expected at a fixed time) versus broadband for events where fewer people may watch at any given moment. The session on the Digital dividend underlined the role of broadcasting as a uniter of people versus the Internet, and it was suggested that it would be a mistake to predict that broadcasting will eventually be displaced. According to Ericsson, there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, of which 15 billion will be connected via video. Content-on-demand will become the norm, changing consumer behaviour. The market for mobile broadband is very competitive, but it is unclear that revenues will increase in line with traffic.
The session on Financing the networks of the future heard how data consumption is exploding, driven by smartphone penetration of over 1500 devices per square kilometre in the world’s 400 biggest cities. The IoT could multiply traffic by a factor of thirty by 2017, while cloud could result in a 440% increase over the same period. Massive network investments are needed to cope with demand in wireless, wireline or backhaul networks. However, this need for investment comes at a time of decreasing revenues, bandwidth-hungry Over-The-Top (OTT) players and outdated data connection agreements, leaving the industry reluctant to invest in network upgrades. What can be done? One possible answer is passive infrastructure sharing. The panel agreed that ensuring the sustainability of the whole ICT ecosystem calls for new innovative solutions and new ways of solving the connectivity dilemma in times of disruption. Broadband is the destination, although there are different routes to this same destination.
DAY THREE — 9 December 2014
In a session on Cross-sector partnerships, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao (Deputy Secretary-General at the time of the Telecom event), reminded participants that “collaboration has always been of great importance to growth in any endeavour or industry — nowhere is that more true than in the ICT sector”. He concluded with a clear commitment that “I will do my best to strengthen cooperation between industry and ITU”. ITU Telecom World 2014 convenes stakeholders from government, industry, manufacturers, and app developers to explore how parties can work together to satisfy customers and sustain business. Discussions focused on changing roles for telcos in a converged landscape — should telcos compete or cooperate with new players? There is an opportunity for telcos to become trusted custodians of data from multiple silos. The session on Telco innovation opened with a quote from Bill Gates: “Banking is important; banks are not” — can the same be said of telcos? Historically, innovation for telcos has often not come from telcos. Operators often talk about innovation mainly for B2C, when the most dynamic area may in fact be enterprise B2B.
With regard to the IT-ization of telecom networks, panellists described how networks are becoming all-IP, while functions virtualized and network topology become more distributed. Mini-clouds cache content and host key functions. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) are game-changers, although the main players within network virtualization are still tier one United States and European operators. SDN gives customers the opportunity to have their own network worldwide. Operators have a “sense of urgency” in adopting this to respond to competition and network problems — the question is not if, but when.
The session on Big Data for development described how vast amounts of data traffic are generated by consumers each day (the equivalent of 360 000 DVDs every minute), which is often viewed as a liability. Big data analytics can show what has happened in the past — i.e. in monitoring migrations and/or epidemics. Further research may reveal why, or predict what can happen in the future. Large amounts of data are already in the public domain, from government censuses surveying ethnicity and religion to detailed household surveys and rich social media. The session on Community-driven partnerships described how corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects are empowering societies.
The session on “Scarce resource or shared resource?” saw mobile and satellite representatives stake their claims to the hotly-contested C-band, and debate whether sharing is a viable option. The panel concluded that sharing in some format is likely to happen, and it is down to national administrations to decide how, when and which spectrum sharing can take place. Each region or nation has its own very specific context, market and requirements in this regard.
Makame Mbarawa, Tanzania’s Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, related how the National ICT Broadband Backbone has enabled Tanzania to become a regional ICT hub, with 7560 km of fibre optic cable laid to neighbouring countries. Tanzania has nearly completed the digital transition, with only three cities left to migrate, and is poised to become one of Africa’s first fully digital countries. President and CEO of Ideas Africa, Lolia Emakpore launched the aSMART Summit, supported by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), the West Africa Telecommunication Regulators Assembly (WATRA) and Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and invited attendees of ITU Telecom World to get involved with aSMART.
The high-profile SMART Africa initiative was represented by four participating countries — Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan. Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, hopes it will position Africa as a global leader in the ICT space: “Africa missed the economic revolution and the industrial revolution,” he said, “but it will not miss the knowledge revolution”. Uganda’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, John Nasasira, focused on making Internet access affordable to all African citizens and explained that sacrifices must be made in terms of public sector revenue to achieve affordability.
Day three also saw the launch of the Global Cybersecurity Index 2014, jointly prepared by ITU and the consulting firm ABI Research. The United States took top position, with Canada coming in a close second. Three countries shared third place — Oman, Australia and Malaysia — while New Zealand and Norway ranked fourth. Brazil, Estonia, Germany, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom were joint fifth. Several countries were highlighted for their commitment to cybersecurity, including Turkey and Rwanda.
DAY FOUR — 10 December 2014
The final day saw closing debates on the Internet of Things (IoT). Will IoT prove a nirvana of connectivity, or will the dream be derailed by issues of privacy and security? In the debate on our Intelligent Future, François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, emphasized that IoT is not new — it is the scale of connectivity that is changing, underpinned by mobile networks and spectrum.
According to some estimates, IoT could be worth USD 19 trillion between 2013 and 2023. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication devices have overtaken smartphones as the fastest-growing category of network with IP addresses, with 221 billion connected devices projected by 2018. IoT has huge implications for chips, sensors and IT cloud connectivity. However, panellists identified gaps in reality versus expectations, and the pace of industry versus that of regulatory bodies. One panellist suggested we have not yet come very far towards IoT.
The panel debated whether the best approach lies in combining ICT regulators with national and international bodies overseeing other industries, or in appointing a sole data regulator to govern the use and regulation of data. Panellists agreed that there is little danger of companies developing devices within the ecosystem crossing over to become operators: the telecommunication industry is heavily regulated.
The next debate questioned whether IoT will be a panacea or fuel paranoia. Some players are greeting IoT warmly. Others are more cautious, believing that its appeal depends on what is done with that information generated by IoT. The session began with the panel’s thoughts on IoT, and naturally, migrated to issues around security and privacy. On the upside, IoT enables energy suppliers to install smart meters on cell sites to monitor consumption and reduce carbon emissions. Indeed, IoT has already been around for a long time, while many people may not even know they have been using it.
However, when many devices communicate, security and privacy issues become a cause for concern. Security is a major issue when all kinds of data can be represented in the cloud. Global regulation on data privacy can prove difficult, as there are so many differences between countries’ regulatory frameworks — and telcos have to adhere to local policies. One panellist compared IoT with Pandora’s Box — there are frequent catastrophic security breaches, with the industry and technology playing catch up.
People may have a right to privacy; however, privacy is a cultural construct, which is difficult to define for regulatory purposes. Consumers often voluntarily give up privacy to improve their lives (such as the app, Life360) or in exchange for discounts. Regulations often lag behind innovation, which is accelerating. Overall, the session concluded that IoT is likely to prove a “force for good”, but we must remain careful as to how it is used, as it could rapidly be used in inappropriate ways. Finally, panellists emphasized that IoT is here to stay, so we had better learn to live with it!
Another session focused on Vanuatu’s experience in rolling out ICTs to its population, where Fred Samuel, Chief Information Officer of the Government of Vanuatu, gave an interesting and informative overview. Vanuatu has a population of 255 000 across a number of islands sometimes prone to natural disasters. Challenges include a low literacy rate, multiple languages, and lack of access to electricity. However, its climate, beaches, activities and friendly population present opportunities for tourism. Vanuatu’s ICT markets opened up in 2008, helping to increase mobile cellular penetration from 16% in 2008 to 50% in 2013, with over 90% of the population covered by a mobile signal. Mobile broadband penetration is at 9%, but measures are in place to increase this with a submarine cable starting service in 2014 and a national ICT policy focusing on cybersecurity and universal access.
The future of innovation was showcased at the event in the Lab and by winners of the Young Innovators competition. Social entrepreneurs between ages 18–30 from around the world highlighted innovative digital solutions with positive social impact.
In addition to the humanoid robot Roboy, further examples of innovation in action could be seen in the Lab on the show floor, including: MineKafon, a wind-powered mine detector; Perpetual Plastic Project, an interactive recycling installation that transforms plastic into new products through 3D printing; Parametric Hybrid Wall, a responsive surface able to re-model its own shape; and Bhoreal, an open source interface that can be used to control all types of hardware and software.
You can find further insights and perspectives in our Executive Interviews on the ITU Telecom World 2014 YouTube playlist. Our Outcomes report, featuring an in-depth analysis of all the debates at the event will be released in March. For more information, including all the session highlights, visit http://telecomworld.itu.int/.