Geneva, 31 March 2011 – The 11th edition of ITU’s flagship ICT regulatory report Trends in Telecommunication Reform takes an in-depth look at one of the most significant social trends of the past ten years: the increasingly pervasive presence of ICTs in virtually every facet of modern life.
The report reveals an increasingly robust yet complex regulatory landscape which has emerged in response to the tremendous influence ICTs now have on the shape and growth of other economic sectors.
At the beginning of 2011, more than 80 per cent of markets worldwide have separate ICT regulatory agencies, making for a total of 158 ICT regulators worldwide – up from 106 just one decade ago.
Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2010-2011 confirms that ICT markets around the world are becoming more competitive in just about every respect, from international gateway services to wireless local loop and 3G. In 2010, more than 93 per cent of countries worldwide allowed competition in the provision of Internet services, and 90 per cent in the provision of mobile cellular services. A further 92 per cent have competitive 3G mobile broadband markets.
Worldwide, mobile cellular subscriptions now total over 5.3 billion, including 940 million subscriptions to mobile broadband services – a figure which is expected to reach one billion before mid-2011. Access to mobile networks is now available to 90% of the world’s population overall. Of people living in rural areas, 80% now have mobile cellular coverage.
In terms of applications, at the end of 2010, Facebook alone counted 600 million active users, representing more than one third of Internet users worldwide. Forty per cent of active Facebook users accessed the platform through their mobile devices. Micro-blogging site Twitter now has over 200 million registered users, and 37 per cent of active Twitter users use their mobile device to tweet. Data also show that two billion videos are watched every day on YouTube, while five billion photos are now hosted on Flickr.
“ICTs are truly at the heart of everything we do,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré. “Technology is reshaping the lives of everyone – even those who still lack direct access themselves.”
As effective regulation becomes crucial to economic growth across all sectors, two broad themes emerge in the report: the ubiquity of ICTs, and the critical role of telecom/ICT regulators in creating an enabling digital environment. From climate change to health, to education and personal security; no discussion of major social issues is complete without close examination of the role of ICTs in creating, managing, and resolving these issues.
“Because ICTs touch all aspects of society, when setting sound policies and regulation the link between ICTs and major social issues like climate change, economic growth and digital lifestyles has to be taken into account,” said Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “More than ever, it is vital to consider the appropriate scope of the ICT regulator’s mandate in creating an enabling digital world, a world where no citizen should be left out of the digital society.”
The report confirms the huge potential for ICTs to make positive contributions to major social challenges. For example, like every other industry, ICTs contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. They are, however, also uniquely positioned to enable the reduction of emissions through ‘smart’ energy management systems.
But while the benefits of the Information Society are manifest, the broadband revolution has raised new issues and challenges. Consumers of all ages are very much pioneers in the Information Society, reaping the benefits of their new world, but also exposing themselves to the risks if the right measures are not taken.
The interconnectedness of ICTs facilitates the distribution of viruses and malware on a global basis and makes it easier to perpetrate various forms of cybercrime, while at the same time making it difficult to track, investigate, and prosecute cybercriminals. In the broadband ecosystem, does the telecom/ICT regulator have a role to play in the battle against cybercrime?
The key role of broadband
Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2010-2011 also contends that broadband access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that will be crucial to every country’s economic, social, and political growth. With broadband a powerful potential accelerator towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are now nearing their 2015 target, the report particularly highlights the need for proactive national broadband planning by every government.
An effective national broadband policy will examine the options for stimulating the deployment of broadband and for maximizing the positive economic impact of the technology. It will include strategic spectrum management that encompasses managing the transition from analogue to digital radio and television broadcasting, and the laying of a solid foundation for the rollout of Next Generation Networks.
However, the advent of high-speed networks and new kinds of content also puts emphasis on the importance of the role of government and ICT regulators in stimulating the demand for broadband and in promoting investment in infrastructure.
Resolving disputes expeditiously in a competitive, complex and converged environment is another challenge for regulators.
The new report is available for purchase from the ITU website at: www.itu.int/pub/D-REG-TTR.12-2010.