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Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Common goal

The ITU Telecom World 2006 delivered on its tradition of being the event that brings the telecoms sector worldwide together once every three years in order to discuss the most pertinent issues facing the sector. Given the expansion of telecoms into the adjacent worlds of multimedia, information technology and entertainment, the theme for the event was aptly described as “living the digital world”.

Some 62,000 visitors were present in Hong Kong to participate in this year’s ITU Telecoms World event.

The industry’s top names were in present throughout the five days at the beginning of December, including participants such as Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, China Mobile, China Netcom, China Telecommunications, China Unicom, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, and Samsung.

Under the theme “Living the Digital World”, the event explored the trends, technologies and policies that are driving this world. Examples of broadband in action at home and in the workplace or new, converged product offerings could be seen throughout the event, with IPenabled services such as TV and video being demonstrated across the show floor.

“The global telecommunications business is in a state of dynamic transition as service providers become “experience providers” and collaboration and interactions drive the next wave of growth in our industry,” said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems.

New web-based services and applications such as email on the move, multi-tasking or teleworking and a full range of locationbased services were demonstrated and the many uses for mobile phones were on display this week. From mobile broadband to mobile music and TV, participants were treated to a host of colourful displays and hightech gadgetry. Devices were busy talking to other devices; there were robots, fridges that can communicate, phones talking to vending machines and a whole lot more on show. There was a strong presence from the satellite sector, with a number of technology advances being showcased, which will enable a host of potentially life-saving services to remote areas. WiMAX and an array of other wireless technologies enabling on-the-go broadband access were also explored.

At an event where making the right connections, networking and getting business done were the bywords of the week, it was no surprise that a number of high-level partnerships were formed and announced at Telecom World 2006. Two giants of industry, Microsoft and BT announced a deal to provide IPTV services in the UK; and a pan Asian mobile TV consortium was hatched between SK Telecom, Toshiba, Global Media Networks, and International Mobile Broadcasting to provide the first mobile TV roaming service in Asia.

ITU Telecom World is a global networking platform for the ICT industry and it was here that the newly merged Alcatel-Lucent Technologies unveiled its new brand identity and mission, to an audience of peers, partners and customers. Global research specialists, Yankee Group and Analysys International launched a partnership to offer research that puts the China market into an international context. In addition, Aperto Networks formed a WiSE partnership of 50 companies to drive WiMAX interoperability.

A significant milestone was reached in the relationship between ITU and Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus with an announcement of an “ITC Empowerment Network” to which Connect the World partner, Cisco Systems, announced a US$1 million contribution and Qualcomm and consortium Enclusion pledged support.

Industry-leading CEOs, government regulators and telecommunications ministers and many more from across the industry attended the forum, for a closer examination of the digital world. Hot topics and themes explored in the forum included mobile, wireless, broadband, convergence, nextgeneration networks, multiple play, ondemand services, user-generated content and personalised services. A number of sessions included discussion on how all these new technologies can best be harnessed to extend the benefits of ICTs to those who still remain “unconnected.”

Extending the information society and promoting access to ICTs was a major underlying theme of the event as a whole.

During the week, discussions were held, policies were examined, best practice cases highlighted and the types of technologies demonstrated which would help extend the reach of ICTs.

The need for industry-wide collaboration and cooperation was a theme highlighted by many event participants. Innovation was certainly a buzzword in the Digital Life Theatre (DLT), a futuristic presentation venue. Themes explored at the DLT included mobile TV, how to create a superior customer experience, digital networking, how the family of the future will communicate, how to optimise user experience and how to create, share and distribute content.

Living the Digital World

Gone are the days when our everyday lives revolved simply around our hometown or village, where friends lived down the road and the workplace was just around the corner. Now, thanks to advances in technology, we have entered a world where we can work for a company based in London yet live in Spain, where we can acquire whole new personae and sets of friends online overnight, where everyone can be a film star, release a hit single or be a comedian reaching out to a global audience, and much more.

And this is only the beginning. Welcome to the Digital World, and all that lies therein.

‘Living the Digital World’ was the theme for ITU Telecom World 2006 event, which was a major gathering point for the world’s top ICT names and showcase for the latest technologies.

The Digital World is a world where the best possible use is made of digital technologies. Propelled by explosive broadband growth and soaring mobile numbers, our transition to the digital world has been rapid and innovative. Indeed many of us are probably not even aware of how important a role these technologies already play. We use a growing array of digital lifestyle technologies at home, in the office, on the street, in cars, in trains, and in planes — they have transformed every aspect of our daily lives.

Devices such as MP3s or mobile phones with video capabilities are becoming increasingly popular. As we continue the shift towards IP-based networks we can expect even more advanced technologies to become commonplace. Voice over IP use is on the rise, with applications such as Skype fast gaining ground, while services such as IPTV now add a whole new dimension to watching television. Multiple Play models, which combine voice, video and the internet over the same network are all being launched in a number of countries worldwide.

Digital technologies have brought about sweeping changes for the workplace. Not only can offices be entirely virtual, but a raft of new applications—from remote and mobile email to video-conferencing and teleworking—are emerging, meaning greater flexibility and efficiency in and around the workplace.

Paving the way for Digital Progress

Our speedy transition to a digital world has been boosted by a host of favourable factors. The foundations of today’s digital world were first laid by network digitalisation. This was then helped by telecoms market liberalisation, the advent of more and more competition and creation of environments in which this could flourish.

Increased competition meant a broader choice as well as price cuts for end users, making ICTs more accessible to even more people. Mobile user numbers across the world have soared in recent years, for example, as have broadband users, reaching some 217 million in 2005, according to ITU. More and more technologies are going digital- the most recent example being television, with the advent of IPTV.

An ongoing adoption of digital technologies and applications will not be without potential pitfalls, however, and a number of important challenges need to be addressed to ensure continued growth.

Ensuring easy usability is one critical area. Today, an ever-widening range of ‘gadgets’ provides us with access to digital communications and content. As these get ever more sophisticated, manufacturers face an increasing dilemma of finding a middle ground between what does the job (or indeed does multiple jobs) but is also simple, easy and user-friendly enough for as wide a set of consumers as possible to use.

Regulators and policy makers also have important roles to play in shaping the digital world of tomorrow. So many new converged product offerings on the market will blur traditional telecommunications definitions, but need to be classified. Are they traditional telecommunications services? Or do they qualify as broadcasting? Or other forms of content? Not only will such classification have an impact on how services are marketed and priced, but it will also affect how regulators and policy makers examine the level of market competition in a particular sector.

With players operating across so many sectors, it will become harder to pinpoint exactly who is doing what. With a host of new wireless technologies poised to enter the marketplace, regulators will need to consider the level of substitutability between cellular mobile and other advanced wireless services such as WLAN or WiMAX. The question of timing will also be crucial; who will decide, for example, when a nascent industry such as WLAN or WiMAX has become a mature one and thus what types of regulation need to be applied. The issue of spectrum and how different wireless technologies should coexist alongside one another is also a major concern, as the availability of adequate spectrum is critical to support future services.

The Question of 'me?'

From shopping to socialising, creating our own innovative content or simply paying our bills, there is no doubt that web-based interaction has come to play an important role for many people worldwide. It has also raised a very interesting conundrum; that of our digital identity and how to keep it safe. Consider how much of our lives are now spent in a digital environment. Keeping ourselves secure in this environment is a key concern. We need to be sure that, for example, no one can steal our identity and use it elsewhere (on the internet or on the other side of the world) to obtain a mortgage, pay a bill, or interact with anyone. In addition, we have to be sure that if we accidentally reveal too much personal information in the wrong place, we won’t be deluged with unwanted content. And, critically, that the identity of our children on and off the web is kept safe, that they cannot access content which is inappropriate or be accessed by anyone unsuitable.

Imagine if all these fears could all be allayed by an effective global identity management scheme, which could safeguard identities and reveal them in a structured and secure manner. If this could be implanted then our transition to a digital world would be even more rapid.

According to Lara Srivastava, Policy Analyst at ITU, the answer lies in revealing only a part of our identity at a time: “The key lies in establishing digital identities which would consist of a series of partial identities.

This is because the kind of identity required to do online banking is completely different to that which is needed to join a chatroom – for online banking, an account number is required. For a chatroom, not even one’s real name is required. The various aspects of one’s identity should only be revealed as and when they are needed.”

In order to make this vision a reality, a comprehensive digital identity management system would be required, so that users would never be able to reveal unnecessary information, and so that no one could ever piece the various elements of an identity together, in order to steal a ‘full’ identity.

According to Srivastava, such developments may not be too far off, but efforts at the global level are required."

This feature has been extracted from material made available at the ITU Telecom World 2006 event.

“The global telecommunications business is in a state of dynamic transition as service providers become "experience providers" and collaboration and interactions drive the next wave of growth in our industry”
“Extending the information society and promoting access to ICTs was a major underlying theme of the event as a whole, and policies and discussions were held”
“The Digital World is a world where the best possible use is made of digital technologies. Propelled by explosive broadband growth and soaring mobile numbers, the transition to this world has been rapid”

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