Remarks of Assistant Secretary Victory at the APEC Telecommunications and Information Industries Fifth Ministerial Meeting (TELMIN5)

Migrating to Advanced Wireless Systems Environments
Shanghai, China
May 29, 2002

APEC Telecommunications and Information Industries
Fifth Ministerial Meeting (TELMIN5)
Shanghai, China
May 29, 2002

Remarks Delivered by
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
AND
ADMINISTRATOR
NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION
NANCY J. VICTORY

Plenary Session I: Information Infrastructure
"Migrating to Advanced Wireless Systems Environments"
(Full Text As Prepared)

Good Afternoon, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen. The APEC economies are strongly committed to creating a digital society and growing the New Economy. To realize these goals, we must encourage greater access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). An increasingly important means of accessing ICTs is through wireless. Around the globe, we are witnessing the fantastic growth of wireless technologies in all aspects of daily life. Whether as a substitute for wired infrastructure or as a complementary adjunct of mobility, wireless is expanding opportunities for access - and with them opportunities for economic growth, enhanced security and a better way of life.

Yet, while wireless technology creates lots of opportunities, it also creates many challenges - challenges for us as policy-makers and regulators. The spectrum that wireless relies upon is finite. Interference issues among services are real and constantly changing. And wireless infrastructure often raises unique aesthetic and environmental issues. In order to realize the important benefits of wireless access, these are all challenges we must successfully address. Today, I would like to share some thoughts on how we can foster increased wireless opportunities and facilitate the migration to more advanced wireless systems.

Spectrum Use Is Growing Fast

Why do I draw your attention today to wireless technology and the challenges of maximizing its potential? Well, wireless communications use is exploding around the world. Almost one in every six of the world's inhabitants has a mobile phone, and there are countless spectrum-based applications used by businesses and governments.

Minister Wu, you should be particularly pleased at the high mobile growth rates here in China, which are up from only 1 percent in 1997 to a stunning 11 percent in 2001. Indeed, China now has the world's greatest number of mobile phone subscribers--over 160 million. Here in Shanghai, from the shadow of the TV tower in Pudong to the Bund in the Old City, I can see for myself how many individuals and companies in this country are using wireless technology to improve their business and enhance their lives. Other APEC economies also have an impressive wireless story to tell.

 

 

  • Today, almost 59% of Japan's population is using wireless, and about 38% of the population goes online using mobile phones.
  • The Asia Pacific region's mobile penetration is expected to rise from 6.93 percent in 2000 to 15.6 percent in 2005.
  • In the United States, we are not doing too badly either; we have a healthy 135 million wireless subscribers and a multitude of other spectrum-based technologies that greatly benefit American individuals and businesses.

The growth of wireless technology has been so great in recent years that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently noted that mobile networks are poised to overcome fixed networks in 2002, with close to one billion mobile subscribers worldwide. Currently, almost 100 countries have more mobile than fixed telephone subscribers (this includes some of our APEC friends from Latin America). Developing economies are increasingly leapfrogging to mobile infrastructure to meet basic telephony needs. Even developed countries are turning to mobile infrastructure to meet the needs of those in high cost or hard-to-serve areas. The ITU predicts that mobile communications will be the key to achieving our universal access goals.

Wireless communications also appears to be an important factor in achieving economic and societal goals as well. By allowing for mobility and, in some cases, reducing installation costs, wireless can increase a company's productivity and profitability. Wireless devices also greatly enhance personal safety, facilitating a simple call for directions or a more urgent call for help. Further, spectrum-related technology is increasingly critical to national defense and homeland security efforts - an important issue in today's world. So maximizing wireless opportunities is key to a successful future for the APEC economies.

Balancing Needs, Managing Resources

So, today, as we gather here as policy-makers and regulators, we must ask ourselves--how do we maximize opportunities for accessing wireless pathways? How do we make the most out of the finite radio spectrum? How do we ensure that our policies encourage, rather than stifle, innovation? And, how do we balance sometimes competing commercial, public safety and environmental needs?

Those of us who establish spectrum policy in the U.S. are currently very focused on these questions. We recently held a two-day summit to explore spectrum management issues, gathering experts from government, industry and academia. Today, I thought I would share with you some of the things we learned and some of the goals we're establishing to maximize wireless opportunities. These challenges and goals are applicable to all of our economies as we strive to make the most of the wireless future.

Technical Flexibility. First, spectrum policies must be flexible to allow service growth and evolution. Technology changes much too fast for government to timely modify its regulations with every nuance. Moreover, it is impossible for government always to predict the direction of technological development or of consumer demand. Rather, government should strive to set minimal technical standards - only those needed to minimize interference or permit necessary interoperability. This way, technology has room to grow and improve, and innovations can be deployed rapidly.

Continual Modernization of Spectrum Policies. Second, government should continually review its existing spectrum policies to ensure they are still necessary and appropriate, given changes in technology and market demands. This means periodically taking a fresh look at legacy rules and restrictions to assess their ability to accommodate emerging technologies or spectrum needs. Regulations that are no longer necessary should be promptly eliminated or modified.

Transparency and Predictability of Regulation. Third, transparency and predictability of regulation is essential to create the right environment for investment in wireless technology. The acquisition of spectrum and the deployment of wireless facilities generally require substantial investment prior to the time revenue can begin to be collected. In order to make this up-front commitment, spectrum users - whether they be private sector or government users - need to be comfortable that they know the rules-of-the-road and that any changes in policy will not be precipitous, but rather preceded by broad information-gathering and open debate.

Policies That Promote Competition and Market Entry. Fourth, spectrum policies should be designed as much as possible to minimize impediments to competition and market entry, consistent of course with interference protection objectives. Competition and the influx of new market participants is a significant factor in driving innovation, variety, and lower costs to customers - things that are beneficial to all of our citizens. For this reason, it is important to ensure that market entry and rights-of-way use policies are open and non-discriminatory.

Communication with Our Peers Internationally. Fifth, it is essential that we discuss spectrum management issues with our peers internationally. Clearly, there may be instances where coordinating policies, standards or frequency allocations could benefit us all through enhanced roaming capabilities and economies of scale. But, even more importantly, sharing our successes and our challenges in spectrum management as a general matter will help us all to be better spectrum managers. By tackling this tough area together we can help to find the best solutions. We, in the United States, look forward to sharing our own experiences, but also in learning from all of you.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we see wireless as an important area for enhancing our economy, better protecting our country and connecting our citizens. But the key to realizing wireless' potential is sound and effective spectrum management policies. We look forward to additional dialogue with you on this subject this week during the TELMIN, during the upcoming ITU Plenipotentiary later this year, the World Radiocommunications Conference in 2003, and during bilateral exchanges to come.

Thank you very much.