European Communications presents its regular round-up of the latest developments in the world of telecommunications
ITU goes West
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré recently conferred with some of the leading lights of Silicon Valley, aiming to cement ties with the private sector and promote the use of state-of-the-art in ICT to bridge the digital divide.
Among the participants were executives from communications, hardware, Internet, software and venture capital firms, including Intel, Cisco Systems, Nokia Siemens Networks, Hewlett Packard, Google, IBM Venture Capital Group, Visa International, Microsoft, as well as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Speaking at the opening of the "UN Meets Silicon Valley" event, Dr Touré focused on three main trends that appear to be influencing the ICT industry: innovation and cybersecurity; changing business models; and the development of new markets. "Innovation is a key source of new products, added value and fresh growth in revenues," Dr Touré told participants. "I want to challenge you to think beyond the borders of Silicon Valley, beyond even the borders of the United States, to the emerging markets in the rest of the world."
He said that closing the digital divide should not be seen as charity, but as a sound business model attractive to industry.
Describing the ITU as a unique intergovernmental organisation, which also has strong relations with business, Dr Touré added: "The Union has a noble mission: to provide access to the benefits of ICT to all the world's inhabitants. To achieve that goal, we need to work in partnership with governments, the private sector and civil society, and to exploit the dynamism of regions like Silicon Valley."
A road map to connect the unconnected by 2015 was set out by the World Summit on the Information Society that was organised by the ITU in 2003 and 2005. With world leaders recognising the potential of ICT as an enabler for development, Dr Touré said the moment is ripe to harness the culture of innovation and competition in Silicon Valley to connect the world. The ITU has been charged with building the infrastructure required and ensuring security in cyberspace as well as bring together all stakeholders in meeting the goals of the Summit.
The mobile entertainment market is set for a new era of rapid growth as 3G environments become more commonplace, applications built for mobile predominate, and more users in the mass market exploit the mobile phone as a multifunctional communications and entertainment device says Juniper Research
The value of the mobile entertainment market, including music, games, TV, sports and infotainment, gambling and adult content is forecast to increase from $17.3 billion in 2006 to nearly $77 billion by 2011, driven by mobile TV, video rich applications and a buoyant Asian market. This is rapid growth, but for the potential to be realised, there are still a number of barriers to be overcome.
Principal author of the Juniper Research Mobile Entertainment Series, Bruce Gibson, comments: “The face of mobile entertainment is expected to change significantly over the next five years as next generation mobile services continue to be rolled out around the globe and take up steadily increases. As 3G services become commonplace, sophisticated mobile entertainment products and services can reach the mass market and provide the sort of anywhere/anytime entertainment that has been predicted for some time, but not really delivered.” However, he adds a note of caution: “Whilst the potential to generate dramatically increased revenues is certainly there, many uncertainties affecting sections of the market still exist and could put a break on growth - the development of legislative environments for mobile gambling and adult content, and the success of broadcast mobile TV trials currently underway or planned, are just two examples.”
Dramatic changes in service delivery are forecast, but some aspects of market structure will not change. The Asia Pacific region currently provides the largest market for Mobile Entertainment services and contributes over 40 per cent of global revenues. Despite more rapid growth in North America and in developing markets, the Asia Pacific region is forecast to retain its leadership through to 2011, when it will still contribute 37 per cent of global revenues.
The Internet industry must do more to fight governments' attempts to repress Internet users around the world, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock noted at the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) annual awards ceremony.
'The Internet has revolutionised free speech and gives a voice to millions. But we must be on our guard against those who want to limit access to information and take that free speech away,” he said.
'The Internet is the new front in the battle between those who want to speak out, and those who want to stop them. Businesses whose operations impact on freedom of speech bear no less responsibility for upholding human rights standards than other industries.”
He went on the stress that web users and service providers alike have a responsibility to keep alive the things that have made the Internet great - its democracy, its freedom and the way it gives people access to knowledge and the opportunity to participate and be heard.
Over 60,000 people have joined Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign, highlighting the repression of Internet users around the world, and the collusion of major Internet companies with governments such as China to restrict access to information over the Internet.
The human rights organisation recently announced that it was joining multi-stakeholder discussions with companies including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, together with other NGOs, experts and investors, to establish principles for safeguarding human rights on the Internet.
EC gets it right
The socioeconomic profitability of the eCall system, proposed by the European Commission, has been independently verified by a new research report from the analyst firm Berg Insight.
The eCall system is intended to automatically initiate an emergency call to 112 from a vehicle and transmit satellite positioning data to the operator in case of a road accident. By reducing the reaction time for the emergency services, the system is expected to save thousands of lives annually when fully implemented. Exactly how many lives that would actually be saved is, however, the subject of a debate between the proponents and sceptics who believe the cost exceeds the benefits. According to the findings of the Berg study, there will be a net socioeconomic benefit for the EU if road fatalities and severe injuries are reduced by 3 per cent or more.
“The eCall project is based on the well known Golden Hour principle of accident medicine, saying that the chance of surviving a severe injury decreases from 26 per cent to 5 per cent in the first hour,” explains Tobias Ryberg, Senior Analyst, Berg Insight. “Literally, every minute counts when it comes to saving lives, not to mention preventing severe injuries which are a heavy burden on public finances.”
Berg Insight estimates eCall could save 1,400–2,800 lives and prevent 8,600–17,100 severe injuries annually in the EU when fully implemented. Long-term savings would be in the range of ? 5–10 billion, whereas the long-term cost is projected as ? 4 billion. Ryberg believes that segments of the automotive industry exaggerate the cost of integrating an eCall device in every new vehicle, as would be required for the system to work.
“Worldwide production of mobile phones now exceeds 1 billion units, and in five years a majority of those will have integrated GPS,” he says. “I am convinced that the cost of producing another 15 million units - without displays, digital cameras and music playback capabilities - will be marginal once the automotive purchasing departments have done their job.”