Wireless Showcase Asia '98 Conference - Opening Speech

Dr John Chen, Minister of State for Communications Speech - Wireless Showcase Asia '98 Conference

Dr John Chen, Minister of State for Communications
Speech - Wireless Showcase Asia '98 Conference
Singapore, 21 January 1998

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning,

1. It gives me great pleasure to officiate at the opening of the Wireless Showcase Asia 98.

2. The phenomenal growth of wireless communication has made it one of the most important technologies of this decade. Advances in radio technologies provide various telecommunication operators with attractive alternatives to the traditional wireline networks. For example, the total number of subscribers worldwide on the GSM networks surpassed the 100 million mark as of end 1997. For a system that was launched barely six years ago, GSM has supplanted even Personal Computers as the most ubiquitous commodity. However, mobile cellular technology is not an isolated success story in the establishment of a mobile standard in the world. Rather, the development of wireless services is a long-running, continent-wide endeavour that has the backing of Standards Organisations in Europe, the US and Japan and its member governments. The latest industry forecasts indicate that the world will have more than 600 million users of cellular services at the start of the next millennium. Mobile phone users will soon be able to use a single integrated device comprising what would now be two or three different types of telephone (cellular, satellite and personal communications service) capable of switching automatically between systems and allowing a subscriber to be reached anywhere on earth at any time on a single number. The pace of change is relentless and we must harness the essence of technological advancement for the benefit of all.

3. Turning our attention towards the Asia Pacific region, it has been predicted that the expected investment in the telecommunications market will exceed US$300 billion within the next five years. The Asia Pacific will continue to have a highly competitive and vibrant telecommunication market, notwithstanding the current regional economic crisis. As the deregulation trend sweeps throughout Asia Pacific, there will be significant opportunities to gain access to previously inaccessible markets. Over the past five years, it has been reported that some 63 cellular licenses and 35 fixed line franchises have been awarded in Asia. The Asia Pacific is also currently the largest single market for telecommunications products and services, and the teledensity in the region is growing at twice the rate of any region in the world.

4. With a fully liberalised telecommunication market in year 2000, Singapore will be one of the most open and competitive info-communication markets in the world. Singapore is committed in its effort to prepare the nation for the next century -- a century that will be shaped by a country's ability to assimilate technology into everyday life. New technologies will continue to be unleashed, leading to innovative services and products that may be unimaginable today. We must continue to remain proactive and technologically ready to embrace the highly dynamic changes in the telecommunication revolution so that Singapore will continue to be internationally competitive and our lives continually enriched.

5. As the national regulator, the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS) will continue to put in place policies to ensure Singapore's telecommunication infrastructure and services are continuously upgraded and developed. This will ensure that Singapore will stay at the forefront of technology and service innovation. To achieve this objective, TAS will create a level playing field for competition to thrive. Policies to ensure good interconnection among different networks, provide number portability and facilitate maximum accessibility to innovative and value-added content providers will be implemented.

6. TAS recognises that as the next century will witness an increasing reliance on information and knowledge as "engines of growth" for the new economy, an advanced high-speed information network infrastructure is needed for Singapore to stay globally competitive. Besides being a growth industry on its own, telecommunications is also a major contributor to economic growth in all other service sectors. It is therefore important that there are no obstacles in the development of every component of the entire service chain, from content creation through the delivery infrastructure to the end-user equipment. Each of these components must be allowed to develop and flourish, in order to bring about progress in all other components and synergise the overall process.

7. Over the years, new technologies and standards are rapidly evolved world-wide to meet the explosive growth of demand for mobile communications. Many initiatives and innovations are constantly built into the system designs in order to optimise the performance of systems and terminal equipment in light of resource constraints (such as the limitation of frequency spectrum) and the changing expectation of consumers. This is both a challenge and opportunity to the industry. Events like the Wireless Showcase Asia 98 offer an additional perspective for us to see the scope and the vast potential which regulators, operators and manufacturers can jointly exploit for the benefits of end users. In this respect, I would like to commend the initiative, determination and effort of the organisers of this Wireless Showcase Asia in bringing the event closer to Asia and in particular to the industry in this region.

On this note, it is my pleasure to declare the Wireless Showcase Asia 98 open.