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30th APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group Meeting

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore  Opening Address - Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore 
Opening Address - Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre,
Singapore, 22 September 2004

Madam Chair,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Singapore is honoured to be hosting the Thirtieth APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group Meeting (APEC TEL 30). I would like to thank the Chair of the TEL working group, Ms Salma Jalife for giving me the opportunity to welcome you to Singapore and to address you.

2. Whether we are government policy makers, regulators or industry players, our roles have become increasingly challenging and complex because of the accelerated pace of change. Many issues can no longer be resolved by any one economy or agency alone. International forums will play an increasingly important role in addressing such issues, as well as in strengthening our economic links with one other.

3. Looking at the wide-ranging programmes and topics for this week's meetings, we can appreciate why APEC TEL has grown to what it is today. It is easily the region's largest and most productive platform for governments, business communities and interest groups to come together to share experiences. It is a platform where we can collectively explore ways to address regional and global issues, and improve the telecommunication and information infrastructure in the APEC region. I would like to congratulate you for making APEC TEL the success that it has become.

New Technologies, New Approaches

4. While APEC TEL 30 continues to seek cooperation on prevailing issues in areas such as cybersecurity, human resource development, liberalization, digital divide, broadband and e-government, we also note the growing interest in developments such as next generation networks or NGNs.

5. However you define them, NGNs will have a disruptive effect on the ICT industry. In trying to deal with NGNs, government agencies should not fall into the "We know best" trap. It may not be appropriate to apply the same regulatory rules to NGNs as we do to current networks. It is therefore timely that all Steering Groups in the TEL are brainstorming to develop a long term work program on NGN issues, to build on existing projects such as IPv6 and GRID.

6. Indeed, Singapore has always believed in the need to encourage investments in new technologies and infrastructure, thus leading to new services and adapting to the evolving needs of the ICT industry. In doing so, we need to adopt policies that reflect growing convergence which is eroding historical differences among platforms such as wireline, cable, wireless and satellite. At the same time, these policies need to embrace the emergence of new technologies.

7. Take emerging technologies like free-space optics and ultra-wideband as examples. Two years ago, free-space optics (or FSO) was deemed too new and unproven for commercial deployment. As Singapore believed in innovation with new technologies, particularly those that can potentially serve as alternative infrastructure, we sponsored a trial on FSO and relaxed licensing and regulatory requirements. Today, Singapore could be amongst the first economies to deploy FSO links that carry live commercial traffic.

8. The emergence of ultra-wideband technology, too, calls for a change in mindset. We contemplated allowing a low-power transmitter to share a part of the radiofrequency spectrum that has already been allocated to other wireless systems. To study this revolutionary concept in greater detail and pave the way for ultra-wideband technology to come to Singapore, IDA looked into creating a 'safe zone' where relaxed regulation allowed for an ultra-wideband ecosystem to go on trial in Singapore.

9. Recently, one of the NGN applications that attracted much attention is Internet Protocol (IP) Telephony. I note that the NGN Brain-storming Session on Monday discussed IP Telephony. Singapore has similarly recognised how IP-based networks are increasingly being used by consumers for voice communication in combination with, or as an alternative to fixed-line telephony. In reviewing the policy framework for IP telephony, we wanted to encourage investment, innovation and development of this new technology, so as to provide businesses and consumers with more choices. We were therefore mindful not to impose unnecessary traditional or PSTN-type regulation to a new technology at a premature stage. The approach we adopt is to introduce regulations only where necessary to address certain economic and social concerns. Where possible, we have taken an approach to make it attractive to deploy this technology, including assigning telephone number blocks for use in IP Telephony.

10. We also believe in consulting the industry and the public to ensure that development of new technologies can take place in a conducive, pro-business environment. In this respect, IDA yesterday launched a public consultation exercise to seek views on a suitable policy framework to facilitate the introduction of IP Telephony in Singapore. I invite you to submit any contribution or comment you may have on this policy.

11. Convergence, emerging technologies and pressures on existing regulatory frameworks. How to harness ICT for our economies and the regions socio-economic development. These are issues that concern each and every one of us at this gathering. I urge fellow APEC TEL colleagues to make full use of this meeting to share experiences and tap on each other's expertise to see how ICT can be harnessed more effectively for growth and development within the APEC region. We must focus on skills upgrading for our workforce to meet the challenges of the information age, cyber security to protect our online networks, and the nimbleness of the APEC economies to respond to external changes effectively. Our focus should also be to devise strategies to not only bridge the digital divide, but to create and tap the benefits of digital opportunities.

12. Last but not least, in the midst of all these work, please do take some time to do what has always been a hallmark of APEC TEL - renewing friendships and making new ones. Let Singapore be the venue where not only important work is done, but new and lasting friendships are forged.

13. I wish you every success in your deliberations. Thank you.