15 June 2005 - Inaugural Address By Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive and Director-General (Telecoms), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At Asia Pacific Forum On Telecommunications Policy And Regulation, Raffles City Convention Centre.
Inaugural Address By Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive and Director-General (Telecoms), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At Asia Pacific Forum On Telecommunications Policy And Regulation on 15 June 2005, Raffles City Convention Centre.
Executive Director of APT, Mr. Amarendra Narayan,
Distinguished Delegates from the Asia-Pacific region,
Ladies & Gentlemen,
1. A very good morning to you all.
2. I would like to warmly welcome all delegates to Singapore and to this Forum on Telecommunications Policy and Regulation.
3. Singapore is honored to be hosting this event in co-operation with the APT. We have found this Forum series of meetings, which brings together top policy makers, heads of regulatory authorities and eminent experts, immensely useful. The Forum, now in its fifth year, has certainly contributed to the sharing of information and experience among Members of the APT. I can attest to this, as I personally have participated in the last four such gatherings.
[Phuket (2001), Kuala Lumpur (2002), Chiang Mai (2003) and Brunei Darussalam (2004)]
4. Over the next three days, we will be sharing views and perspectives on the theme "Access and Competition in Broadband and ICT Development". Given the rapid rate of change and development in broadband issues, there will be a lot to discuss.
5. I thought I would spend a few minutes this morning sharing with you some of the key policy and regulatory developments in Singapore over the past few months, to give you a sense of the issues we are facing at this time.
Recent ICT Policy and Regulatory Developments
6. This has been a busy week in Singapore. On Monday, Singapore hosted an inaugural Ministerial Forum on ICT. The theme of the Forum was policy challenges posed by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a phenomena that is expected to dramatically change the telecommunications and internet landscape in all our countries, with significant implications on the work of policy makers and regulators, like many of us present here today.
7. Some of you may also have attended the official opening of the Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) yesterday morning. Singapore's Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang had announced at the Opening Ceremony that Singapore will introduce a new policy framework for Internet Protocol (IP) Telephony. IDA will issue licenses and phone numbers for the provision of IP Telephony services to facilitate the entry of companies interested in offering IP Telephony. We hope that by having a clear policy framework on IP Telephony, VoIP services will gain that added boost within our market and bring the benefits of lower cost, convenience and greater choice to consumers and businesses.
8. IDA's framework will benefit broadband users, who can take advantage of such IP Telephony services that will be available soon.
9. The next update I would like to share is in the area of Electronic Numbering or ENUM. In line with the objective of fully exploiting the Internet for growth and efficiency, IDA has released a framework that facilitates assignment of ENUM through the Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC). SGNIC is a fully owned subsidiary of IDA that provides Internet registry and information services.
10. We have found ENUM to be potentially a useful enabler that allows phone numbers to be assigned to IP devices. Users need only a single digital contact number in place of multiple numbers or IP addresses, such as fixed-line, fax and mobile numbers, email addresses or other IP devices. Thus, a user may be able to receive calls, access voice-mail, data, facsimiles and e-mail functions over the Internet, at a single phone number, which can be converted to a digital contact number.
11. Our ENUM framework aims to facilitate the introduction of ENUM without compromising the efficient use of national number resources. Following international practices, subscribers with phone numbers (fixed-line, mobile or paging numbers) assigned to them, will be eligible for specific ENUM digital numbers that are translated from their currently assigned phone numbers.
Wireless Broadband Spectrum Auction and Licensing
12. To increase Singapore's broadband offerings and enhance competition in the broadband market, IDA has recently issued 6 wireless broadband access (WBA) spectrum rights in the 2.3 GHz AND 2.5 GHz frequency bands. 25 lots totaling 140 MHz were taken up, through an auction.
13. Deployment of wireless broadband access networks will commence 1 July 2005 and operators will be expected to offer services within 18 months for the 2.5 GHz spectrum, and within 36 months for the 2.3 GHz spectrum. With the deployment of WBA services, we hope to further boost competition in the broadband market, encouraging new and innovative offerings for businesses and consumers.
Nationwide 3G Rollout
14. The deployment of wireless broadband access will augment the nationwide commercial rollout of 3G systems and services which took place last December. Consumers can now look forward to enjoying mobile broadband services delivered to their mobile phones and PCs by the three 3G operators in Singapore.
Review of the Telecoms Competition Code
15. Network infrastructure and access alone is not sufficient to ensure that consumers really enjoy the benefits of technology. We also need to make sure that the playing field among operators is fair and conducive to promote the development of fair market competition.
16. To ensure that Singapore's Telecoms Competition Code is relevant to and keeps pace with the changing technological and market environment, IDA recently completed its first triennial review of the Code. The amended Code came into effect on 4 March 2005.
17. Amendments to the Code enhance competition through removing unnecessary regulations in competitive market segments, and strengthening regulatory provisions in segments with limited competition.
18. As an example, where there were no specified tariff review criteria for wholesale services, the revised Code has, in line with the principles of proportionate regulation, introduced a framework for reviewing wholesale services offered by Dominant Licensees.
19. The revised Code has also introduced improved disciplines in regulatory processes to provide more transparency and clarity.
20. In addition to the revised Code, IDA has also issued new guidelines for the industry in areas such as how IDA will assess any proposed changes in ownership and consolidations of licensees, for example, in cases of mergers and acquisitions.
Review of the Electronic Transactions Act
21. Singapore is also currently reviewing the Electronic Transactions Act, which was first enacted in 1998. The Act gives legal recognition, predictability and certainty to transactions on the Internet and facilitates electronic-commerce. Our review aims to keep Singapore's e-commerce legislation relevant and robust. Proposed revisions will also fine-tune and align the rules to keep pace with international developments. The review is expected to be completed before the end of 2005.
Measures to Curb e-mail Spam
22. Singapore recently launched a multi-pronged approach to curb e-mail spam. It is a concerted effort by the government, industry, public and the Internet community. IDA worked closely with key stakeholders, representing the major Internet Service Providers, the Consumer Association of Singapore, the Direct Marketing Association of Singapore, the Singapore Business Federation and the Singapore IT Federation. Our approach includes several aspects:- public education, industry self-regulation, proposed legislation and international cooperation. Through these various efforts, we hope to address the concerns of e-mail users and reduce e-mail spam in the Internet space by balancing the interests of legitimate businesses advertising via e-mails and yet protecting the interests of users who have the right to opt out of unsolicited e-mails.
Infocomm Security Masterplan
23. In March this year, Singapore launched the Infocomm Security Masterplan, which is a multi-agency effort led by IDA under the guidance of the National Infocomm Security Committee. It is a S$38 million effort over the next three years aimed at building our capabilities in managing cyber threats and enhancing cyberspace security. It includes the setting up of a National Cyber-threat Monitoring Centre to maintain round-the-clock vigilance and to analyse threat information. An Infocomm Vulnerability Study of National Critical Infrastructures will also be conducted to assess the infocomm security readiness of key economic sectors and the measures required to provide greater security.
24. I hope this brief update gives you a sense of the main developments in Singapore over the past few months. These are some of the on-going efforts we are taking to ensure that the necessary "hard" and "soft" infrastructures are in place, and that our regulatory frameworks remain up-to-date and responsive to change. While IDA is heavily involved in all of them, some of our efforts, such as our work on spam, represent the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders in Singapore.
25. I am sure over the course of this meeting, all the countries around the table will be sharing similar such updates with one another.
Ideas for future work
26. I understand that the 28th Session of the APT Management Committee last year agreed to institutionalize this Forum and create a more structured work program. Singapore certainly supports this effort, since, as I mentioned earlier, we find this a fruitful and beneficial activity run by the APT.
27. I would like to therefore take this opportunity to offer some ideas on behalf of Singapore for the Forum's future work.
28. For the past two years, we have focused on various aspects of broadband related issues. For the next stage of the Forums development, we may want to consider introducing a more diverse agenda which address a variety of interests. I would also suggest that we start looking seriously at some useful output from this Forum in the form of practical guidelines and reference frameworks that will be useful to APT members as voluntary guides for their work.
29. Let me give you some simple examples.
30. As most APT member countries move towards full competition in their telecom marketplace, I envision that we will very soon need to look into full number portability across various technologies and networks fixed, mobile, VoIP, wireless, etc. It may be useful to put our heads together now to develop possible policy and technical solutions to anticipate such a scenario and offer these to APT members on a purely voluntary basis. I am sure many countries will find this enormously helpful.
31. Apart from number portability, emerging technologies also mean that we need to develop frameworks that address the interconnection of various types of networks and cost structures or approaches for this interconnection. Interconnection is definitely an issue of importance for countries who are seeing the introduction of VoIP.
32. Another idea we have for future work is in the area of dispute resolution mechanisms. With competition, regulators have many new players to deal with. With more players, it is inevitable that disputes could arise. Regulators could use this Forum to share experience and explore how they settle these disputes efficiently and effectively. Equally, we can share views on effective enforcement of and compliance with regulatory decisions, as these are critical elements of effective regulation.
33. Besides traditional issues, the Forum should look into emerging challenges like VoIP policy and anti-spam measures. The Forum would benefit much from discussions and sharing amongst the policy makers and experts gathered. An issue like spam could not be handled by any country individually but would require strong and mutual collaboration amongst countries.
34. These are just a few ideas which Singapore would like to contribute. I am sure there will be many more good ideas and suggestions put forward by other member countries as the Forum unfolds.
35. In closing, I would like to encourage everyone not to just stay here at the meeting but to make it a point to visit IMBX and CommunicAsia, which has returned bigger than ever, showcasing a whole range of new technologies, service offerings and equipment.
36. Since we regulators and policy makers work so hard, do also find some time to indulge in some retail therapy! Check out the Great Singapore Sale which is on this month. You will find many bargains available now. For those who are interested in the Arts, you may want to spend an evening enjoying performances that have been lined up under the Singapore Arts Festival which is also on right now. My Singapore colleagues will be more than happy to help you in any of these activities. We hope you will find as much time for fun as for work, and I must ask Mr Narayan to ensure that APT delegates don't work too hard while they are in Singapore.
37. On that note, I wish everyone fruitful discussions and an enjoyable stay in Singapore.