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World Broadband Association 2022 Annual Event Address
Posted on:
December 15, 2022

Mr. Zhao Houlin
ITU Secretary General

It is my great pleasure to address the World Broadband Association Official Launch Ceremony

Already three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus is still raging on. Amid this human tragedy, broadband infrastructure has played a critical role in building resilience of the society and enabling billions of people to work, study, receive healthcare and socialize remotely. What we need to remember, however, according to the latest ITU data released, some 2.7 billion people remain offline, though the accelerated uptake of the Internet by one billion during the pandemic. It should also be noted that a broadband divide between urban and rural areas exists worldwide, even in developed countries.

Along with the rise of the global digital economy as well as the digital transformation of the industry, new demands are raised for broadband networks, and great challenges are imposed to broadband development. Let me mention a few: the digital divide widely existing; a lack of effective guidance on industrial policies; traffic growth in traditional services not yielding additional revenues; future-oriented new services requiring the enhancement of network profitability; a reduction in operation and maintenance costs; a shorter cycle of returning on investment; and the need to involve new stakeholders to accelerate the rollout of network infrastructure and attract investors.

There are some challenges for the investment on the infrastructure. Let me just highlight two of these: Many national incumbent telecom operators are charged by their authority to take up the task to connect the unconnected, while they might have struggle to survive from their operation in the markets, there are many commercial and industry network owners who have potentials to help but they do not know how to contribute, etc. There is an eager call to raise the issue and to represent the business with a common voice on concerns and for guidance. There are other reasons we need to have an international platform.

ITU has received such information for several years, tried to address the call by organizing several rounds of discussions on this topic during the ITU World Telecom Events in the last years. I was pleasured to discuss this issue with the industry leaders like Mr Ke Ruiwen of China Telecom and Mr Xu Zhijun of Huawei during those panel discussion. ITU encourage an international platform established by the stakeholders for such important topic.

WBBA is timed perfectly. In a fashion similar to that of mobile industry stakeholders under GSMA, WBBA aims to push forward innovative breakthroughs in the broadband industry, including technologies, services, and business models. I noted, in 2021, WBBA conducted frontier research and issued white papers on a wide range of subjects, such as broadband policies and regulations, strategies and evolution routes, scenarios and use cases, and the development in a sustainable way. WBBA also explored how to strengthen planning guidance, consolidate the industrial foundation, enrich integrated applications, optimize the ecological environment, and further international cooperation. I hope to see WBBA a new leader in serving global broadband network operators, venders, cloud service providers, investors and other stakeholders with a blooming cloud and broadband industry all around the world. I would advise WBBA to learn from GSMA to run the business.

Mr. Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, has reiterated the importance of bridging the digital divide, and called for universal and affordable network connectivity for all people by 2030. This is also the goal of ITU. I appeal to all members of ITU and other stakeholders to make persistent efforts toward the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the goals set by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and ITU’s Connect 2030 Agenda. In last ten years, the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, which is established by ITU and UNESCO, has devoted great efforts to promote broadband development. In Sep 2022, this Commission published its Annual Development Report titled “The State of Broadband: Accelerating broadband for new realities”. This report presents 15 specific development goals, mainly focusing on universality, technology and affordability. In pursuing the common goals, WBBA can join hands with other international organizations like ITU and UN Broadband Commission to speed up broadband deployment.

Today I’m very pleased to join you at the official launch of the World Broadband Association for our cloud and broadband family. I congratulate all of you on offering the broadband industry family a global platform and a collective voice. I wish WBBA a greater success, and I hope more and more stakeholders will join you in this endeavor.

Ladies and Gentleman, You might have noted that I have highlighted my strategy with four “I”s: Infrastructure, Investment, Innovation and Inclusiveness. broadband access both in fixed and by mobile holds the key to “infrastructure” and to the digital future of the world. I call on WBBA members and all other stakeholders working together to extend the benefits of broadband to every corner of the world and create a better digital future for all.

Thank you.


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