|Connect the developing world
|Chief Technology Officer
Olivier Baujard is Alcatel’s Chief Technology Officer. In the past, he has served as Alcatel’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy, as the President of the Network Applications Division, as President of the Enterprise Solutions Division, and President of the Switching Systems Division. Prior to joining Alcatel, he held positions with government agencies dealing with telecommunications regulation and markets. He also worked for France Telecom in engineering and managerial roles. Olivier Baujard is a graduate from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and Ecole Nationale Superhero des Télécommunications in Paris.
‘Broadband for all’ is a real possibility, even in the world’s developing regions. e-business, e-health, e-education and e-government are but a few of the vital areas that will grow with the growth of broadband. National plans for broadband call for the adoption of appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks, the development of locally relevant content and applications, and investment in infrastructure. Today’s wireless and IP-based technologies let developing countries build telecommunications infrastructures affordably that would be prohibitively expensive with traditional fixed-line technology.
In June 2005, Alcatel became a founding member of the ITU Connect the World initiative leading up to the second World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis. Alcatel strongly believes that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are a necessity for economic and social development, and that multi-stakeholder initiatives, involving service providers, equipment manufacturers, national and local authorities, are key levers to bridging the digital divide. Alcatel has a long track record of working in high-growth economies given its presence in 130 countries. Alcatel also has a leadership position in broadband access, having shipped over 100 million DSL (digital subscriber line) lines. Convinced of the benefits of innovation in new technologies and new business models, we believe that making ‘Broadband for all’ a reality, especially to populations of high growth economies, is an achievable task in the next few years. The challenges for mobile and broadband penetration Mobile technology has been key to increasing the penetration of telephony globally. Double-digit growth has enabled the number of mobile phone subscribers to reach over 2.7 billion at the end of 2006. This has brought tremendous benefits, not only allowing people to communicate but also developing business, and having better information and access to public services. Growth, however, is being stalled in several countries, though penetration is still below 50 per cent. Two barriers must be overcome: – mobile coverage needs to continue increasing; – services must become more affordable to meet the needs and budgets of new, lower-income subscribers. Innovation is thus required to maintain the momentum of increasing mobile penetration. Services must be expanded beyond voice/SMS, short message service, in order to respond adequately to consumer and enterprise needs. Over one billion people worldwide have Internet access. Broadband, with minimum access speed of 256kbits, line stability and ease of access, is a necessity if those people are to use the Internet adequately. In October 2006, there were 470 million broadband subscribers using wireline solutions (DSL, cable…) or wireless solutions (Edge, 3G…). Our vision is that this number should reach two billion by 2010. In many developing countries today, broadband penetration is still below one per cent, and prices for broadband access are much higher than in mature markets. Service providers lack economies of scale and must pay high interconnection fees. The challenge is for broadband services to evolve from the early adopter stage to mass-market stage. Broadband and public stakeholders Broadband is required to realise many of the benefits of ICT applications. For e-business, broadband enables the expansion of customers and suppliers and, by enabling e-transactions, improves the efficiency for supply chain and financial processes. For e-health, broadband enables tele-diagnosis, the monitoring of health indicators, and the training of health professionals. For e-education, broadband enables wider and better access to knowledge, ICT literacy development, and distance e-learning. For e-government, broadband enables enhanced public services delivery and public administration efficiency. Various countries around the world have implemented national plans for broadband development focused in general around four areas. The first one has been to adapt legal and regulatory policies to encourage broadband uptake: promoting fair competition rules to encourage and protect investment, managing spectrum assets to enable broadband wireless access, aggregating demand from public administrations to increase the market, and supporting research and innovation investments. Another area has been the development of relevant content and applications. One must have enough subscribers to generate sustainable business for the local content industry, and enough content – local as well as global – to attract new subscribers. Governments have played key roles in creating content and applications themselves, such as in the areas of e-government. Public stakeholders traditionally play a key role in the areas of user awareness and literacy, providing Internet access in schools and universities. Finally, they can play a key role in making the services more affordable and available. Through government-assisted purchase programmes, such as the ones launched in Thailand and Malaysia, governments are facilitating the increase of PC penetration, which is usually the first entry barrier to wireline broadband access. Through public-private partnerships, they can expand the broadband footprint in uncovered areas. Innovation is mandatory Without the revolution in wireless telephony, many emerging countries would not have an adequate telephony service today. Similar ‘leapfrog’ opportunities exist today. IP (Internet Protocol) for instance, will enable radical cost efficiencies, allowing simpler, flat, network architectures, and enabling lower cost per bit. IP and IMS (Internet multimedia subsystem), also enable innovation in services by making the services easier, faster, less costly to release and by allowing the sharing of service enablers. Innovation and leapfrogging are also essential in broadband technologies. New wireless broadband technologies enable service providers to expand their broadband reach beyond the copper footprint, in lower-density green field areas. Fibre enables operators to bring cost-effective broadband to very high-density areas, such as new buildings in the suburbs of large cities. The second opportunity is leapfrog in business models, particularly via partnerships. Service providers must think beyond fixed and mobile, and leverage their fixed and mobile assets as appropriate to expand their network footprint in the most cost-effective way. Innovation in business models also involves new ways to partner: risk sharing with their vendors, with third parties for innovative services such as m-banking, or with public stakeholders. Service revenue is crucial to sustain the development of any telecom infrastructure, especially when there is a need to justify return on investment, particularly for deployments in rural or poor areas. Thus, only sustainable economic deployments – as happened in many high-growth economies for mobile telephony – will contribute to the deployment of broadband for all. For this to happen, a primary prerequisite is to develop usage based on applications and services corresponding to the daily needs of the population served by this infrastructure. This is exactly what Alcatel is doing through its Digital Bridge Initiative, which is under the umbrella of the ITU’s Connect the World programme. Networked medical imaging Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS), and especially their Web-based versions, Web PACS, revolutionized modern radiology. Global Imaging On-Line (GIOL) is a company specializing in the development of Web PACS-based systems. A Web PACS server stores medical images produced by a variety of devices. This saves money on film, and allows images to be examined by radiologists and doctors via the Web. It enables the establishment of a remote telemedicine platform, and can dramatically improve healthcare delivery in emerging countries, especially in rural and under-served areas. PACS are particularly interesting for countries where radiologists are grouped in the capital, access to remote areas is difficult, or the availability and/or cost of radiological plates limit access to examinations. Senegal’s Health Ministry has launched a programme to install the GIOL platform in most hospitals in the capital, Dakar, as well as in remote hospitals in cities where no radiologist is regularly available. Alcatel is teaming with GIOL to ensure, in coordination with the local operator, the availability of broadband access (DSL, WiMAX, etc) for those hospitals, to enable the transmission of medical images to the hospitals in Dakar, and allow rapid diagnosis. The international ICT for development agenda The importance of WSIS lies in the fact that it has contributed dramatically to the integration of ICT for development within the international political agenda. However, WSIS was the beginning and not the end of the process. There is still much to do for the actions that were identified for the post-WSIS agenda. Most importantly, these actions cannot be completed – as has been clearly stressed in WSIS texts – without a true, multi-stakeholder approach involving governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector. Alcatel will actively contribute to the above actions, in particular the one related to infrastructure where the leading UN agency designated as moderator/facilitator for this particular action is the ITU, of which Alcatel is a long-standing member. This international agenda for action, especially when it relates to infrastructure development, must essentially realise two complementary objectives: • Develop private and public/private investment to broaden access to ICT infrastructure (including broadband Internet access) even for rural and poor communities in emerging countries. This requires evidence from pilot projects illustrating how properly tailored ICT applications and services can be widely used, and provide sufficient revenue for operators to justify their investment in infrastructure. • Establish different levels of national, regional and international multi-stakeholder collaborations to ensure that no region lacks the backbone connectivity needed to backhaul broadband traffic arising from general Internet access. This endeavour might need to include public intervention from development financial institutions (DFI), to source the investment in infrastructure, since the private sector may be reluctant to take on such long-term return-on-investment scenarios. ‘Broadband for all’ is now achievable thanks to three factors: – the availability of technologies that can provide access at affordable cost; – an approach based on trials that focuses on providing applications and services based on the genuine needs of potential end users; – and the international agenda to make ‘ICT for all’ a tool for economic and social development. Even though this task seems formidable, experience shows that what was achieved in barely a decade, in terms of the wide spread use of mobile services and access to the Internet in developed as well as in developing countries, makes such a goal achievable, and Alcatel is fully committed to contributing to its realization.