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Speech by PSCT at Asia Pacific Spectrum Management Policy Symposium

Following is a speech by the Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Communications and Technology), Mr Duncan Pescod, at the Asia Pacific Spectrum Management Policy Symposium on April 3 (English only):

Chairman Wong, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning! It gives me great pleasure to join you all this morning at the opening of the Asia Pacific Spectrum Management Policy Symposium 2009.

There is no doubt in my mind how important spectrum management is. The symposium today is both timely and valuable.

I assume that everyone here today understands that our radio spectrum is valuable. It must be used carefully and managed well in the public interest.

Used well, it can facilitate modern living through the broadcasting, communications and other channels that make use of it. Managed poorly and the potential for catastrophe is very real. I hate to imagine what might happen should an air traffic controller not be able to communicate with a pilot on final approach to Chek Lap Kok or the emergency services control centre be unable to despatch an ambulance to the scene of an accident. Unfortunately when people do not follow the rules, both these scenarios can happen and indeed one of them recently did occur in Hong Kong. Luckily, nothing adverse arose from that incident. Of course the fact that you are here tells me I am really preaching to the converted. It is those who choose to flaunt our licensing regime that need to get the message but I fear they are not here. Let's hope the media help me to get through to them!

Over the past few decades, we have seen a rapid development of public mobile communication services. This has turned the humble mobile phones from a luxury to a necessity for the whole community. I can still remember being issued a mobile phone the size and weight of a brick back in the eighties. I used to carry this thing round in a holster on my belt. The police apparently used to consider them lethal weapons. Now I carry my phone in my pocket. We have come a long way!

There are now 14 public mobile networks run by five operators for the provision of GSM, PCS, WCDMA and CDMA2000 services with more than 11.4 million subscribers, accounting for a population penetration rate of 164%. Most people carry more than one cell phone. I have two, three if you count the blackberry. The number of 3G service subscribers is expected to surpass 3 million shortly. The annual growth of mobile services has been about 15% over the last decade.

A more recent development is the emergence of high-speed mobile data services. These require the deployment of more spectrum for communications purpose. To cope with the market demand, in January the Government auctioned off radio spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band for the industry to provide broadband wireless access services. We have plans shortly to auction radio spectrum in the 1800MHz band for expansion of second generation mobile service. We will also release spectrum within this year to pave the way for the introduction of mobile TV service in Hong Kong.

The continuous advancement of information and communications technologies gives rise to an ever-increasing demand from the business sector, Government agencies and other groups for the introduction of new and innovative radio communications services. These new services complement rather than replace existing ones, thereby adding to the demand for radio spectrum. Furthermore, as the boundaries between fixed and mobile networks, and the boundaries between telecommunications and broadcasting are gradually being blurred, spectrum management is an increasing challenge to regulatory authorities.

Looking ahead, the Hong Kong Government will continue to adopt a market-driven approach in the management of spectrum for non-government services. We will continue to work with the industry, professionals and academics so as to ensure that our spectrum management is up to date and in line with market and technological advancements.

The Asia Pacific Spectrum Management Policy Symposium 2009 is a timely opportunity to explore the latest development in good spectrum management and regulatory practices. It provides a forum for those in the industry and other interested parties to share experience of and to gain insight into technological advancements and to try to anticipate their impact on future spectrum requirements.

I would like to congratulate the Institution of Engineering and Technology Hong Kong on the successful organisation of this Symposium and wish all participants a fruitful exchange.

However, with all this talk of technological advancement, I just want to leave you all with a thought. I read somewhere the following: "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously!". In your discussions today, I suggest you all bear this in mind. I always do!

Friday, April 3, 2009