Pakistan participates in WTO Symposium on Telecommunications

Geneva - 20-21 February 2008

The WTO Symposium on Telecommunications was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the results of the WTO negotiations on basic telecommunications (1994-1998). Pakistan was one of the speakers. Ms. Zainab Hussain Siddique, Senior Project Director, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications was on the panel on, "Economic opportunity and growth and social benefits of telecom". Zainab said that the Telecom services sector is Pakistanís fastest growing sector. The combined tele-density figure is 53.41% compared to only 4% in 2003. The increase in number of subscribers for fixed lines was from 4.04 million in 2003 to 4.86 m (+2.2 m WLL subscribers) 2007. For mobile the increase was from 2.4 million in 2003 to 78.8 million today. The current coverage of telecommunication services is around 70% of the population. It is intended to be increased to at least 85% within next three years. The mobile sector exhibited growth of over 170% in 2006 and of 80% in 2007.

Earlier the DG, WTO in his opening remarks said that in the last ten years global access to telecommunications has increased from below 15 percent in 1996 to above 60 percent in 2006, revenues have risen from US$620 billion to US$1.4 trillion. Opening telecommunications has been a win-win game. Reforms have increased global tele density from below 15% in 1996 to above 60% in 2006. By the end of 2006, mobile phone subscribers had increased 20 fold, representing 70% of all telephone subscribers. Also, between 1996 and 2006, world telecom services revenues increased from US$620 billion to over US$1.4 trillion and internet use increased by 1500%. At the end of the WTO negotiations on basic telecommunications in the Uruguay round, 69 governments had agreed to open their telecom markets to competition in basic services like fixed and mobile voice telephony. Most of commitments to phase in reforms (ranging between 1999 and the mid 2000s) have now been implemented.

Mr. Hamadoun Touri , Secretary General of the ITU said that in telecommunications the last 10 years have been exceptional. In 1998 the international telecom environment shifted from closed to open markets. The telecom sector evolved into the ICT sector. In developing countries double digit, even triple digit growth in subscriber numbers and revenues has been experienced. Developing country operators are investing in other developing countries. Africa has given birth to a series of pan-African mobile operators like Orascom and MTN. The next global gathering of regulators takes place in Thailand from 11-13 March 2008 and the World Telecom Policy Forum in 2009 to review the International Telecommunication Regulations, to dwell upon Convergence, Next-Generation Networks, and emerging regulatory and policy issues. Mr. Touri also said that in 1998 connecting all of the world's people seemed impossible but the mobile boom, the Internet and now an era of Fiber to the Home, IPTV, mobile broadcasting, Wi-Fi, Wimax has made it more than possible. In the next 10 years we will be communicating in more ingenuous ways as nanotechnology evolves, from one brain to another, without the need for anything at all?

Ms. Shaista Sohail, Economic Counsellor was the moderator and Ms. Zainab Siddique one of the four panelists in the first panel on the second day. Telnor also quoted Pakistan 's telecom sector figures as an example as did ORASCOM in a later panel. The first panel was on economic and commercial trends, the second was very interesting with the then negotiators of EC , USA and Brazil sharing how the negotiations had been carried out and what the challenges were for the future. The third was on regulatory challenges and best practices; the fourth was on economic effects of the telecom sectors growth in terms of social benefits. In this panel Corporate perspective of developments in telecom markets, regulatory challenges in regulating new technologies and future trade in telecommunications were discussed by the top experts from around the globe.

All presentations and programme details are available at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/serv_e/telecom_e/sym_feb08_e/sym_feb08_e.htm