Following is the full text of a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr Henry Tang, at the Joint Forum Opening of ITU TELECOM ASIA 2002 today (December 2): (English only)
Mr Egmond, Secretary-General Utsumi, Minister Wu, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Joint Forum Opening of ITU TELECOM ASIA 2002. A special welcome to our Youth Fellows from 40 countries in the Asia Pacific region. They will attend a separate Youth Forum, to be held for the first time in Asia.
It is with a great sense of anticipation that I open this pre-eminent forum. When Government and industry leaders last met at this conference in Hong Kong two years ago, the sentiment was very different from today. Just recall how amazed we were by the high prices fetched in the 3G auctions in Europe. Those who were critical about the IT hype in the stock market were in the clear minority. Looming over the industry now are issues relating to overcapacity, market consolidation, a need for greater investors' confidence and better corporate governance. The mission before this gathering of ITU experts, policy makers, regulators and the industry is certainly formidable. Unless we co-operate and each do our part, the theme of this Forum, to lead the industry from "Recovery" to "Prosperity", will indeed be elusive goals.
The ITU has asked distinguished Forum panelists and participants to critically review three issues : "Investing in the Future", "Enabling the Future" and "Supporting the Future". I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.
To ensure that the industry has the confidence to invest in the future, it is important that governments make it their priority to engender a conducive environment for businesses. There will certainly be investment cycles, but we should provide a stable environment so that the industry never stops taking risks and making investment decisions, amidst economic ups and downs. In Hong Kong, one of the world's most open and freest economies, investment in telecommunications infrastructure is entirely private-sector led. We have benefited from our early and progressive liberalisation, and have since attracted substantial investments, foreign and local, in our infrastructure.
Investment in physical infrastructure must be complemented by investment in "software", especially in education. The Hong Kong Government has an important role to play in grooming our talents. We have a comprehensive manpower programme for the training and retraining of our workforce in order to constantly upgrade ourselves and to maintain our competitiveness. Our flagship project, the Cyberport, will in particular foster a clustering of IT talents. To attract top professionals to work in Hong Kong, we are dedicated to making Hong Kong a free, safe and environmentally friendly place to live and to work in.
It is particularly important to provide the right enabling environment if we were to encourage operators to invest in a liberalized market. Towards this end, Hong Kong is firmly committed to providing a regulatory environment that provides a level-playing field, an operating environment that is both pro-competition and transparent.
Our 3G licensing exercise is an excellent example. We adopted an innovative royalty auction scheme when we issued the four 3G licences last year by competitive bidding. Businesses were not required to make a huge lump sum upfront payment. They would pay the Government royalties over a 15-year licence period. The Government would share the upside if the 3G business turns out to be better than expected. We would otherwise get a minimum guaranteed fee. By sharing the risk with the 3G licensees, we hope to leave resources in their own hands to invest in this venture.
On the issue of "enabling the future", Hong Kong adopts a technology neutral approach, which is most conducive to the development and adoption of the latest technologies. Local telecommunications services are delivered over fixed networks using different technologies : ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), fibre-to-the-building, or cable modem. This induces competition, which, in turn, stimulates broadband penetration with affordable prices and quality services.
On the wireless telecommunications, Hong Kong prides itself for the co-existence of eleven mobile networks working on practically all standards. Our 2G and 3G operators are free to invest in new networks and upgrade them to the latest available technologies based on their own business cases. Our advanced mobile networks provide the best platform for content developers to test out new applications and new services. Recently, we have found the public wireless Local Area Network (LAN) services getting very popular in hot spots like cafes, shopping malls, and the airport. We see the business potential in wireless LAN being complementary to 3G services in Hong Kong.
When it comes to "supporting the future", I will turn to our young people. I listened intently to the part "Voice of Tomorrow" at yesterday's opening ceremony. Let me tell you what impressed me most. I saw a blossoming of ideas and a unity of purpose among our young leaders to make use of telecommunications and technologies to build a better tomorrow. I congratulate the ITU for injecting in this exciting event the youthful spirit of our Youth Fellows. I for one have found it a rewarding and exhilarating experience to be amongst the powerhouses of tomorrow.
Ladies and gentlemen, the ITU has assembled here a congregation of key and influential telecommunications players from both the public and private sectors. This offers a most valuable opportunity to make new contacts, discuss issues of the day and foster closer co-operation. I wish you all a most enjoyable and rewarding week. Thank you very much.
End/Monday, December 2, 2002