Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr John Tsang, at the Opening of the Telecom InfoTechnology Forum this (March 25) morning (English only):
Dr Ure, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to have been invited to speak at today's conference on "Hong Kong as Asia's Wireless Development Centre". I am grateful to the Telecom InfoTechnology Forum, the Hong Kong Wireless Development Centre and Cyberport for co-organising this conference. I am also delighted to know that today's conference has brought to Hong Kong the Wireless Development Centre's counterparts from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom to explore further co-operation opportunities. Let me extend a warm Hong Kong welcome to all of you.
It is, indeed, timely to bring together today vendors, service providers and the developer community of the wireless industry to explore technology sharing, joint product development, funding and marketing. Let us look at a few of the latest developments. Demand for mobile services has caught on in a big way such that we have now more mobile phone subscribers in the world than the number of fixed lines. In 2003, the number of mobile phone subscribers increased by around 230 million to over 1.3 billion. In other words, subscribers were signing up at a spectacular rate of more than 430 per minute! It is estimated that we will pass the 2 billion mark by 2008. The much awaited third generation mobile services, or 3G, has also begun to establish their foothold in various parts of the world. Meanwhile, the world's economy is moving ahead, and we expect demand for wireless communication will pick up further.
It is not surprising to note that Asia has led this spectacular growth. Not only is Asia contributing to the growth of the mobile population, Asia is actually driving the adoption of more advanced use of wireless services, such as data services. At present, Asia alone accounts for over 75 per cent of some 110 million wireless data subscribers worldwide. Many expect that Asia will continue to fuel wireless data services growth given the vibrancy of its wireless markets.
Hong Kong is well placed to promote the further development of wireless services in Asia. Our strength lies particularly in our ability to spearhead the development of wireless contents and applications which constitute the driving force for wireless adoption and revenue growth. This is already well proven in places like Korea and Japan, the success of which is largely attributable to the availability of niche applications and services that carry huge consumer appeal.
My confidence in Hong Kong's strength on wireless content and application development is founded on many of our competitive advantages. We have world-class wireless infrastructure. Our market is extremely competitive. This had led to a wide choice of innovative and quality wireless services at very reasonable prices. Indeed, our enterprises, particularly the small and medium ones, are renowned for their entrepreneurial sprit and astute market sense in developing new contents and applications to meet rising customer demand. And our mature and sophisticated wireless-savvy population is always receptive to innovative products and services. All these factors make Hong Kong an excellent testbed for wireless developers to develop and test new wireless contents and applications.
Yet, it is access to the Mainland China market that makes Hong Kong uniquely positioned to spearhead the development of wireless contents and applications. We all know that success in content and application development requires economies of scale and scope. China is now the largest mobile market in the world with some 280 million mobile subscribers. This vast market will provide the much-needed scale and scope for pushing ahead the development of wireless contents and applications.
Our cultural affinity, language capability and business know-how, coupled with our creativity and international outlook, give Hong Kong unparallel advantage in producing contents and applications which would appeal to the Mainland market. These are particularly relevant when it comes to serving the Guangdong province, with whom we share the same dialect and culture. Indeed, Guangdong province alone accounts for 41 million or 15 per cent of the mobile subscribers in the Mainland. Our competitive edge will be strengthened with the further economic integration between Hong Kong and the Mainland under CEPA.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have just outlined Hong Kong's strengths in promoting wireless development in Asia. To exploit our strengths fully, we need close collaboration of all the relevant actors, and they include government, equipment suppliers, wireless operators, application and content providers, and even the IT industry. For Government, we need to establish a fair and clear policy and a concise and simple regulatory framework to provide a conducive environment for competition and innovation.
Equipment suppliers need to produce better and "smarter" handsets, which have proven to be instrumental in driving wireless usage in Japan, South Korea and locally in Hong Kong.
Wireless operators also have a vital role to play. They need to run their networks efficiently and reliably for delivery of various value-added services, ensure access to their networks by these contents and applications, and interconnect their networks promptly to enable customers on different networks to communicate.
For content and application providers, consumers will look to them for innovative products and services that would improve our quality of life in the information age. Indeed, we have all heard stories about successful entertainment applications, like "i date U", exporting to other parts of Asia. At the same time, we also note the huge potential for wireless services to enable businesses to enhance productivity, improve service quality, and gain competitive advantages.
To unleash such potential, the IT industry needs to have closer collaboration with the wireless industry. The objective is to create the synergy required to exploit the latest developments in the fast converging technology market. Indeed, this is one of the key recommendations endorsed earlier this year by the Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee which I chair.
The establishment of the Hong Kong Wireless Development Centre provides a focal point for co-operation of all the actors that I have mentioned. It is my wish that the Centre will become a successful public-private partnership fostering co-operation and ties among all the key players in the development of wireless services. Together, we will seek to accelerate the development of wireless services in Hong Kong, and in turn, in Asia and in the world. Our future is wireless, and I look forward to working with you all to promote wireless development in Hong Kong.
Ends/Thursday, March 25, 2004