I had the brilliant opportunity to meet Professor Laurent Benzoni, Founder of TERA Consultant, France, and Professor of Economics at Sorbonne University, at the most appropriate place – at the first annual Telecommunications Regulatory Conference organized by the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) at the Four Seasons Hotel, earlier today.
Professor Benzoni gave a keynote speech at the conference, titled “Next Generation of Fixed Broadband Network and Services: Challenges and Opportunities”. He started the keynote by talking about the evolution of the increasing use of information by human brings since 3.5 million years ago. It was truly an amazing journey to see how the information usage has been increasing as humans evolved with tools, machinery, writing, industrial revolution, printing, and so on.
From this evolution, Professor Benzoni discussed the correlation between gross domestic product and telephone penetration. The higher the GDP, he said, the higher the penetration of landline telephone. In the same direction, the contribution of information technologies to GDP almost doubled in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the 90s, when liberalization polices broke the existing telecom monopolies. The result is there for all to see – an incredible development of Internet and mobile!
That development has had some very positive outcomes, such as increased use of the Internet by small firms (on OECD countries), increased work on connected machines (in EU countries). The tipping point, however, was when in the 90s all developing countries adopted national plans towards new generation network access and to invest heavily in communication infrastructures and new services such as big and open data. Because of that infrastructure development, today, the average price of fixed broadband, he said, is five times cheaper in OECD countries than in others.
One thing that really made me jump was the fact that he emphasized on technology push rather than demand pull from consumers. He quoted Steve Jobs from 2010, “People don’t know what they want until they see it.” Although the technology push may be a good approach, he said, policy makers must satisfy social needs.
He presented a scenario of effective health case to show how technology push and demand pull can reconciliate and help create, for example, a global surgical platform. Similarly he illustrated the e-education concept.
To conclude he talked about the two challenges for Qatar to ensure a continued competitive advantage of the country in the information age:
- Accelerate and achieve the deployment of NGA Networks and improve interconnections with the main routes of the global Internet network
- Guarantee an easy, equal and competitive access to these networks for service providers (ISP and so on).
And thus, innovators in Qatar could imagine the future creating new products and services; and the policy makers could promote the development of new business sectors to support economic growth and development and in turn improve the satisfaction of social needs to increase the general welfare.
The CRA Regulatory Conference focused on opportunities and challenges facing the next generation of fixed broadband networks and services and included several panel discussions and presentations with gain deep insights from the regulators, industry analysts and other international and regional experts to help uncover the full potential of broadband.