MANILA, JUNE 1, 2006
 (STAR) HINDSIGHT By Josefina T. Lichauco - In my previous article, the mother of the sick child who died tragically would not have cared one bit whether the entire US Library of Congress could be transmitted in a matter of seconds halfway around the world through a fiber-optic line. What she needed for her baby was one simple ordinary line, not 3G, not 4G, not any fancy complicated handset, with which to exercise her fundamental right of "access." But there was none.

When I first heard about this right of access from former ITU Secretary General Dr. Pekka Tarjanne, it was in the early 1990s. Close to two decades later, a great many remain deprived of this right, in spite of the amazing new technologies.

As the world moved fast toward Internet-based commerce, communications, learning systems, and the diverse applications that entrepreneurial inventiveness could muster, greater and more complex problems have arisen as an offshoot of the new technologies. One of the most important has to do with spectrum usage, which is very critical. In the design and manufacture of wireless systems and devices, that very scarce natural resource that is the spectrum attains superior significance.

The characteristics of propagation and the technical dimension of the frequency bands influence and certainly do have a telling effect on the requirements and essentials of devices for systems operating in the frequency bands and service characteristics such as coverage and the mobility requirements.

The underlying factor is the fact that the spectrum, being scarce, has to be utilized efficiently. Accurate and affordable frequency bands should be allocated for each wireless system for the spectrum’s efficient and prudent use.

However, to pursue the economies of scale in wireless communications systems, and likewise to foster the fair use of spectrum among the international community of nations, rich or poor, influential or not, world power or LDC (less developed country), global standardization and harmonization are very important factors that require regulation by the world body (ITU).

For this reason, any spectrum for wireless services needs to be managed by the WRC (Wireless Radiocommunications Conference) of the ITU, which is the only entity that can make decisions on the global use of spectrum. By the way, this specialized function requires a considerable amount of research regarding their necessity and the spectrum demands and compatibility with other existing services in their preferred frequency bands.

The Philippines as a member in good standing of the ITU participates in the general deliberations of the WRC, and is allocated the necessary requisite frequency bands. In turn, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), being the Philippine regulatory body for ICT, allocates the frequencies required by an ICT or broadcast carrier. Since the frequency spectrum is a scarce and finite resource of our country, NTC has always been regarded as one of the most powerful agencies of government.

For as far back as I can remember during my government experience in telecommunications, the word "convergence" has been there, just as the word "spectrum" has. There is, of course, likewise a feeling of deja vu here.

Every telecom jurisdiction in the world has been preparing their respective environments for the maximization of "Modal Convergence" where telephony, broadcast, CATV, data, and computer technologies have fused. It was known to me in the beginning simply as the fusion of voice and data in one digital line – this was when digitalization first came upon the telecom world.

The connotation of the word "modal" has magnified and expanded by leaps and bounds due to, as we all know, technological discoveries and innovations as the world of telecom progressed.

In the early 1990s we prepared a draft convergence bill which up to this day has not been enacted into law. The ICT environment we live in today has shifted to a converged multi-media environment of far-reaching dimensions. Even though that shift has happened, the need for a Convergence Law remains. The necessity fundamentally stems from the fact that there is a need to inject order into this now very competitive converged macro-capacity multi-media environment.

This is so, just as it would be of great value to structure the next generation of convergence policies and tackle the bottlenecks in broadband information infrastructure. In the same breadth, there is also the need to develop the right tool kit for the new regulatory paradigms to cope with the pace of change and technological development.

This is merely touching the surface of the spectrum and convergence issues – these two having been shoved into the limelight due to the explosive growth of wireless services and applications.

Let us hasten the passage of a good Convergence Law and let the NTC be effective guardians and regulators of the Philippine frequency spectrum so that their decisions on this valuable resource of the country will be devoid of any political machinations of any kind whatsoever.

And, of course, as spelled out by current ITU Secretary General Yoshio Utsumi, "cybersecurity,"the theme of World Information Society Day 2006, is one critical issue that cannot be overlooked. Every member jurisdiction of the ITU owes utmost dedication to the promotion of cybersecurity, the importance of which I have written about in past articles.

Cybersecurity is a generic term that covers, among others, violations of the citizen’s basic right of privacy; those abhorrent Internet displays of trade in sex and sexual exploitation of minors; those that have to do with the business world as trademark, copyright and patent law violations; those violations relevant to such "hard crimes" as abduction and kidnapping, terrorist activities, espionage, etc.

In a letter inviting country representatives to a conference in Geneva some years back, then President Martine Graf of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva stated that dinosaurs, just like information, can lord it over the earth because, though extinct, they have an omnipresence that inspired the creation of a film genre like the prehistoric series Jurassic Park.

President Graf’s statement, as printed in the invitation letter, said: "Dinosaurs, just like information, when not handled properly, can be menacing. It can take control of our lives, or worse, cause much damage or widespread destruction. This is one reason why its handlers must be knowledgeable, because if not sufficiently understood, they can turn against their masters. In the case of information, I cannot think of a better handler than public institutions like agencies of the government and world bodies. Strong institutions must take charge in order for information to help man in determining his future so that technology will serve mankind rather than the latter be slave to the former."

It is crucial therefore that our relevant agencies be knowledgeable and our legal infrastructure be adequate and responsive.

In every international conference or telecom venue, for some time now, the catch phrases have been and still are convergence, advanced technology, the information highway, globalization and a new Global Architecture. These are still referred to as the "drivers of the global economy."

Before it was said that no scholar can proceed in his dissertation without first acknowledging that, as distance, time, and borders dissipate, "the global village" as envisaged by Marshall McLuhan, a name every telecom functionary is familiar with, "is realized with many people all over the world interacting deeply and intensely like never before."

Dr. Pekka Tarjanne’s reference to the tragic ending of the mother nursing her sick child in a remote village in Africa disproves the reality of the Global Village.

That Global Village remains a myth. Sadly, it still does not exist today.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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