Broadband Commission calls on world leaders to prioritize universal connectivity as fundamental to sustainable development & global recovery
Universal broadband access is the vital catalyst needed to drive global economic recovery and accelerate lacklustre progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, according to a new report released by the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly underscored humanity's growing reliance on digital networks for business continuity, employment, education, commerce, banking, healthcare, and a whole host of other essential services. Yet today, almost half the global population has still never accessed the internet, and hundreds of millions more struggle with slow, costly and unreliable connections, often through remote locations like internet cafés.
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's 2020 State of Broadband report, released at the Commission's 10th anniversary meeting earlier today, includes a rallying call to world leaders and heads of industry to place universal broadband connectivity at the very forefront of global recovery and sustainable development efforts.
The State of Broadband 2020: Tackling Digital Inequalities, A Decade for Action, highlights stark disparities in access to high-speed connectivity that have prevented billions of adults and children from benefiting from remote working, learning and communication. The report also takes stock of progress made in expanding access to and adoption of broadband infrastructure and services, and achieving the Commission's seven 2025 advocacy targets.
Paul Kagame, Co-Chair of the Broadband Commission and President of Rwanda said: "The first decade of the Broadband Commission has made a real impact by highlighting the transformational power of universal access to high-speed internet connectivity and smartphones. Ideas that seemed futuristic ten years ago, are now mainstream. The next decade will be about using digital tools to speed up the recovery from the Covid pandemic and make up some of the lost ground on the SDGs."
Carlos Slim Helú, President of the Carlos Slim Foundation and Co-Chair of the Broadband Commission, said: “Digital technologies are offering services that are creating big changes. Regulators and governments should be aware of the vital importance for society and development that telecom networks play, and that high taxes, spectrum charges and regulation are barriers to digital inclusion. Today our challenge is to look for universal connectivity and to make it available for countries and people. Broadband Connectivity is the bridge to move to economic development and welfare."
“Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline, now more than ever before," said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology (ICT), and Co-Vice Chair of the Commission. “Increasing and coordinating ICT infrastructure investments will be instrumental, not only in connecting the 3.6 billion people still offline, but also in driving the development of new technologies central to the digital economy."
“Digital technology could be the tool we need for human-centred emancipation. But to play this role, it needs our expertise and cooperation because we need to pool all of our resources if we are to rise to the challenge of connectivity and competencies," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “In my view, this is the significance of the two Working Groups co-chaired by UNESCO. These documents published today focus on two crucial questions: school connectivity and the promotion of reliable, quality information."
According to latest ITU data, overall global Internet user penetration stands at 53.6%. That figure drops to 47% in developing countries, and to just 19.1% in the world's Least Developed Countries (LDCs), falling well below the Broadband Commission's advocacy Target 3 of broadband Internet user penetration of 75% worldwide, 65% in developing countries and 35% in LDCs by 2025.
Growing demand for reliable and secure governmental communication Effectively functioning public administration requires reliable and secure communication systems. In the era of satellite communications, access to communication services for governmental stakeholders should no longer be restrained, for example by unavailability of terrestrial communication infrastructure.
Exchanging confidential information, prevention of communication jamming and disruption due to external interference, together with the need for wider accessibility and cost-effectiveness represent vital factors driving the development of secure satellite communication services. Secure SATCOM solutions need to match service demand from eligible governmental users with supply provided by EU contracts for satellite capacities and services.
In 2013, the European Council defined the Governmental Satellite Communications (GOVSATCOM) as one of the four capability development programmes. Implementing a user-driven approach while developing operational GOVSATCOM interface is key.
Hence, a team of 18 organisations from across the European Union has embarked on a new research undertaking. It will address pending issues related to secure GOVSATCOM user expectations, as well as institutional and market responsiveness.
International cooperation will progress within the framework of the EU-funded project under Horizon 2020 programme, entitled European Networking for satellite Telecommunication Roadmap for the governmental Users requiring Secure, inTeroperable, innovativE and standardiseD services – ENTRUSTED.
Networking secure GOVSATCOM users Members of the ENTRUSTED consortium have set-up of a Network of governmental Users (NoU) of the secure SATCOM. The NoU will be expanded, as ENTRUSTED proceeds, to associate other interested governmental and institutional users representing EU member states and EU agencies.
Due to its institutional representatives, the NoU is expected to serve as a platform enabling the exchange of information, experience and expertise in a competent, trustful and secure way. ENTRUSTED will offer the possibility to participate in dedicated training, workshops, live demonstration activities and conferences.
Paving the way forward
Identification of key governmental user needs and requirements will be conducted in parallel with the assessment of relevant secure SATCOM user technologies and future development prospects. These activities will support the indication and prioritisation of necessary actions that will fill gaps between existing secure SATCOM capabilities and governmental user requirements, taking into consideration aspects of interoperability and standardisation.
ENTRUSTED seeks to develop recommendations for the European Commission in terms of considerations that could affect user experience of secure SATCOM services. These may relate to necessary investments, user equipment and, if relevant, technological aspects important for the design of future services. Recommendations will be presented in the form of a consolidated set of institutional user requirements for secure GOVSATCOM services and a long-term Research and Innovation Roadmap and Coordination plan (RIROC). ENTRUSTED will provide guidelines for user-related activities and pave the way for the future EU GOVSATCOM programme.
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that between 2005 and 2019, the federal government, including FEMA and other agencies, has spent at least $450 billion on weather disaster assistance, an average of $30 billion per year (GAO 2019). It is easy to imagine that, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a similar level of aid may not be available for weather disaster assistance.
The report draws on a growing body of climate science research that connects climate change to worsening weather disasters; shifting climate conditions in response to greenhouse gas emissions have been linked to fiercer storms, heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires.
To gain insight into the price Americans are paying for worsening weather disasters, it summarizes data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters database and other public sources.
NOAA has tracked the costs of the most extreme weather events in the United States since 1980, estimating the total direct cost of each event that caused $1 billion or more in damage (adjusting all costs to 2019 dollars). No state is untouched by these billion-dollar disasters.
The analysis includes projections of future increases in the intensity and frequency of weather disasters—should governments, corporations, and citizens fail to take action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Cities, states, and regions also need to work together to build resilience to future weather disasters.
Source - Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
The JRC publishes the results of assessments of selected raw materials, with factsheets and reports presenting the criticality of each.
The package also includes a foresight report, translating the EU’s climate-neutrality scenarios for 2030 and 2050 into the estimated demand for raw materials.
It identifies those materials most likely to have a supply risk in the future, for several strategic sectors in the EU. Critical raw materials are found in several green technologies, including electric vehicle batteries.
The findings contribute to the Commission’s fourth list of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) for the EU. The list is part of a communication laying out an action plan to overcome the challenges posed to the secure and sustainable supply of raw materials.
The raw materials that have high economic importance and have a high supply risk are called 'critical' raw materials.
They are part of our daily lives. Tungsten makes phones vibrate. Gallium and indium are part of LED technology in lamps. Beryllium is used in fire-sprinkler systems installed in houses, restaurants, hospitals and offices. Tungsten and tantalum make up key components in airplanes and satellites. Niobium is fundamental in diagnostic medical devices.
They are also used in key technologies to achieve a carbon-neutral and digital society, such as batteries, fuel cells, solar and wind energy, robotics, ICT and 3D printing. As more of these technologies are deployed, the EU risks replacing its reliance on fossil fuels with dependency on raw materials.
In order to identify those materials that are most at risk of supply disruption and take action to secure that supply, the European Commission updates a list of critical raw materials (CRMs) for the EU every three years.
The 2020 list of CRMs for the EU contains 30 materials, compared to 27 in 2017, 20 in 2014, and 14 in 2011. Added to the list are:
Bauxite (mainly used for aluminium production);
Lithium (used in electric vehicle batteries);
Titanium (used in aeronautics, space and defence, as well as in medical applications);
Strontium (used in medical applications and in ceramic magnets)
The screening process assessed 83 materials in total (compared to 78 in 2017). Experts assessed the risk of a disruption in supply - both in relation to the source of the material and in terms of the sectors to which a material contributes.
This follows the official assessment methodology established in 2017. The list supports the EU in negotiating trade agreements, challenging trade distortions and in programming the research and innovation funding under Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe.
EMA has awarded grants totaling $17,820,727 for the State of Florida to reimburse applicants for eligible costs of emergency response and repairs to public facilities following Hurricane Irma.
FEMA’s Public Assistance program provides grants to state, tribal, and local governments, and certain types of private nonprofit organizations, including some houses of worship, so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies. The Florida Division of Emergency Management works with FEMA during all phases of the program and conducts final reviews of FEMA-approved projects.
The federal share for projects is not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost. The state determines how the nonfederal share of the cost of a project (up to 25 percent) is split with the subrecipients like local and county governments.
Gone are the days when national telecoms markets were primarily defined by former monopoly incumbent telcos together with a handful of mobile operators (MNOs). New types of players have been emerging for a while, leveraging opportunities provided by market liberalization, competitive regulatory frameworks and the relaxation of licensing regimes.
Internet service providers (ISPs), mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and international voice service providers have been trying to find their niche in the market – generally, however, in the shadow of giant MNOs. Furthermore, cable TV companies have been trying to reinvent themselves as broadband providers with multi-play offerings. For a while already, independent tower companies or 'towercos' have also been emerging as an increasingly important element in the telecom industry landscape.
Forces of change
Lately, and accelerated by COVID-19 in recent months, several forces have converged to reshape the industry in a much more profound manner.
For quite some time now, the uninspiring financial states of telcos, with stagnating or even contracting revenues, are being further hit by the pandemic. Following a survey of global telecom executives, Delta Partners predicted that the pandemic may lead to operators’ annual revenues decreasing by up to 10 per cent.
Government pressures for CAPEX spending to expand broadband (including gigabit connectivity) and secure national leadership in 5G is another impetus for change. With the pandemic-induced dependence on the Internet connectivity for everything – from work to study to health to shopping – COVID-19 only made those pressures more pertinent, at the same time further constraining CAPEX for new or expanded networks by making operators spend on capacity upgrades and network resilience.
Thirdly, a changing financial landscape, shaped by the many economic stimulus programmes (which basically never stopped since the Great Recession) is leading to the availability of more money to invest or lend and lower interest rates, which, especially in the face of significant economic uncertainty, is creating a huge demand for assets promising stable returns – with infrastructure layers of the telecoms industry fitting that bill nicely.
Finally, the expanded ‘liberalization’ of regulatory regimes is resulting in regulators assigning (or planning to assign) spectrum directly to enterprises for localized industrial use, according to the European 5G Observatory.
New kids on the block
While operators were busy trying to reinvent themselves (largely unsuccessfully) as tech companies, the forces described above have been advancing a plethora of new players. These ‘new kids on the block’ are chipping away at operators’ role as infrastructure players, especially the further strengthening of independent tower companies, which have been taking over telcos’ tower assets and are now enjoying higher shareholder returns than telcos according to a BCG report, as well as positive responses from the financial markets. As FT reports, rapidly expanding European tower company, Cellnex — an ITU Member — currently has a stock price trajectory comparable with Big Tech.
Another trend to watch is the rapid growth of fiber-only providers, also known as ‘altnets’, which are being increasingly fueled by private equity. Recent examples include investments into and expansion of Community Fiber and CityFibre in the UK, as well as Deutsche Glasfaser in Germany. Further, open access wholesale fibre is emerging as a model, with the potential of limiting duplicated investments and increasing economies of scale while contributing to government universal broadband goals.
Similarly, ‘neutral host’ wholesale mobile networks are emerging as well, driven primarily by network densification needs, especially for mmWave 5G deployments. Small Cell Forum predicts that “by 2026, as many as 30 per cent of the installed base of outdoor small cell networks […] are likely to be operated by new entrants to the cellular segment.”
Finally, direct spectrum assignments to enterprise users are removing spectrum ownership as an advantage in telco offerings and opening operators to the increased competition from self-deployed networks and system integrators, with Small Cell Forum predicting a 71 per cent share of indoor enterprise systems for newcomers.
Operator response: adapt or perish
Operators are finally starting to fight back though and taking a stronger control for their future in several ways, including by:
- Separating tower companies, while retaining their control, to enable cash-out whether through private (as Telefonica through its partially KKR-owned Telxius venture) or public (as TIM and Vodafone through INWIT and the planned IPO of Vantage Towers) markets;
- Setting up fiber joint ventures with partners from infrastructure players (such as Bouygues with Cellnex in France) to private equity money (for example, T-Mobile with Primeinvest in the Netherlands or Iliad with InfraVia in France);
- Competing for enterprise contracts even when deployments are done on spectrum that is not owned by operators – as Vodafone is doing in the UK and Germany;
- Voluntarily separating out wholesale businesses to increase economies of scale and make a more regulatory-friendly case for higher market concentration at the network level – as CETIN is now doing across Eastern Europe, following a successful attempt in the Czech Republic;
- Finally increasing sharing directly among themselves rather than waiting for independent third parties to help out – especially in the deployment of rural networks, with shared rural network projects in the UK, Germany and Kazakhstan as good examples.
The key insight here is that the industry is changing drastically, with new players entering the fray and expanding their presence. However, operators are refusing to sit idle watching the world around them change and are finally trying to adapt. Their future will depend on the success of such efforts.[Source: ITU]
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released its strategy to ensure the security and resilience of fifth generation (5G) technology in our nation.
As the Nation’s risk advisor, CISA serves the unique role as a trusted information broker across a diverse set of public and private stakeholders. In this role, CISA fosters increased information sharing to help these stakeholders make more informed decisions when identifying and addressing future 5G technology priorities.
CISA’s 5G Strategy seeks to advance the development and deployment of a secure and resilient 5G infrastructure, one that promotes national security, data integrity, technological innovation, and economic opportunity for the United States and its allied partners. The strategy establishes five strategic initiatives that align to the Lines of Effort defined in the National Strategy to Secure 5G. Guided by the core competencies of risk management, stakeholder engagement, and technical assistance, CISA’s 5G activities will help ensure there are policy, legal, security, and safety frameworks in place to fully leverage 5G technology while managing its significant risks.
“The promise of 5G is undeniable, but with 5G technology posed to underpin a wide range of critical infrastructure functions, it’s vital that we manage these risks adequately and promote a trusted ecosystem of 5G componentry,” said CISA Director Christopher Krebs. “CISA is committed to working with partners to build a resilient 5G infrastructure, and this strategy identifies a roadmap of how we will bring stakeholders together to achieve this.”
In addition to the Strategy, CISA has released a 5G Basics Infographic to educate stakeholders on challenges and risks associated with 5G. Working in close collaboration with the critical infrastructure community, the Agency plans to publish sector-specific 5G risk profiles in the coming months.
To learn more about CISA’s role in 5G and to view the strategy, visit www.cisa.gov/5G.