ITU’s Member States will soon elect the Union’s top executives at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 (PP-18) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. ITU News is highlighting written interviews (Q&As) with the candidates for each of ITU’s top posts. Below is the Q&A for Mindaugas Žilinskas, candidate for Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau.
There are many challenges in the telecommunication sector, but the biggest challenge is to ensure Internet access for all. Currently, 3.7 billion people around the world do not have such a possibility (data from the ITU/UNESCO State of Broadband 2018). This means that common information and communication technology (ICT) applications assisting us in everyday life, such as e‑government, e‑banking, e‑health, e‑learning, etc. are not available to them, and people are denied access to huge information resources, and fast and efficient communication. However, everything has to be addressed in parallel, i.e., both decreasing the digital divide, and implementing new technologies and services.
The are many other challenges in the ICT sector, such as: Artificial Intelligence; convergence of technologies; fast‑growing sectors such as intelligent transport systems relating to the safety of transport; autonomous cars, the Internet of Things — that is, smart devices, smart cities, etc.; the safety of flights; the rapidly developing small‑satellite industry; space and Earth exploration; deep space; and radio spectrum for scientific research, to name a few.
“There are many challenges in the telecommunication sector, but the biggest challenge is to ensure Internet access for all.”
With the ongoing globalization process, the radio‑spectrum harmonization required to address these demands is becoming ever more important. Spectrum harmonization enables the same equipment to be used around the world, which allows reduced equipment costs while at the same time expanding usage, and thereby reducing the digital divide, and improving the quality of everyday life, and that should be the focus of ITU.
My top work priorities are transparency and impartiality in decision‑making, team work and high expertise. The ITU Radio Regulations set the rules for equal radio spectrum access to each country, however, this is not always realized in practice due to various reasons. For example, some countries take advantage of having better mastered various nuances of the Radio Regulations, and are able to use a larger spectrum resource at their neighbours’ expense, or the resources that are used for special purposes limit the possibilities of the neighbouring States.
“My top work priorities are transparency and impartiality in decision-making, team work and high expertise.”
It might look like radio frequency is a physical element that cannot be weighed nor touched. However, it is exactly this physical element that opens up big opportunities. It is the basis for the development of new services, the improvement of our daily lives, bringing quality of life to a new level, and creating new job opportunities. In every country, the higher the level of development, the bigger its ICT contribution to GDP. Thus, creating equal opportunities for all in spectrum management will promote faster economic growth of less‑developed countries, and a faster increase in their living standards. The ITU Radiocommunication Bureau’s decisions, consultations, special seminars and software are needed for the countries that have less experience.
One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is industry, innovation and infrastructure. The proper use of radio spectrum creates opportunities for new infrastructure, such as television, radio, fixed‑ and mobile‑satellite networks, which translate to the promotion of scientific progress, new jobs in developing and maintaining infrastructure, and thereby the creation of new services, which, in turn, create new jobs.
“With the ongoing globalization process, the radio-spectrum harmonization required to address these demands is becoming ever more important.”
This process takes place when the spectrum issue is addressed properly and spectrum is harmonized, when the geographical limits of spectrum use is expanded, and the services reach the critical mass. Then the industry production increases, reducing equipment prices, and expanding the circle of potential users.
Harmonization of both radio spectrum and standards, which has been undertaken by ITU for over 150 years, is a highly important task. One job created in the industry creates an additional 2.2 jobs, so the role of the ICT sector is becoming more evident. The Internet allows us to reduce the divide between city and rural areas, creating equal opportunities for both men and women to join the market irrespective of gender. It even contributes to changing lifestyles, as people move to places that are more convenient to live, as the opportunity to work remotely becomes a reality.
My most important achievement was to build a great team of qualified experts in Lithuania, which allowed us to make a breakthrough in developing TV networks, including digital TV. We succeeded in creating favourable conditions for mobile operators, and as a result we were recognized as having the best long‑ term evolution (LTE) networks in Europe in 2016 (data from “Open Signal”).
As for television, our activities were not limited to the area of Lithuania. Having analysed the situation in Europe, we faced the fact that the Eastern European countries were disadvantaged when developing the television plan of Stockholm 61. We invited 15 countries and created a digital TV plan for over 60 channels, including modification and coordination procedures. This planning activity was joined by Eastern European countries, Sweden, Finland and Turkey. The plan “Nida — Kiev 2003”, which was coordinated with the plans of Germany and Sweden, covered Russia, with the coverage expanding to Turkey. It was approved by 15 countries, signed and sent to ITU for notification. In our view, this acted as a sort of stimulus to Europe to start re‑planning all TV channels, and in adjusting it to digital TV, when developing a new DVB‑T (Digital Video Broadcasting — Terrestrial) Geneva 2006 Plan.
Achieving any consensus is one of the most difficult tasks, and I experienced it personally when coordinating television and radio networks. Lithuania has four States neighbouring its borders, but in the coordination process of these networks, we have to deal with three or four additional States, depending on the parameters of stations. You have to take into account their interests and to be able to adjust all of them. In five years we had 40 bilateral and multilateral negotiations, and we succeeded in finding solutions with all of our neighbours.
ITU’s role is important, not only in terms of harmonizing spectrum worldwide, or creating harmonized standards which foster economic growth in every country. What is also important, is that active communication among countries brings together peoples of different cultures and different views.
“Creating equal opportunities for all in spectrum management will promote faster economic growth of less-developed countries, and a faster increase in their living standards.”
Finally, no matter how many disputes we have, which might even last over the nights, they bring us, people of the same world, closer to each other to find agreement amongst ourselves.