Bill Gates visits Geneva telecoms fair
The chairman of the software giant Microsoft says the world has become a “digitalised planet” in the space of a decade.
Speaking at the Telecom World 2003 in Geneva, Bill Gates emphasised that the internet revolution was set to continue thanks to high-speed access.
"Ten years ago hardly anyone surfed the internet," Gates said. "Then it was the exception, now it is the rule."
He explained that wireless internet access did not only have enormous growth potential, but it was also a phenomenon that would change users' habits significantly.
“I think that by the end of this century the majority of the world’s population will use these services on a daily basis,” Gates said.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), organisers of the fair, is expecting more than 100,000 visitors to attend this year's event, which runs until the end of the week.
However, participation at this year’s event is down on 1999, when more than 1,100 exhibitors drew over 200,000 people.
Despite the absence of some big firms such as Alcatel, Nokia, Siemens and Sunrise, Switzerland regards itself as a forerunner in the technology stakes.
“Switzerland is the most technology-friendly country in the world,” said Mark Furrer, the director of the Federal Office for Communications.
“Even though we don’t have big firms such as Nokia, we have many small and medium-sized companies that are very successful and profitable.”
Commentators argue that the decision by some firms to stay away this year is a sign of the times – four years ago, the future of the telecommunications sector looked much brighter.
At that time, many - including the ITU - predicted that the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) would be widespread by 2002, replacing the second-generation Global System for Mobile Communication or GSM.
UMTS was designed to enable providers to offer enhanced, faster mobile internet, data and multimedia services, way beyond the technical capabilities of GSM.
Billions were spent by telecommunications companies around Europe in the rush to get a slice of the cake when governments around the world auctioned UMTS licences.
In Switzerland, the figures ran into millions – the four licences on offer raised SFr205 million ($120 million) for the government. In Austria, the auction netted over SFr1 billion.
Today it is clear that UMTS or the so-called third generation in mobile telephony has failed to dent the global market share of GSM, currently running at more than 70 per cent.
More than 70 Swiss-based companies and institutions are being represented in Geneva this week. They include Swisscom, Kudelski and the Federal Office of Communications.
Telecoms giants AT&T, British Telecom, Cisco and Sun Microsystems are also present.
“World 2003 [will] continue [bringing] together government leaders, regulators and key industry CEOs from all over the world,” said ITU secretary-general Yoshio Utsumi.
swissinfo with agencies
More than 900 exhibitors from 52 countries will be attending the event from October 12 to 18.
Telecom World takes place every four years.
Organisers expect more than 100,000 visitors to attend.
The event will be held in the Palexpo in Geneva.
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