Closing Address on Behalf of Attorney-General Sayed-Khaiyum at the 6th APT Policy and Regulation Forum

Bula Vinaka and good afternoon.

On behalf of the Attorney-General and Minister for Communications, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, it is my pleasure to deliver these closing remarks on his behalf.

When the Attorney-General opened this forum on Tuesday, he stressed that the matter of regional cooperation in ICT development couldn’t be more important – that meetings such as this were crucial to allow Pacific island nations to work together to overcome common challenges in delivering affordable ICT services to our citizens.

Indeed, this is the very foundation of this forum and is reflected in its guiding principles: to bring policy makers and regulators together to discuss matters of common interest; to open up new channels of dialogue; to share information, best practices and experiences; and to encourage collaboration.

By these measures, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to say that the 6th annual Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Policy and Regulation Forum for the Pacific has been an outstanding success.

As a group, we’ve endorsed the APT 700 Megahertz (MHz) Band Plan, which outlines how spectrum in the 700 MHz range should be used in the Pacific to provide mobile services, including 4G LTE.

I know that talk about gigabytes and megahertz, bandwidth and broadband, can sound to many like a different language.

In plain English, this band plan is about radio frequencies that carry mobile phone signals. The lower the frequency, the further the signal can travel.

The plan designates the low-frequency 700 MHz range of spectrum as being particularly well suited to our region because it has a larger footprint than higher frequencies, meaning that mobile service providers can reach more people with fewer towers. This has huge benefits for our populations living in remote, hard-to-reach communities.

As such, this plan encourages us to earmark the 700 MHz range for mobile services.  At the moment, many countries in the Pacific have not yet ventured into the 700 MHz range, because there has not yet been the demand or the ability to do so. But as the number of mobile phone users continues to increase in the Pacific, together with the demand for newer technology, this will change.

By endorsing this plan, we will bring the Pacific in line with international standards and will promote regional harmony.

It means, if implemented, that international manufacturers of cell phones will increasingly see the Pacific as a single market because they can sell us equipment that is designed to work on the same frequencies.

This will give the Pacific region the volume – in terms of markets – collectively that many of us lack individually. It will also allow phones to work seamlessly from country to country.

I’m proud to say that in Fiji, we have already implemented this band plan, as was seen in our recent auction of 4G LTE spectrum.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If I might just leave you with one parting thought, on behalf of the Attorney-General:

The promise of technology to improve the lives of our peoples is apparent to us all. During the course of this forum, we’ve heard presentations on broadband, satellite communications, disaster management, and cybercrime, amongst others.

There are none amongst us who doubt the ability technology has to change an individual’s life by empowering them with access to the wider world. There are none amongst us who do not see the potential technology has to promote equality by bridging the divide between the rich and poor, between the urban and rural.

But with this potential, with this opportunity, comes a great challenge –to ensure that the benefits of technology are spread equally to all our citizens.

Technology must be affordable. It must be accessible. It must be attainable. As policy makers and regulators, this is our ultimate goal.

Because if it is not, if some amongst our citizens are left behind by the digital age, then we risk creating even greater disparities amongst them – between those with access, and those without.

So my message is this: leave no one behind. Let’s continue to meet in this forum – and other’s like it – in the same spirit of this shared vision for our nations and for our peoples.

With those few words, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, it is now my great pleasure, on behalf of the Attorney-General, to declare this forum officially closed.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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