ITU 2006 - "Delighting the customer - The role of
PCCW as a Quadruple Play Operator"
6 December 2006, ITU 2006, Hong Kong
For those of you here today who have worked at the heart
of the almost-miraculous communications revolution of the
past three decades, there can be no challenging the claim
that this has been the most creative and exhilarating sector
in which anyone could dream of working. It has attracted
the most creative and innovative scientific and technological
minds - many of them here at the ITU this week.
But visionaries have their shortcomings along with their
strengths. Their simple fascination with the technology
they are developing often leads them to want to develop
products and services more because they can be developed,
than because significant numbers of consumers want or need
There are a number of reasons for this, and some of them
are very close to my heart, and that of PCCW. One key reason
is that in our passion and excitement for the next new idea
- whether it is YouTube, Skype, myspace or Google or any
number of other fascinating, inspired business ideas being
spawned almost by the day - the companies that provide critical
infrastructure have fallen quickly out of fashion. In their
efforts to accommodate these thrilling innovations, regulators
who are often struggling to keep abreast of communications
innovations, and the implications they have for the sector,
have frequently introduced regulations and reforms that
may boost the prospects for a bright new idea, but at the
same time undermine the longer-established players that
provide the critical infrastructure that would deliver these
new ideas reliably to a potentially-delighted customer.
It's a bit like being so preoccupied with encouraging new
low cost and charter airlines that those airlines providing
reliable and comprehensive scheduled services get undermined,
to the detriment of the entire aviation sector: travelers
get cheap flights to a handful of popular destinations,
but at the expense of reliable and frequent access to a
broad range of important but less popular destinations.
Reforms aimed at enhancing choice end up reducing it.
The policy on electric power supplies is another example.
We saw power outages in major cities, ridiculous in this
modern day and age.
In our telecoms sector, this unfettered fascination with
the new has had consequences that we at PCCW think may be
to the long term detriment of our industry - and of our
ability consistently to delight our customers. As a "quadruple
play operator" -- and the largest IPTV provider in
the world -- that is weaving together fixed line, broadband,
IPTV and 2 and 3G mobile services on a platform that is
absolutely reliable for our customers, we find industry
structures being created that are cutting the incentive
to provide or maintain the reliability of the infrastructure.
In a mistaken anxiety to pave the way for the next new idea,
the infrastructure that would deliver that next new idea
reliably and as a delightful consumer experience is being
discriminated against. As a result necessary investment
often does not take place.
I agree with Steve Berkovitz, head of Microsoft's online
services business, who was quoted last week as saying that
newly emerging specialized sites in due course will have
to have search, have to have community, and have to have
content. The fact is that narrowly-based providers may have
excited us with their brilliant new concepts, but if they
are to provide delight on a sustained basis to customers
into the future, they will need to develop as broad-based
At PCCW, as a quadruple play operator, we are striving to
do just this: to provide a sound technology platform on
which other services can be reliably based - to build not
just an excellent road infrastructure, but to provide excellent
vehicles to travel on it. I don't think it unreasonable
therefore to be concerned when new regulations on the one
hand require us to provide superhighways via our fixed line
network for common use, but then eliminate any incentives
to make sure the superhighways are built and maintained
at levels that ensure they meet the sector's needs. Let
me simply say that a better balance needs to be struck -
or our ability to continue delighting our customers, whether
here in Hong Kong or countries across the world, will be
And this better balance also means ensuring choice. I would
like to use another industry's past as a comparison. Massive
investment in the US a century ago in a superb road infrastructure
paved the way for a highly efficient car-based economy.
The failure to invest similarly in urban commuter rail systems
left Americans with only one choice: buy a car. In Japan
at around the same time, huge investment in high-speed rail
left the population with a rail infrastructure second to
none, but a second-class road network. Development of a
single infrastructure platform has brought benefits - but
at the expense of choice, which has left each community
with serious infrastructure challenges going forward. In
telecoms, we need to try to avoid similar impingements on
choice - which again points to a need to provide incentives
for strong investment in infrastructures, plural.
I think we need to work together as an industry with our
regulators to ensure that appropriate solutions are found.
With the many brilliant minds gathered here at the ITU in
Hong Kong this week, I have no doubt we have the brainpower
to find them, and I can assure you that we at PCCW will
play a positive role in every way we can. We have always
felt empowered by our "Hong Kongness" - which
is all about energy, opportunity, enterprise, innovation
and quality. I hope you feel it too while you are here in
Hong Kong, and of course hope you take lots of those away
with you: our sector will be all the more energized for
it. Thank you!