The recession had failed to dent demand for information and communications (ICT) services, but governments needed to support the roll-out of next generation networks financially if they were to provide universal service and economic growth, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said today.
Despite growing consumer demand, the report found less private sector investment going into telecommunications than in the past 30 years. "Government must take simple and immediate steps to assist," the ITU said.
But governments should "be mindful" of where they invest, it said. Operators were hedging their bets by picking a raft of different technologies. Governments should also be cautious about picking technologies, winners or even the communities where investments will be channelled, it said.
Despite demand, the recession meant network operators found capital market tougher. This slowed their plans to roll out next-generation networks.
"These challenges could hold back communities that need solid broadband infrastructure to achieve their social and economic development goals. The right policy choices must be made now, so we can reap the benefits tomorrow," said Touré.
The ITU said however taht the mobile and satellite sectors were "remarkably resilient". Consumer demand for high-speed fixed and mobile connections is fueling growth in broadband subscriptions in major markets worldwide, including Brazil, China and the US.
A reportpublished today, the second in ITU's Confronting the Crisis series, found wireless communication technologies, fixed broadband internet, next-generation networks and satellite technologies could all spur economic growth in developing and developed regions.
ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said investments in ICT and broadband networks often gave stronger marginal returns on supply and greater productivity gains than other forms of infrastructure.
Global fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) installations were forecast to grow at a steady rate of 30% over the next five years. Long lead times, robust demand for entertainment services and specialised financing mechanisms have helped bolster the satellite industry, which is predicting 50% growth over the coming decade, the ITU said.