The Price of Investment

As I watched the news reports coming out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and listened to all the announcements, I waited for this global collection of brains to indicate when we’d see a turning point in the recession. But I waited in vain. In fact, I got the distinct feeling that the world leaders in Davos hadn’t even defined a clear path to recovery.

For me, what did emerge from the forum was a belief that investing in infrastructure projects would be the engine that would pull us out of recession. Telecom companies would be the main driver of such investment, and governments across the planet were looking to our industry to meet this challenge. It was with this in mind that I set off to Barcelona last week to capture the views of other industry players.

There was no shortage of statistics at Mobile World Congress 2009 to support the opinions expressed in Davos. One example that struck me was the GSM Assocation stating that “the release of new mobile spectrum for broadband services in 2009 will add the equivalent of $211 billion to China’s GDP and the equivalent of $95 billion to India’s GDP”. And most people I spoke with largely agreed with this view. Major players are busy rolling out plans to develop mobile broadband and preparing to raise the finance to pay for these projects. Great news!

But (and it’s a big one) if governments are expecting our industry to invest billions of dollars to lift the global economy, they must play their part. As well as words of encouragement, we want to hear phrases like “release of spectrum”, “stability in telecom regulation”, “relaxed regulatory regime”.

I’ve no doubt that a combination of industry investment and government support will help pull us out of recession. Perhaps more importantly, it’ll combat extreme poverty in some of the most isolated parts of the world. Yet there has to be fair cooperation; governments should look on the telecoms industry not as an endless source of cash, but as a force that can benefit local and regional economies in so many different ways.

As a businessman, I know that for wealth to be shared, it first has to be created, and I’d ask government telecommunications ministers to remember that.