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WBBA Summit Highlights Importance of Broadband Industry To Digital Economy

A powerhouse lineup of business, government, and academic leaders recently took the stage at the World Broad Association (WBBA) Shanghai Forum to discuss the broadband industry’s enormous role in the growth of the global digital economy. #Sponsored

Kevin Casey

December 5, 2023

4 Min Read

That was spelled out directly by the conference’s 2023 theme: “Unleashing the Maximum Potential of Global Broadband: Cloud-Network Broadband Empowering the Digital Economy.” Speakers and attendees included major policy makers and regulators, telecom executives, trade group leaders, scholars, and other experts who shared insights on a broad range of topics critical to the industry’s present and future growth.

In this blog, we’ll summarize the big ideas that these industry leaders and influencers brought to the conference.


1. In the digital age, broadband is as critical as electricity and other fundamental infrastructure.

Zhao Zhiguo, Chief Engineer of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, described how broadband is a fundamental component of a new information infrastructure, noting the Ministry’s own investments in recent years in 5G and gigabit optical networks. That is already paying dividends in terms of a continuously improving network capacity, rapidly scaling user base, and converged applications that will stimulate continued investment and growth, and pave the way for true digital transformation.

2. Cloud-network broadband integration and innovation will drive the growing global digital economy.

As one of the main catalysts for digital China, China Telecom Group has been consolidating its network foundation and continuously integrating and innovating with cloud and other core technologies, according to company Chairman Ke Ruiwen.

China Telecom’s Tianyi Cloud, built has become the world’s largest telecom operator cloud and China’s largest hybrid cloud, with AI capabilities integrated into cloud-network broadband services.

This is a good example of how the digital economy will continue to permeate all facets of daily life. China Telecom is already delivering digital products such as Smart Home (including its “bright kitchen” and “bright stove” solutions”), Smart Community, and Smart Village. It also provides an industrial Internet public service platform to help industrial enterprises and industrial supply chain data integration.

Ruiwen spoke of three significant trends currently emerging out of the new cloud-network broadband infrastructure that will be vital to the global digital economy:

  • Ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, including sky-earth integration. 

  • Cloud-network integration, with intelligent agility.

  • Greener, more secure networks with lower carbon footprints and greater controllability.

This was a pervasive theme throughout the event: Without modern broadband, there is no digital economy.

“Water and oxygen are essential elements for life, and broadband is the ‘water’ combined with ‘oxygen’ for the development of [the[ digital economy,” said Wen Ku, Chairman of China Communications Standards Association.

3. Maturing 5G networks will continue to be crucial to technical development and bridging the “digital divide.”

It may seem as if 5G has already been around for a long time, but GSMA CEO John Hoffman offered a reminder that the best is yet to come, with multiple estimates projecting the 5G market will surpass US$1 trillion by 2030.

Hoffman touted the velocity of 5G development in China in recent years, including the world’s largest 5G factory and 5G stroke treatment equipment. He also noted that there remain vast untapped opportunities for various industries around the world, including financial services, healthcare, and education.

There also remains significant work to be done – with network operators as key players and influencers – to bridge the digital divide, Hoffman said, so that everyone can attain the benefits of network transformation and the rise of the digital economy.

4. Continued growth and innovation depends on cooperation and collaboration.

Many speakers, including Zhiguo and Ruiwen, emphasized the importance of increasing cooperation and collaboration among various industry and government stakeholders, including policy makers, operators, industry groups, and others.

This is at the essence of the WBBA, according to Dr. Li Zhengmao, Chairman of the WBBA. Among the group’s stated goals: fostering high-level international sharing and collaboration among all stakeholders to ensure and accelerate the growth of the modern broadband industry. WBBA has already built an impressive roster of 30 industry partners, including the likes of China Telecom, Huawei, Nokia, Swiss Telecom, OMDIA, and many others.

This is an area that will feed all of the other major trends. Liang Hao, Executive Deputy Secretary-General of World Internet Conference, saw the forum as a way to enhance exchange and cooperation between World Internet Conference and WBBA and other international organizations, as well as promote growth of a global digital infrastructure built around 5G, IPv6, cloud, AI, and other core technologies. Hao also noted the importance of building global and regional digital training exchanges, erasing the digital divide, and fostering sustainable development. 

5. The modern broadband network is a means to continuous technological innovation.

Xu Heyuan, chief expert of China Academy of Information and Communications Technology , pointed out that the new broadband network is an end-to-end network. But that doesn’t mean it is merely a means to an end.

Rather, the modern network is fertile terrain for continuous digital growth.Heyuan said future development velocity will gravitate towards networks and services with ultra-high-speed large-capacity, deterministic low-latency, intelligent customization, cloud-network integration , sky-earth integration, and network-native security and reliability, among other benefits.

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