Luxembourg has always been in the vanguard of the media and communications business.
- Some 80 years ago, the Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Radiodiffusion started to offer free radio programs all over Europe. - which it branded at that time as Radio Luxembourg.
- More than 50 years ago, the CLR became the Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Télédiffusion and launched a growing number of free television programs throughout Europe – under the RTL logo.
- Almost 25 years ago, SES Astra set up the first direct-to-home television services covering the main areas of Europe, while nowadays its satellites reach most of the world’s population.
- Skype, a major player in the Internet age and a pioneer for Internet telephony, was actually founded in Luxembourg where it still has its headquarters.
We have already come a long way. But let us not forget that a lot of challenges still lie ahead of us, even though in the past we always succeeded to rise to those challenges.
I remember ten years ago, when I took over as minister for communications for the first time, Luxembourg was nowhere to be found on the telecom map. Rightly so, as there simply were no data highways. At the time American ecompanies told us they could not establish their business in Europe without those data highways. As a consequence we started to put considerable energy, time and money in the development of infrastructure, paving the way for the state-of-the-art data highways we now have. Today we are connected to the world. Today we have first-class data centers, run by both public and private investors and offering Tier III and Tier IV quality.
Take a look at the latest benchmarks published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). When it comes to broadband, Luxembourg has the highest penetration, it ranks second with regards to ICT skills and it stands at number 6 for broadband tariffs.
Nonetheless, we still face some important challenges.
As I just mentioned we have an impressive broadband penetration rate, but we continue to lack high-speed broadband. Therefore, the Minister of the Economy Jeannot Krecké and I as Minister for Communications launched a new strategy, in early March, to bring fiber-to-the-home to 100 percent of the population by the end of 2015, while providing 1 Gbit to every household in Luxembourg by 2020. In addition, our aim is to connect all commercial activity zones by 2013 through optical fiber.
This is definitely an ambitious strategy. We are confident though that we are up to the task, because the public sector will take the lead. And while the public sector will invest first, the government will make sure to give every private company the opportunity to offer better and more services to consumers. We have set some benchmarks that we will check every year to ensure a high level of fiber-to-the home connectivity because we want to be among the best not only in Europe but worldwide. This is our first challenge.
Our second challenge is to raise the awareness level. There is no doubt that Luxembourg is on the map by now, but not everybody takes a look at the map! That’s why we created Luxembourg for ICT which is a major promotional initiative of the government. But instead of us travelling the world, we would certainly prefer the world coming to Luxembourg. Which is exactly what ICT Spring has in mind. This excellent initiative is bringing people from many different countries – operators, providers, or simply individuals who have a keen interest in ICT – to Luxembourg which we consider to be a major European hub for telecom and media. I would be pleased to see ICT Spring evolve into an annual event built around the concept of an international exchange platform for ICT professionals with international ambitions.
Finally, the third challenge is a constant one, and it is not limited to the ICT world, but goes for the economy in general: the challenge of anticipation and innovation. In Luxembourg, it is easy both to anticipate and to innovate. In the early days of media development as well as in today’s ICT world, pioneers from all around the world established their business in Luxembourg. Why? Because they met political decision makers eager to support innovation and people who wanted to develop new businesses. So when, after the 2009 elections, the Prime Minister wanted me to take over the ministry in charge of telecommunications for the second time in my career, I asked him in return to remain in charge of higher education and research, the department I had been responsible for during the past five years.
When Jean-Claude Juncker introduced my new portfolio to the public, he called it the "ministry of the future". I couldn’t agree more with the Prime Minister. It is crucial to bring together, on the one hand, telecom and media, and, on the other, education and research. If we want to anticipate, if we want to innovate, we have to develop new ideas as much as we have to develop the skills necessay to implement those new ideas.
ICT is one of the major research priorities of the current government. Recently, I signed a four-year-plan with the rector of the very young University of Luxembourg as we foresee huge developments in this area. And it gives me great pleasure that a lot of companies, including those that are present at this conference such as Atoz, Telindus, SES Astra and EPT, have concluded agreements with the university. With this public-private-partnership in place, we can anticipate, we can innovate.
Let me finish by pointing to an excellent research project which was done with private and public partners from all over Europe at the University of Luxembourg. The project, called u2010, was co- financed by the European Commission and is using IPv6 to set up different communications means during a catastrophe. As we need a mountainous region to gain conclusive results, we are doing some of the testing in Slovenia, another partner of ours. This is only one example of what I have in mind, others will follow in due course.
Today, you will be tackling a number of issues of growing importance for the ICT future… Cloud computing which is definitely on the government’s agenda… Electronic archiving which is a crucial topic for me as a Minister of Justice… And many more, including mobile connectivity. They have one thing in common: they are on the government’s radar and they are especially on my radar as the minister in charge of ICT. I will work very hard to support the ICT sector in Luxembourg so it can continue its efforts to innovate and to anticipate.
Thank you for your attention.