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GSMA: Connecting everyone and everything to a better future

Republished from Mobile World Live Show Daily

    Key takeaways:

  • It's important to build on current tech like 4G before rushing into 5G ahead of real demand.
  • IoT needs collaboration, interoperability, and common standards to thrive.
  • With 4.8 billion subscribers, mobile is the key to achieving the UN's sustainability goals.

Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA, shares his thoughts on the development of 5G, the Internet of Things, and why mobile is so important to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What do you see as GSMA’s main role in influencing new technology and 5G?

Granryd: GSMA is working for its members and with its partners to shape 5G. As the association representing the mobile industry, we’ll play a significant role in shaping the strategic, commercial, and regulatory development of the 5G ecosystem. This will include areas such as defining roaming and interconnection for 5G, and identifying and aligning suitable spectrum bands. Once a stable definition of 5G is reached, GSMA will work with its members to identify and develop commercially viable 5G applications.

What do you consider to be the most important feature of 5G?

Granryd: Clearly there’s a lot of excitement around 5G because it offers enormous potential for both consumers and industry. In addition to being considerably faster than existing technologies, 5G holds the promise of applications with high social and economic value, leading to a hyper-connected society in which mobile will play an increasingly important role in people’s lives. However, it’s important to note that many of 5G’s technical requirements already form part of the network innovations being undertaken by operators today. For example, technologies such as NFV, SDN, HetNets and Low Power, Low Throughput networks are being bundled under the title of 5G, despite the fact that they‘re already being brought to market by vendors and deployed by operators. We need to continue to innovate and drive sustainable growth and service innovation that builds on current technologies such as 4G to enable new business opportunities in the near term, rather than being swept towards 5G deployment ahead of real demand.

How does GSMA plan to increase operators’ involvement in IoT?

Granryd: GSMA has a program called Connected Living that’s working with the industry to accelerate the potential of IoT. We believe IoT can be unlocked through industry collaboration, interoperability, and the development of common standards that will help to avoid market fragmentation, accelerate adoption, and encourage the IoT market to grow in a sustainable way. GSMA is working closely with operators and ecosystem partners in three critical areas that are integral to developing IoT:

One, interoperability and standardization: Without a common approach, the market will become fragmented and reliant on proprietary solutions. Common standards and interoperability are essential for IoT to be sustainable.

Two, security: We’re working to get best practice security guidelines adopted so that machines can communicate via the mobile network in the most secure way. 

Three, big data: IoT already generates a huge amount of data that is largely retained in vertical silos. We’re working to establish an IoT Big Data Ecosystem (BDE) to unlock the potential of this data. A common, collaborative and interoperable approach will help to usher in a new era of IoT solutions, helping the market scale.

Are rival offerings to LPWA that compete with the 3GPP-backed NB-IoT good or bad for IoT?

Granryd: We created the Mobile IoT Initiative to align the mobile industry behind three complementary Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies in licensed spectrum, and fast-tracked their standardization in 3GPP to accelerate adoption. Network operators are experienced and trusted providers of managed M2M solutions and are best placed to lead the development and commercial rollout of LPWA services that meet customer requirements. Solutions in licensed spectrum are scalable, reliable, secure, and flexible, and avoid unnecessary risks inherent with unlicensed offerings. We recommend that customers wait until licensed LPWA solutions are available in the market to avoid risking an unlicensed solution that may negatively impact their business.

With LPWA trials still underway, how can operators ensure commercial NB-IoT deployment by next year?

Granryd: We’ve already seen many pilots and pre-commercial deployment of NB-IoT this year, with China Unicom, China Telecom, Etisalat, Deutsche Telekom, KT and Vodafone all announcing plans for network deployment in 2017. In 2016, AT&T also announced a number of LTE-M pilots, with customers with commercial rollout expected soon. We encourage operators to work with the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Initiative or GSMA NB-IoT Forum to help accelerate the commercial adoption and deployment of NB-IoT technology.

Why is mobile so important to the UN’s sustainable development goals?

Granryd: Globally, nearly 4.8 billion men and women subscribe to a mobile service – almost two-thirds of the world’s population – and this is expected to reach 5.6 billion people in 2020. As an industry, we have the opportunity to leverage the mobile networks that we’ve built and the services we deliver to help achieve the UN’s SDGs.

In February 2016, the mobile industry became the first sector to commit to the SDGs. In September, at the UN General Assembly week, we published the 2016 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals, which assesses the mobile industry’s current impact at achieving the SDGs and outlines future actions that will expand and strengthen that impact. This first-of-its-kind report also establishes a benchmark through which we’ll measure the industry’s progress in contributing to the SDGs by 2030, which will serve as a blueprint for other industries as they commit to achieving the goals. 

This is an important opportunity. By working together as an industry with other sectors, governments, and key stakeholders, I believe we can make a real difference to people’s lives.

In addition to the 17 SDGs, what other applications can raise the profile of the UN’s goals?

Granryd: In addition to publishing the Mobile Industry Impact Report, we’ve partnered with the UN and Project Everyone to develop and launch the official mobile app, SDGs in Action. This will create a community for industry, governments, and individual citizens to work together to deliver the SDGs.

Users can get details on each of the 17 goals, including the associated SDG targets, explanatory videos, case studies, data, and suggestions on how people can take action to help achieve them. The app also allows individuals to highlight the activities they‘re undertaking in support of the SDGs and invite their social networks to get involved as well.

The report and the app are just two examples of what we’re doing to put a spotlight on this important issue. GSMA and our members, along with many others in the private and public sectors, are working to build visibility around these global goals. There’s not a single organization that can do this alone – it’s critical that we all work together to make this a reality by 2030.

Huawei: What do operators and tech companies need to do to bridge the digital divide?

Granryd: Despite the strong progress we’ve made in connecting the unconnected, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will still lack Internet access at the end of this decade, with most of the excluded population living in rural areas. Digital inclusion can extend economic and social benefits to previously unconnected populations, fueling a virtuous circle that reduces poverty, improves infrastructure and services, and further increases Internet access and usage. 

GSMA is working with the mobile ecosystem to address four key challenges to increasing digital inclusion:

Network coverage: expanding the commercially sustainable coverage of mobile broadband networks to underserved population groups, typically in rural or remote communities, by promoting shared infrastructure, regulatory best practices, and technical innovation.

Affordability: addressing key issues such as mobile-specific taxation to help make Internet access more affordable, especially for citizens at the bottom of the pyramid.

Digital skills and awareness: providing training to people so they understand the benefits and opportunities of being online and have the skills to use mobile Internet.

Locally relevant content: encouraging and promoting the development of content and services that are relevant to underserved population groups.

Huawei: How will GSMA approach privacy and security issues when it comes to digital authentication as part of the Mobile Connect initiative?

Granryd: The premise of Mobile Connect is that it offers consumers a single, trusted, mobile phone-based authentication solution. Fundamental to its uptake and effectiveness is that Mobile Connect must absolutely respect online privacy and enhance individual security by mitigating password vulnerability. The service securely authenticates users, granting them safe on-line access to mobile and digital services such as e-commerce, banking, health, and e-government.

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