GSMA and GUTMA launch new joint initiative to align mobile and aviation industries

Cellular connectivity is key to unlocking the full potential of unmanned aerial vehicles (or ‘drones’): allowing them to operate at greater distances from the pilot, beyond the pilot’s line of sight, enabling critical functions such as search-and-rescue or traffic safety monitoring. With connected drone-led use cases set to multiply rapidly over the next few years, therefore, the aviation and mobile ecosystems need appropriate conduits through which their collaborative work can be carried out.    

Aerial Connectivity Joint Activity (ACJA) is the first initiative to result from the cooperation agreement signed last year by the GSMA and the Global UTM Association (GUTMA).  ACJA has been conceived in large part to give relevant members of the aviation and cellular industries a forum by which they can share views on how their two worlds can work most effectively together.  To achieve this to maximum effect, however, they must truly understand the forces guiding each industry – each of which currently has separate standards bodies, conferences, and communities. As a result, most contributors to standards in each field are unfamiliar with the terminology, documents, processes, technical status, capabilities, and needs of the other community – leading to omissions and incompatibilities in standards across the aviation and cellular industries. 

ACJA therefore also aims to educate stakeholders from across the cellular and aviation ecosystems – in particular, by creating a common understanding of how to navigate standard development organisations (SDOs), enabling individual companies to contribute appropriately to often highly complex standards. Particular focus for ACJA will be given to how standards are used to promote safety, as standards-based systems benefit from more testing, data analysis, and experience than individual proprietary systems. ACJA’s work will also seek to identify the potential capabilities and needs of cellular networks in unmanned traffic management (UTM) and aviation in general.

ACJA’s decision-making bodies are comprised of senior representatives of GSMA and GUTMA, illustrating the growing closeness of the two communities. GUTMA’s Mark Davis will act as Technical Lead, and Barbara Pareglio, Technical Director for the GSMA’s Drone Project, will act as Programme Manager and Chair of the Decision Board.  Also on the Board are Jarrett Larrow, UTM Programme Manager at the Federal Aviation Administration; Vanessa Kuroda, Wireless & Communications Architect for Airbus UTM; and Peter Musgrove, Lead Member of Technical Staff at AT&T.  

The Decision Board has for now prioritised four work tasks to address the most prominent needs.  These currently include:

  • Cellular standard coordination (led by Stefano Faccin, Director, Technical Standards at Qualcomm), to be conducted primarily with 3GPP, to ensure aviation-related considerations are taken into account in future;
  • Supplementary data services (led by Thomas Neubauer, VP, Business Development at TEOCO), to establish how mobile network operators can support UTM service providers with additional information; 
  • A cellular connectivity profile (led by Gerry Libunao, DMTS at Verizon) for supporting aerial services; and
  • Development of minimum operational performance specifications (MOPS) and minimum aviation system performance standards (MASPS) for cellular networks (led by Jim Williams, Director of Regulatory Affairs USA at Drone Delivery Canada), to document the performance of cellular networks in aviation terms.

To learn more about how your organisation can join ACJA to contribute to these or future work tasks, or whether you may be eligible for a non-member participation agreement, please contact us by emailing:

GUTMA has also released a statement on the ACJA, which you can find on their website: .

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Jim Williams

Director of Regulatory Affairs USA, Drone Delivery Canada

Jim Williams

Jim has over 30 years of experience in the Aerospace sector and recently served as Manager of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office at the Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). During his 15 years as an executive at the FAA, Jim held several important positions including Director of Systems Engineering, leader of the Integrated Product Team for ATC Communications, and finally, executive lead for all FAA UAS integration activities. During his tenure, the FAA approved the first commercial drone operations in the USA and published the regulatory structure that enabled routine commercial drone operations in the USA. Prior to joining the FAA, Jim was a flight test engineer and a production liaison engineer for the Lockheed Georgia Company’s C5, C-141 and C-130 programs. He also worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Mission Control during the initial flights of the US Space Shuttle.

Mark Davis

Former VP Intel, GUTMA

Mark Davis

Mark Davis is the former Vice President in Next Generation Systems and Chief Technology Officer of CDMA Products and Development at Intel Corporation.

Intel’s innovation in cloud computing, data center, Internet of Things, and PC solutions is powering the smart and connected digital world we live in.

Intel is a member of the Global UTM Association (GUTMA).

Stefano Faccin

Director, Technical Standards , Qualcomm

Stefano Faccin

Stefano Faccin is Director of Technical Standards with Qualcomm Incorporated.

Stefano has been contributing to system architecture work for 3G, 4G and 5G systems since the beginning of the 3GPP program.
At present, Stefano is leading the 3GPP system work to leverage cellular networks features to create needed solutions for UAS operations, including UAS command/control links, tracking and identification, payload communications, and collision avoidance. This work is aimed at enabling UAS management through a UAS traffic management system (UTM) by leveraging large area coverage of cellular networks.

Stefano has over 25 years of experience in the mobile industry, working in every type of player in the industry. Prior to joining Qualcomm, Stefano worked in R&D and standards for a mobile operator, a major network vendor, and three mobile phone and chipset manufacturers. Stefano has long term experience in standards development in ETSI GSM, 3GPP, IETF, IEEE, and Wi-Fi Alliance.

Thomas Neubauer

VP, Business Development, TEOCO

Thomas Neubauer

Thomas Neubauer is VP of Innovations at TEOCO and Co-founder of Dimetor.

He has more than fifteen years of experience in the management of wireless networks, working with tier-1 customers around the globe. Thomas also holds a position of VP Business Development and Innovations at TEOCO, a US based company providing software solutions to more than 300 communication service providers worldwide. Prior to that Thomas has successfully founded and grown a startup for cellular network optimization software, which he sold in 2012. He holds a Ph.D. in telecommunications engineering from the Vienna University of Technology.

TEOCO is a Silver Sponsor of Connected Skies, and member of the Global UTM Association.

Gerry Libunao

DMTS, Verizon

Gerry Libunao

Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, at Verizon since 2006.

Barbara Pareglio

Senior Director, IoT Technology, GSMA

Barbara Pareglio

Barbara has over 20 years of experience in the mobile industry. She has been part of the GSMA Internet of Things Programme since 2014, working on several aspects of the IoT such as the development of the Mobile IoT Technologies (LTE-M, NB-IoT), GSMA IoT Security Guidelines, GSMA Drone Interest Group and looking at a variety of emerging technologies, like machine learning/AI and edge computing, for helping the mobile industry to create trusted solutions for the IoT. Before joining the GSMA Barbara worked in R&D in several areas of telecommunications, including Intelligent Networks, IMS, Service Enabling and M2M/IoT. She also participate in and actively contributed to several standards.

The GSMA Internet of Things Programme help operators to fully realise the opportunity in the IoT, operators must deliver secure IoT networks as well as scalable value added data services for the world’s industry and machines beyond connectivity. This is to be achieved by industry collaboration, appropriate regulation, optimising networks as well as developing key enablers to support the growth of IoT.