Mobile Initiatives

Mobile Initiatives

Innovation and investment by the mobile industry continue to have an enormous impact on the lives of billions of people around the world. Mobile doesn’t just deliver connectivity, it empowers people through an ever-growing range of mobile-enabled services.

Currently there are over five billion unique mobile subscribers globally, which means that more than two-thirds of the global population is now connected to a mobile service. By the end of the decade, almost three-quarters of the global population will have a mobile subscription, with around one billion subscribers added over this period.

The GSMA leads several programmes in key growth areas that present significant benefits for consumers and clear opportunities for mobile operators. From supporting the development of mobile identity solutions to helping operators prepare for a 5G future, these initiatives are laying the foundations of an increasingly connected, mobile world.

Each of the initiatives covered on the following pages has its own public policy considerations and relates to one or more of the public policy topics presented in this handbook.

Future Networks

The mobile industry is currently laying the groundwork for the transition to fifth generation (5G) technology. Building on the achievements of 4G, future 5G networks will help the mobile industry capture the huge opportunity presented by the Internet of Things (IoT), usher in an era of even faster mobile broadband and pave the way for ultra-reliable, ultra-low latency services, which may include exciting technologies such as tactile internet, augmented reality and driverless cars.

As operators begin to launch 5G networks, there is a need for close collaboration between industry, policymakers and regulators to deliver on the promise of this next-generation technology.

The GSMA is playing its part via its Future Networks programme. It provides guidance on key innovations such as network slicing in 5G, while also working to boost population coverage of high-speed broadband and reduce the capital intensity required for the rollout of 5G technology. The programme’s work on infrastructure sharing and improvements to radio networks, for example, has already helped to identify a potential four per cent reduction in the capital intensity requirements for 5G. These reductions will be vital in helping the industry achieve its target of making 5G available to a third of the world’s population by 2025.

Governments and regulators also have a crucial role to play. By adopting national policy measures that encourage long-term, heavy investments in 5G networks and by making sure sufficient harmonised spectrum is made available for 5G services, they can ensure future 5G infrastructure delivers significant benefits for their citizens. The decisions being made now will have long lasting impacts for the future and the technology’s ultimate success will depend on governments and regulators prioritising its rollout.

In tandem with their exploration of 5G technologies, network operators are also continuing to upgrade their existing networks and transition to all-IP based services. This is important, not just to ensure consumers and business can gain the maximum benefit from today’s advanced services, but also because IP-based networks and services will ultimately act as the launch pad for 5G services.

5G: reaping the benefits

Background

Mobile telecommunications have had a phenomenal and transformational impact on society. From the earliest days of first-generation analogue phones, every subsequent generational leap has brought huge benefits to societies around the world and propelled the digitisation of more and more segments of the global economy. The mobile industry is now transitioning to 5G technology, building on the achievements of 4G while also creating new opportunities for innovation.

Industry, research, academic and government groups around the world are working to define the technology for 5G. 3GPP are completing their Release-17 definition of 5G and starting to work on Release-18, 5G-Advanced. One of the key objectives is a more sustainable mobile and technology sector, and because 5G will drive significant investments in energy, the mobile industry is moving to boost network efficiency as part of Release-18. This includes sleep modes for base stations when they are not transmitting, power amplifier improvements and the use of AI and machine learning to enhance data collection and internode communication to optimise energy savings. Other Release-18 goals include enhancing the performance and efficiency of 5G Massive MIMO; improving mobility for devices operating in sub-7GHz and mmWave frequencies; expanding the capability of integrated access and backhaul on cars and trains; and using smart repeaters that amplify signal but not noise.

2021 marked the first large-scale commercial launches of 5G, a mixed deployment of optimised 4G networks (5G Non-Standalone or NSA) and new 5G networks (5G Standalone or SA). By 2025, 5G could account for more than a billion connections and 5G networks are likely to cover a third of the world’s population. The impact on the mobile industry and its customers will be profound.

5G is more than a new generation of technologies. It will also usher in an era in which connectivity is more fluid and flexible, with 5G networks adapting to applications and performance tailored precisely to the needs of users.

The key focus areas for 5G development and innovation include:

Internet of Things: 5G is needed to capture the huge opportunity presented by IoT. Conservative estimates suggest that by 2025, there will be twice as many IoT devices as personal communication devices. As the ecosystem grows, the mobile industry will be expected to support bespoke services across industry verticals and develop next-generation services not possible with 4G networks.

Mobile broadband: With every generational leap in mobile technology, there is a natural progression to faster and higher capacity broadband. Mobile broadband services using 5G technology will need to meet and exceed customers’ expectations of faster and more reliable access.

Ultra-reliable, ultra-low latency services: Superior speed, high reliability and low latency will allow 5G to nurture new services that cannot be supported on existing 4G networks. Some of the services being considered include tactile internet, virtual/augmented reality, autonomous vehicles and factory automation.

Private networks. Private 5G networks allow private and public sector enterprises to bring a bespoke experience to indoor or outdoor facilities where high-speed, high-capacity or low-latency connectivity is crucial. They also address the need for dedicated bandwidth capacity and range, specialised security policies, high-quality connections and consistent, always-on service to help reduce downtime.

The GSMA aims to play a significant role in shaping the strategic, commercial and regulatory development of the 5G ecosystem, including the identification and alignment of suitable spectrum bands. Working closely with the mobile operators pioneering 5G, the GSMA is also engaging with governments and vertical industries (such as the automotive, financial services, health care, transport and utilities sectors) to develop business cases for 5G.

Public Policy Considerations

The GSMA views 5G as a set of requirements for future mobile networks that could dramatically improve the delivery of mobile services and support a variety of new applications. The mobile industry, academic institutions and national governments are all actively investigating what technologies could be used in 5G networks and the types of applications these could and should support. The speed and reach of 5G services will depend heavily on access to the right amount and type of spectrum.

Additional spectrum will be required for 5G services, especially in very high frequency bands, to support significantly faster data speeds and enhanced capabilities. However, progressive refarming of existing mobile bands should also be encouraged to support wider area 5G services. Governments and regulators can enable refarming and encourage heavy investment in 5G networks by supporting long-term, technology-neutral mobile spectrum licences with clear renewal procedures.

Three key frequency ranges are needed for 5G to deliver widespread coverage and support all use cases: sub-1 GHz, 1–6 GHz and above 6 GHz. Higher frequencies (mmWave), especially above 24 GHz, will be needed to support superfast speeds in hotspots. Lower frequencies will be needed to support wider area broadband access and IoT services. Exclusive licensing remains the principal and preferred regime for managing mobile broadband spectrum to guarantee quality of service and network investment. However, the licensing regime in higher frequency bands, such as above 6 GHz, could be more varied than in previous mobile technology generations to suit more flexible sharing arrangements.

Resources

GSMA 5G website
GSMA blog: Five things to know about 5G
GSMA Report: The 5G era: Age of boundless connectivity and intelligent automation
GSMA Report: 5G in China: Outlook and Regional Perspectives
GSMA Report: Smart 5G Networks: Enabled by Network Slicing and Tailored to Customers’ Needs
GSMA Public Policy Position: 5G Spectrum

IP Communication Services

Background

IP communication is increasingly recognised as a natural evolution of core mobile services and, therefore, a basic requirement of doing business in the future. The IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) has become the preferred technical approach to transferring core mobile operator services to an all-IP environment because of its flexibility, cost-effectiveness and support for IP services over any access medium. With 670 mobile operators having launched Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks, and LTE coverage currently reaching nearly 80 per cent of the world’s population, the industry is now in a realistic position to make a global, interconnected IP communications network a reality.

IP communications is comprised of Voice over LTE (VoLTE), Video over LTE (ViLTE), Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) and Rich Communication Services (RCS):

  • VoLTE: This offers a path from circuit-switched 2G and 3G voice services to all-IP packet-switched voice and includes a range of enhanced features for customers, such as high-definition audio quality and shorter call connection times. As of 2022, 233 mobile operators offered VoLTE services commercially in 106 countries.
  • ViLTE: This enables operators to deploy a commercially viable, carrier-grade, person-to-person video calling service. Like VoLTE, it is based on IMS technology. As of 2022, there were 16 ViLTE services commercially available in 15 countries.
  • VoWiFi: This allows operators to offer voice calling over Wi-Fi, providing many of the same benefits of VoLTE. As of 2022, there were 95 VoWiFi services commercially available in 51 countries.
  • RCS: RCS marks the transition from messaging with circuit-switched technology to an all-IP world, using the same IMS capabilities as VoLTE and ViLTE. It incorporates messaging, video sharing and file sharing, enriching the communication experience of consumers.

The GSMA is working with leading mobile operators and equipment vendors to accelerate the launch of IP-based services around the world. This involves developing specifications, assisting operators with technical and commercial preparations for service launches and resolving technical and logistical barriers to interconnect.

Public Policy Considerations

To support the exponential growth in IP traffic, large-scale investments in network capacity will be necessary. Financing these investments will depend on predictable and stable regulatory environments in which operator-led communications can be closely aligned with regulatory requirements for mobile telecommunications, and mobile operators will have systems in place to ensure compliance.

Open standards. The GSMA is responsible for the industry specifications that many stakeholders use, including for eSIM, VoLTE, ViLTE, VoWiFi and RCS. In November 2019, the GSMA revised their procedures for the development and maintenance of industry specifications to reflect industry best practice and incorporate stronger measures for balance, openness and transparency in standard setting.

Interconnect. VoLTE, ViLTE, VoWiFi and RCS support the interconnection of these services between customers on different mobile networks. With voice, they also support interconnection with customers on fixed networks.

Lawful intercept. Mobile operators are subject to a range of laws and licence conditions that require them to intercept customer communications (and sometimes retain certain data, such as the time and content of the communication and the location, numbers or IP addresses of the participants) for disclosure to law enforcement agencies upon request. Specifications for IP communications are being developed to support the capabilities needed to meet these lawful interception obligations.

Resources

GSMA Report: Building the Case for an IP-Communications Future

GSMA All-IP Business Guide

Greenwich Consulting Report: The Value of Reach in an IP World

GSMA Report: AA.35: Procedures for the Development of Industry Specifications

Voice over Long Term Evolution

Background

Consumers expect seamless, carrier-grade voice services from mobile operators, regardless of the technology. Since the introduction of digital mobile technologies in the early 1990s, carrier-grade public mobile voice services have been delivered using the circuit-switched capabilities of 2G and 3G networks.

To keep pace with growing demand, mobile operators are upgrading their networks using a fourth-generation IP-based technology called Long-Term Evolution, or LTE. LTE networks support VoLTE, a new carrier-grade voice capability that supports the transition from circuit-switched 2G and 3G voice services. VoLTE includes a range of enhanced features for customers, such as high-definition audio quality and shorter call connection times.

Some operators now have LTE networks that offer full national coverage and use VoLTE for voice calls while others still have only partial LTE network coverage. In most markets, full LTE coverage will take several years, requiring partial reliance on legacy voice services. For voice services, the transition is facilitated by the fact that VoLTE has been designed to support the seamless handover of calls to and from 2G and 3G networks.

As the industry starts to roll out 5G, communication services over 5G will become critical. In 2021, the GSMA published new and updated specifications to support 5G-based communications services and the application of VoLTE to Voice over New Radio (VoNR) for 5G.

VoLTE has several characteristics that distinguish it from internet-based voice services. These include carrier-grade call quality and reliability, support for emergency calls and universal interconnection with other carrier-operated voice services, which means customers can make calls to, or receive calls from, any phone number in the world. By contrast, most internet-based voice services are not managed for service quality and may be restricted to closed user groups.

In some jurisdictions, interconnection of carrier-grade mobile voice services is unregulated and carried out pursuant to various commercial agreements. In others, regulated mobile call termination rates apply. These rates typically use a time-based charging mechanism and levels are set using different cost-oriented methodologies.

Public Policy Considerations

Since VoLTE is an evolution of carrier-grade mobile voice services historically provided by circuit-switched 2G and 3G networks, regulators should not apply additional or specific regulations to VoLTE services.

In markets where mobile voice call termination is subject to regulatory control, the same approach should be adopted for VoLTE with a single rate applied for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE voice call termination.

Resources

GSMA Networks Group Website

EEWorld Online: VoLTE — What Makes Voice Over IP “Carrier-grade”?

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is set to have a huge impact on our daily lives, helping us to reduce traffic congestion, improve care for the elderly, create smarter homes and offices, increase manufacturing efficiency and more.

IoT involves connecting devices to the internet across multiple networks to allow them to communicate with us, applications and each other. It will add intelligence to devices we use every day and, in turn, have positive impacts on the economy and broader society.

We are poised to see rapid growth in IoT. According to GSMA Intelligence, the number of licensed cellular IoT connections is expected to exceed three billion by 2025. However, this will still represent only a small portion of the overall market, as the total number of IoT devices will have grown to 25.2 billion by 2025.

The GSMA is encouraging the development of the nascent IoT ecosystem by defining industry standards, promoting interoperability and encouraging governments to create a supportive environment that will speed the growth of IoT globally.

Advanced Air Mobility

Background

The development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, has advanced at a rapid pace in recent years. Military use was the early focus of these developments, but the potential for drones to be used in a civilian context for innovative new and existing services is now widely recognised.

Use cases range from filming for news reporting and entertainment to inspecting key infrastructure, such as power plants, roads, buildings, cell towers and power lines. In agriculture, drones are already being used to produce timely crop surveys to boost yields.

The rapid development of this market means regulators are struggling to keep pace. However, regulatory efforts are focused on creating frameworks that will allow the sector to develop and innovate while also limiting risks related to safety, privacy and data protection. The fact that drones fly across borders adds another layer of complexity.
Mobile operators are a key enabler for drones and will help to unlock their potential. By providing the connection between drones and their control centres, operators ensure reliable communication with the drone on its flight path and support the transfer of data.

Polblic policy considerations

New regulatory frameworks for drones should ensure that they can, where required, be equipped with SIM cards and a communications modem to allow the drone ecosystem to benefit from mobile connectivity. This would have many benefits for the drone industry:

  • Mobile networks provide a global, interoperable and scalable platform that allows the drone market to develop and benefit from the existing mobile ecosystem.
  • Many mobile operators already run 4G LTE networks, which meet extremely high-bandwidth and low-latency requirements while also offering huge scalability and exceptional quality of service.
  • The mobile industry already works with IoT partners throughout the value chain to embed privacy and security in IoT technologies. These collaborations allow the drone market to benefit from initiatives such as the GSMA Security Guidelines and Privacy by Design Toolkit.

By providing secure, high-quality connectivity with control centres, mobile connectivity can also help ensure that drones are controlled and operated safely. This has several potential benefits for the drone ecosystem:

  • Mobile connectivity could become part of unmanned traffic management solutions and enable no-fly zones.
  • A mobile-based solution could be an effective way to enable drone identification and authorisation services since identity verification and management are already key components of mobile services.
  • Mobile connectivity could assist law enforcement by enabling the identification and tracking of drones.
  • The mobile industry has a strong track record of implementing privacy and data protection measures.

To ensure licensed mobile spectrum is available for drone connectivity, there needs to be cooperation between the regulatory authorities responsible for spectrum and the regulators responsible for drones. By working together, they could remove barriers to the use of existing licensed mobile spectrum for drone connectivity.

Resources

GSMA Internet of Things – Advanced Air Mobility Website

Connected Vehicles

Background

The automotive world is about to undergo the single greatest revolution in its history. Autonomous vehicles and intelligent transport systems (ITS) are set to transform the efficiency, comfort, safety and environmental impact of road transport.

The first fully autonomous-capable cars have been launched and, according to data from Machina Research, the number of factory-fit connected vehicles worldwide is expected to reach 366 million by 2025. In Europe, regulation requires that, as of March 2018, all new models must support eCall. In the event of an accident, an eCall-equipped vehicle automatically calls the nearest emergency centre and sends the exact location of the crash site, allowing rapid response by emergency services.

The GSMA is actively engaging with vehicle manufacturers, mobile operators, SIM vendors, module makers and the wider Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS) ecosystem to facilitate the development of current and future connected vehicle solutions.

The primary platform for these activities is the Connected Vehicle Forum. Established by the GSMA, the Forum promotes dialogue among all stakeholders in the automotive and C-ITS ecosystem and seeks innovative ways for these sectors to leverage mobile technology.

One example is the GSMA Embedded SIM Specification, which provides a single mechanism for the remote provisioning and management of M2M connections, allowing “over-the-air” provisioning of an initial operator subscription, as well as subscription changes from one operator to another.

Mobile technology is also set to play a vital role in ITS by providing Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) services. Standardised by 3GPP, C-V2X supports connectivity between devices (whether in vehicles, roadside infrastructure or mobile devices) as well as between devices and networks. C-V2X is being developed within the traditional mobile ecosystem and offers all the advantages and capabilities of traditional cellular networks: security, privacy, interoperability and an innovation-oriented, future-proofed ecosystem (5G technology). The 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), whose 60 members include the main vehicle manufacturers, support C-V2X.

Public Policy Considerations

Connected vehicle and intelligent transport apps have the potential to bring substantial benefits to consumers, including making travel safer, reducing congestion and providing real-time information to passengers.

Connected vehicle apps and services have several distinct features: they need to operate globally, support long device life, integrate with local intelligent transport solutions and comply with local security, data protection, privacy and emergency regulations. Policymakers and regulators must appreciate and understand these differences if they are to implement policies that allow global business models to develop, and to ensure that rules apply consistently to all players in the value chain.

As ever more cars become connected, spectrum policy related to intelligent transport systems will become increasingly important. In many countries around the world, regulators have set aside a portion of spectrum for ITS, typically in the 5.9 GHz band. This generally includes a dedicated portion for safety-related communications between vehicles, infrastructure and people.

Regulators should adopt a technology-neutral approach to this spectrum rather than mandating or favouring one approach. It is equally important that technology-neutral spectrum licences are adopted, as this will allow existing mobile bands to be refarmed for 5G and enable lower latency connectivity and improved emergency response times.

Spectrum in the 3.4–3.8 GHz range should not be set aside for safety-based vehicle-to-vehicle communications, as this spectrum is critical for future commercial 5G services in many countries. This highlights the need for regulators to work with the mobile industry to support connected vehicles in future spectrum planning. For example, it is essential that sufficient spectrum below 6 GHz is made available as this spectrum travels further and is better suited to the wide-area connectivity required by connected cars.

Resources

GSMA Report: Safer and Smarter Driving — The Rollout of Cellular V2X Services in Europe
GSMA Report: Cellular Vehicle-To-Everything (C-V2X) — Enabling Intelligent Transport
GSMA Report: Automotive IoT Security: Countering the Most Common Forms of Attack
GSMA Report: Mobilizing Intelligent Transportation Systems
GSMA Transforming the Connected Car Market website
GSMA Case Study: EE Brings Safer Driving to the UK’s Roads

Privacy and Data Protection for IoT

Background

The IoT offer significant opportunities and potential for data-driven innovation to achieve economic, social and public policy objectives and improve our daily lives. It enables new apps and services that can empower consumers to monitor their health, manage their energy consumption and benefit from smart home and city solutions. This can lead to many positive outcomes, such as lower pollution levels and healthier lifestyles.
Many IoT services will be designed to create, collect or share data, some of which will not be considered personal, such as data about the physical state of machines or weather conditions. However, some IoT services aimed at consumers are likely to involve generating, distributing and using detailed personal data. For example, a smart home appliance may use data about a person’s eating or exercise habits to draw inferences about their health, or develop a profile based on their shopping habits to offer them personalised discounts.
These types of IoT services and devices could have an impact on people’s privacy and may be subject to general data protection and privacy laws. Where IoT services are provided by mobile operators, they will also be subject to telecommunications-specific privacy and security rules. Nevertheless, as consumer IoT services gain in popularity, more consumer data will be created, analysed in real time and shared between multiple parties across national borders. Therefore, companies throughout the IoT ecosystem have a responsibility to ensure personal privacy is respected and to build consumer trust.

Public Policy Considerations

To realise the opportunities that IoT offers, it is important for consumers to trust the companies that are delivering IoT services and collecting the data generated by them. The mobile industry’s view is that consumer confidence and trust can only be fully achieved when users feel their privacy is appropriately respected and protected.

There are already well-established data protection and privacy laws around the world. Where these data protection regulations and principles exist, they can also be applied to address privacy needs in the context of IoT services and technologies. It is vital that governments apply these frameworks in ways that promote self-regulation and encourage the adoption of risk management-based approaches to privacy and data protection.

Most importantly, protections should be practical, proportionate and designed into IoT services (“Privacy by Design”) to encourage business practices that provide transparency, choice and control for individuals.

IoT services are typically global in nature and a mobile operator is often only one of many parties in a delivery chain that may include a host of others, such as device manufacturers, search engines, online platforms and even the public sector. Therefore, it is key that privacy and data protection regulations apply consistently across all IoT providers in a service- and technology-neutral manner. This will help ensure a level playing field for all industry players so they can focus on building trust and confidence for end users.

Resources

GSMA Report: The Impact of the Internet of Things

GSMA Report: Safety, Privacy and Security Across the Mobile Ecosystem

GSMA Report: Privacy Design Guidelines for Mobile Application Development

GSMA News: U.S. Senate Subcommittee: Respect for Privacy Vital for Growth of the IoT

Smart Cities and IoT

Background

The world’s population is increasingly concentrated in cities, with more than half now living in urban areas, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). This trend is set to continue, as the WHO forecasts that the global urban population will grow approximately 1.63 per cent per year between 2020 and 2025, and 1.44 per cent per year between 2025 and 2030. This will put additional stress on city infrastructure and services through increased congestion, pollution and higher costs of living. The infrastructure of today’s cities is typically not designed to deal with increasingly dense populations, which makes it very difficult for cities in most parts of the world to cope.

National and local governments are increasingly interested in “smart cities” and using mobile communications technology and IoT to solve many of the challenges cities face today. For example, smart city technology can tackle traffic congestion, improve public transport infrastructure, create safer streets with better lighting and add intelligence to utilities infrastructure via smart meters and smart grid solutions. It also opens new commercial and investment opportunities for cities.

Mobile operators are at the heart of this change, offering solutions based on mobile IoT networks designed specifically to meet these goals. By supporting low-cost, connected devices with long battery life that can be rolled out on a massive scale, mobile operators can serve the next generation of cities with solutions that make it easier to add connectivity and control to critical infrastructure.

Public Policy Considerations

Policymakers and regulators looking to foster an environment that encourages investment in smart cities should:

  • Adopt an agile institutional framework and governance mechanisms. A smart city needs an institutional framework that ensures coordination and support throughout the life of a project. The smart city agency will need to be agile and, ideally, independent from traditional city departments. It should, however, be accountable to a governance body represented by city institutions.
  • Appoint a chief information officer (CIO) or smart city director with strategic vision. A strong vision and strategy are key to the success of smart city projects. A CIO or smart city director should be a project leader with cross-functional skills and capable of defining a long-term strategy.
  • Communicate the objectives and benefits of smart city projects effectively. Establishing dialogue with the local community is essential to the design and functionality of smart city services. Digital media can help to involve citizens at each step and highlight the tangible benefits a smart city project will deliver.
  • Promote technological investment in open and scalable systems. A smart city should avoid relying on proprietary technologies tied to a single provider. Standards-based solutions are essential to the long-term evolution of a smart city.
  • Comply with best practices in privacy and security rather than defining new service-specific rules. To safeguard privacy and security, smart cities need to draw on industry best practice and comply with national laws. Local city managers should resist the temptation to define their own data privacy and security standards for the services they launch and adopt.
  • Make city data available to promote transparency and stimulate innovation. While protecting individual privacy, city managers should seek to make data accessible to promote transparency and stimulate the creation of innovative services. Some cities already have portals that make data available in accessible formats.
  • Explore new funding models. Smart city projects require significant initial investment. Smart city managers should explore public-private partnerships or alternative finance mechanisms, such as municipal bonds, development banks or vendor finance. IoT technologies and smart city apps can generate substantial socio-economic benefits for citizens and businesses. Policymakers should make the most of this opportunity by designing and implementing smart city projects with a long-term vision defined around citizens’ needs, and which are managed through agile governance structures, based on open and scalable systems and promote a culture of openness, innovation and transparency.

Resources

GSMA Smart Cities website

GSMA Report: Maximising the Smart Cities Opportunity: Recommendations for Asia-Pacific Policymakers

GSMA Report: Keys to the Smart City

GSMA Video Case Study: Smart City Tainan

Identity

Digital content, services and interactions have become a part of daily life for billions of people, driven by growing access to broadband and increasingly affordable mobile devices. The use of data and user authentication are requisite elements of being online, making it increasingly important that users have a digital identity to securely authenticate themselves and carry out tasks, such as accessing their accounts and subscriptions or making purchases.

The digital economy is predicated on trust, and interactions, whether social, commercial, financial or intellectual, require a proportionate level of trust in the other party or parties involved. Today, consumers are seeking easy access to digital services that also protect their privacy. Online service providers must therefore reduce friction in digital transactions while maintaining a seamless and secure user experience. Increasingly, governments are regulating and demanding that digital identity solutions use global standards to ensure interoperability, privacy, scale and cost-effectiveness.

To this end, the mobile industry is developing a consistent and standardised set of services for managing digital identity. The unique advantages of mobile operators, such as SIM cards, registration processes, contextual network information and fraud mitigation processes, give them the ability to provide strong customer authentication and interoperable, federated identity management solutions to enable consumers, businesses and governments to interact in a private and secure environment.

The GSMA is working with mobile operators, other mobile ecosystem players, as well as governments, banks and retailers, to help roll out mobile identity solutions. The GSMA is also working with industry standardisation bodies, such as the Open ID Foundation, to ensure support and interoperability for global standards.

Together, mobile operators are bringing mobile identity solutions to market that can reach tremendous scale. By using consistent, easy-to-access technologies across the digital identity ecosystem, these solutions can provide a consumer experience that is scalable, safe and secure, and puts users in control of their data and personal information.

There are many advantages to mobile operators providing a digital identity service:

  • Flexibility to innovate: flexibility to provide multiple authentication factors and the ability to add consumer functionality, such as “add to bill” or “click to call”.
  • The mobile device: ubiquitous, personal and portable; sensitive to location; and capable of being disabled and locked.
  • The SIM card: strong, real-time authentication; encryption for storing certificates and other secure information.
  • KYC standards: strong registration and fraud detection processes.
  • Robust regulatory requirements: established systems to handle personal data safely.
  • Customer service: sophisticated customer care processes and billing relationships.
  • Verified subscriber data: ready-for-mobile identity.
  • The network: secure by design, a mobile network can disable a device’s SIM card and flag the device as lost or stolen in a global database.
  • Business processes: ensures that the user has a way to report events, such as lost/stolen devices or an account compromise/takeover.

Mobile Connect

Background

Mobile Connect is a secure digital identity framework developed by the GSMA in cooperation with leading mobile operators. Simply by matching the user to their mobile phone, Mobile Connect allows them to log in to websites and apps quickly without the need to remember passwords and usernames. It is safe and secure and no personal information is shared without permission.

The key benefits of Mobile Connect include:

  • Ease of use: passwords are not required since the mobile phone itself is used for authentication.
  • Secure and strong customer authentication: user experience is improved as there are no passwords to steal.
  • Secure and trustworthy digital transactions: security and trust are built into the transaction since it confirms the user’s location, identity and usage.
  • Privacy protection: the operator confirms the user’s credentials and the user gives consent to share this information.

To date, 60 mobile operators have deployed Mobile Connect in 30 countries, making it available to nearly three billion customers.

In keeping with the priorities of many governments, Mobile Connect solutions focus on privacy and preserving citizens’ trust. For example, in line with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Mobile Connect adopts the principle of Privacy by Design, as it seeks to ensure that an individual’s identity attributes are used by digital services in a secure way that respects and protects their privacy.

Public Policy Considerations

Mobile identity services inevitably involve multiple devices, platforms and organisations that are subject to different technical, privacy and security standards. Increasingly, governments are using mobile technology to deliver identity services in their digital plans, thereby accelerating inclusion and closing the digital divide. However, for mobile identity solutions such as Mobile Connect to achieve widespread adoption and have the greatest impact on the economy, several public policy issues must be addressed:

  • Identifying and assessing existing legal, regulatory and policy challenges and barriers that affect the development of mobile identity services.
  • Applying best practices and advances in technology to foster the deployment of widescale mobile identity services and transactions.
  • Engaging with mobile operators and the wider digital identity ecosystem to facilitate greater collaboration between the public and private sectors and encourage interoperability and innovation.

Governments and regulators should create a digital identity plan that acknowledges the central role of mobile in the digital identity ecosystem. The mobile industry is committed to working with governments and other stakeholders to establish trust, security and convenience in the digital economy.

The mobile industry has a proven track record of delivering secure networks and developing enhanced security mechanisms to meet the needs of other industry and market sectors. The implementation and evolution of these security mechanisms is a continuous process. The mobile industry is not complacent when it comes to security issues, and the GSMA works closely with the standards development community to enhance the security features used to protect mobile networks and their customers.

Via Mobile Connect, the mobile industry offers an identity and authentication experience that is aligned with best practice in the private sector, but uses mobile technology to leapfrog legacy infrastructure and economic barriers to deliver secure digital transactions.

Resources

Mobile Connect website
GSMA Identity website
GSMA Report: eIDAS Pilot
Mobile Connect Privacy Principles
Mobile Connect: High Security Authentication
GSMA Report: Mobile Identity — A Regulatory Overview
GSMA, World Bank & SIA White Paper: Digital Identity — Towards Shared Principles for Public and Private Sector Cooperation

AI for Impact

Mobile big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are emerging as powerful forces for change in business and society, and the potential of these technologies to unlock life-changing benefits is only beginning to be seen. When grounded in ethical principles that protect privacy, these solutions can truly change the world for the better.

The mobile industry is harnessing big data to work with governments and global agencies to tackle some of the greatest challenges of our time: humanitarian crises, infectious disease, natural disasters and climate change. Protecting privacy is at the core of big data developments, and the mobile industry is committed to the responsible use of data and protection of privacy. By aggregating and anonymising the data collected by their networks, mobile operators can provide insights into human movement patterns without compromising individuals’ privacy. When this data is enriched with third-party data sources, it can enable the public sector to make evidence-based decisions on when, where and how to deploy resources.

Climate Action

Climate Action

The mobile industry recognises the urgency of tackling the global crisis we are facing, that is why we are taking action to mitigate our impacts and to combat climate change, as part of the solution.

The impact of COVID-19 has shown us how vital our digital infrastructure and connectivity has become to working, socialising, accessing medical care, learning, and many other aspects of our lives. The mobile sector stands ready to help societies move towards lower carbon ways of living to transition to a net zero carbon economy. This requires a common vision, but also the consideration of a diverse range of markets and the steps needed to build the investment incentives, infrastructure and policy frameworks to reach a net zero carbon economy.

In 2019 the GSMA, with the support of its Board members, launched an industry wide Climate Action initiative and made a milestone commitment – to transform the mobile industry to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, at the latest.

  • The mobile sector has worked collaboratively to create an industry-wide climate action roadmap to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.
  • 80% of the global mobile industry by revenue is now disclosing their climate impacts, energy and GHG emissions via the internationally recognised CDP global disclosure system.
  • 65% of the industry by revenue has committed to Science-Based Targets to cut their carbon emissions rapidly over the next decade
  • The mobile sector has been recognised by the UN Race To Zero as a Breakthrough industry

The GSMA is providing support and guidance for operators to commit to and set targets aligned with the new net zero pathway. In addition, while the mobile industry is taking big steps to reduce its emissions, it is having an even larger effect supporting other sectors to reduce their emissions. This is through efficiencies created by the use of smart connected machine-to-machine technologies and behaviour change.  Research conducted by the GSMA with the Carbon Trust in 2019 found that, while the mobile industry is currently responsible for around 0.4 per cent of carbon emissions globally, it enables carbon reductions in other sectors that are 10 times larger, equivalent to approximately four per cent of global emissions