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 — The Path to the Next Generation


Mobile telecommunication has had a phenomenal and transformational impact on society. Starting 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 ongoing digitisation of more and more segments of the global economy. The mobile industry is now preparing to embark on the transition to fifth generation (5G) technology, which will build on the achievements of 4G while also creating new opportunities for innovation.

A range of industry, research, academic and government groups across the globe are working to define the technology for 5G. The next generation mobile technology will need to provide higher throughput, lower latency and higher spectrum efficiency.

Between now and 2020, the year when 5G is expected to become commercially available, the mobile industry will continue to take steps towards achieving these goals by evolving existing 4G networks. Despite these enhancements to 4G, there is still a need for 5G to meet the demands of future services and platforms. By 2025, 5G could account for over one billion connections and 5G networks are likely to cover one third of the world’s population. The impact on the mobile industry and its customers will be profound.

But 5G is more than a new generation of technologies: it will usher in a new era in which connectivity will become increasingly fluid and flexible, as 5G networks will adapt to applications and performance will be tailored precisely to the needs of the user.

Currently, there are three key areas of focus for 5G development and innovation:

Internet of Things (IoT). There is a need for 5G to capture the huge opportunity presented by IoT. Conservative estimates suggest that by 2025 the number of IoT devices will be more than double the number of 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 that are not achievable with 4G networks.

Mobile broadband. With each 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, very high reliability and reduced latency will see 5G nurture new services that cannot be supported on existing 4G networks. Some of the services being considered include tactile internet, virtual/augmented reality, driverless cars and factory automation.

The GSMA aims to play a significant role in helping to shape the strategic, commercial and regulatory development of the 5G ecosystem, including areas such as 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, healthcare, transport and utilities sectors) to develop business cases for 5G.

Public Policy Considerations

The GSMA regards 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 The GSMA regards 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 currently 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 be heavily dependent on access to the right amount and type of spectrum.

Additional new spectrum will be required for 5G services, especially in very high frequency bands, in order to support significantly faster data speeds and deliver 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.

The GSMA believes that 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 — especially above 24 GHz — will be needed to support superfast speeds in hotspots. Governments will need to support these new higher frequency mobile bands at the World Radiocommunication Conference taking place from October to November 2019. 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 in order 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.


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


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 emerged as the preferred technical means for 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 network operators having launched Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, and LTE coverage currently reaching just under 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 WiFi (VoWiFi) and Rich Communication Services (RCS).

  • VoLTE. This offers an evolutionary 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 July 2018, 145 operators offer voice over LTE services commercially in 69 countries.
  • ViLTE. This enables operators to deploy a commercially viable, carrier-grade, person-to-person video-calling service. Like VoLTE, it is based on IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology.
  • VoWiFi. This allows operators to offer voice calling over WiFi, providing many of the same benefits of VoLTE. As of July 2018, there were 61 VoWiFi services commercially available in 35 countries.
  • RCS. This marks the transition of messaging from circuit-switched technology to an all-IP world, leveraging the same IMS capabilities as VoLTE and ViLTE. RCS incorporates messaging, video sharing and file sharing, enriching the communication experience of consumers. As of July 2018, RCS was being offered by 55 mobile operators in 34 countries.

Public Policy Considerations

To support the exponential growth in IP traffic, large-scale investments in network capacity are required. Financing such investments depends on predictability and the existence of a stable regulatory environment. Where such an environment exists, future communications capabilities that are operator-led can be well aligned with the regulatory requirements related to mobile telecommunications, and mobile network operators have the systems in place to ensure compliance.

Open standards. VoLTE, ViLTE, VoWiFi and RCS are currently specified, through a process of industry collaboration, as industry standards for IP-based calling, messaging, file and video-sharing services, based on IMS technology.

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

Lawful intercept. Mobile network operators are subject to a range of laws and licence conditions that require them to be capable of intercepting customer communications (and sometimes also retaining certain data, such as the time and content of the communication, as well as the location, numbers or IP addresses of the participants) for disclosure to law enforcement agencies upon request. The specifications for IP communications are being developed so they support the capabilities needed to meet lawful interception obligations.


GSMA Report: Building the Case for an IP-Communications Future GSMA All-IP Business Guide website
Greenwich Consulting Report: The Value of Reach in an IP World


Voice over Long Term Evolution


Consumers expect seamless carrier-grade voice services from mobile operators, irrespective of the type of technology used.

Since the introduction of digital mobile technologies in the early 1990s, carrier-grade public mobile voice services have been delivered via the circuit-switched capabilities of 2G and 3G networks.

To keep pace with growing demand, mobile operators are now upgrading their networks using a fourth-generation IP-based technology called Long Term Evolution (LTE). LTE networks support a new carrier-grade voice capability called Voice over LTE (VoLTE) that offers an evolutionary path 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 are using VoLTE for voice calls. Other operators still only have partial LTE network coverage.

In most markets, achieving full LTE coverage will take a number of years, thus 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.

VoLTE has a number of 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 across the globe. By contrast, the majority of 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 a range of different commercial agreements. In other jurisdictions, regulated mobile call termination rates apply. These rates typically use a time-based charging mechanism and their levels are set using a number of different cost-oriented methodologies.

Public Policy Considerations

Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) is a carrier-grade mobile voice service, making it distinct from other internet-based voice services.

Carrier-grade mobile voice services have a number of specific characteristics. For example, the use of mobile phone numbers from national numbering schemes means that customers can make calls to, or receive calls from, any other phone number in the world. Carrier-grade mobile voice services also use dedicated network capabilities (technically known as bearers) to assure end-to-end service quality and reliability.

VoLTE is an evolution of carrier-grade mobile voice services that have historically been provided using the circuit-switched assets of 2G and 3G networks. As such, 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 across 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE voice call termination.


GSMA Future Networks — Voice over LTE website
ECN Magazine: VoLTE — What makes voice over IP ‘carrier-grade’?

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) 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 that we make use of on a daily basis and in turn deliver positive impacts to both the economy and broader society.

We are set to see rapid growth in IoT over the coming years. According to GSMA Intelligence, the number of cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) connections is expected to have reached just under one billion by 2020. However, this will still represent a small portion of the overall market, as Machina Research predicts that the total number of IoT devices will have grown to 22.6 billion by 2020.

The GSMA, through its IoT programme, is encouraging the development of the nascent IoT ecosystem by working to define industry standards, promote interoperability and encourage governments to create a supportive environment that will speed the growth of IoT globally.

Connected Drones (UAVs)


The development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly called 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 within a civilian context for innovation in both 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 help boost yields.

The rapid development of this market means regulators are struggling to keep pace. However, regulatory efforts are now focused on the creation of frameworks that will allow the sector to continue to develop and innovate, but at the same time limit risks related to safety, privacy and data protection. The fact that drones fly across borders adds an additional layer of complexity to these efforts.

Mobile operators are a key enabler for drones, helping to unlock their potential. By providing the connection between drones and their control centres they ensure reliable communication with the drone on its flight path and support the transfer of data between the drone and its control centre.


GSMA Internet of Things - Drones Website

Public Policy Considerations

New regulatory frameworks for drones should ensure that they can, where required, be equipped with SIM cards and a communications modem so the drone ecosystem can benefit from mobile connectivity.

This would deliver many benefits to 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 very high-bandwidth, low-latency requirements, while at the same time offering huge scalability and exceptional quality of service.
  • The mobile industry already works collaboratively with Internet of Things (IoT) partners throughout the value chain to embed privacy and security into IoT technologies. As a result, the drone market can benefit from existing initiatives such as the GSMA’s Security Guidelines and Privacy by Design Toolkit.

Mobile connectivity can help establish the controlled and safe operation of drones by ensuring secure, high-quality connectivity between drones and their control centres. This connectivity delivers a number of capabilities that can benefit the drone ecosystem:

Mobile connectivity can form 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, as identity verification and management is already a key component of mobile services.
  • Mobile connectivity can assist law enforcement by enabling identification and tracking of drones.
  • The mobile industry has a strong track record of implementing privacy and data protection measures.

In order to ensure existing licensed mobile spectrum is available for drone connectivity, regulatory authorities responsible for spectrum and regulators responsible for drones need to cooperate to remove barriers that could hinder the use of existing licensed mobile spectrum for drone connectivity.

Connected Vehicles


The automotive world is about to undergo the single greatest revolution since its inception. 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, eCall regulation means that, as of March 2018, all new models must now 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 for a rapid response by emergency services.

Through its IoT programme, the GSMA is actively engaging with vehicle manufacturers, mobile network 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, it promotes dialogue across all stakeholders in the automotive and C-ITS ecosystem and looks to find innovative ways mobile technology can be leveraged by these sectors.

One example of this is remote provisioning of the GSMA’s Embedded SIM Specification. This provides a single mechanism for the remote provisioning and management of machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, allowing ‘over-the-air’ provisioning of an initial operator subscription, as well as subsequent changes of subscription 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 brings all the advantages and capabilities that traditional cellular networks offer: security, privacy, interoperability as well as an innovation-oriented and 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 applications have the potential to bring substantial benefits to consumers, including making travel safer, reducing congestion and providing real-time information to passengers.

Connected vehicle applications and services have a number of distinctive features. They need to operate globally, support very long ‘device’ lifetimes, 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 ensure that those 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 the future. 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 preferring one approach. Equally, it is important that technology-neutral spectrum licences are adopted as this will allow existing mobile bands to be refarmed for 5G, enabling lower-latency connectivity, and thus improved response times for emergencies.

Furthermore, 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 around the world.

This also 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.


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

Digital Health and IoT


The pressures on healthcare systems have never been greater, because of factors including rising expectations, ageing populations and, particularly in emerging economies, the combined challenges of infectious disease and increasing incidence of chronic illness. Mobile health solutions can help healthcare providers deliver better, more consistent, more efficient and more widely available health services and empower individuals to manage their own health more effectively.

According to a 2015 report by PWC, Digital Health could save over one million lives in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years and the use of Internet of Things (IoT) technology could reduce healthcare costs by €99 billion in the European Union and add €93 billion to the region’s gross domestic product by 2017.

Many mobile health propositions have gained acceptance and are being more widely adopted. The market is developing, and this growth is accompanied by a rapid increase in the number of solutions that potentially offer new modalities of care. Greater consideration is therefore being given to the policy and regulatory frameworks that will govern their promotion and use.


GSMA IoT in Health website
GSMA Report: Digital healthcare interoperability report
GSMA Response: The European Commission Green Paper on mHealth
GSMA Webinar: Advancing Interoperability in Digital Health
Mobile World Live Blog: Can connected health be the lifeblood of 5G?
PWC Report: Realising the benefits of mobile-enabled IoT solutions

Public Policy Considerations

Use cases for Digital Health solutions are varied, from medical devices that collect patient data to applications that deliver health services and information — providing support in the area of prevention (including lifestyle and wellness), diagnosis and management. As such, there are a wide range of potential regulatory touch points.

Although significant progress has been made over the last few years, there is an ongoing need for clarity in policy and regulation related to Digital Health to ensure safety, promote confidence among patients and healthcare professionals, and provide industry with sufficient certainty to bring new products and services to the market.

Policy themes include:

Patient-centred healthcare. Developing policies that promote patient-centred care and user autonomy to help drive Digital Health adoption.

Access. Promoting initiatives to integrate Digital Health services into healthcare systems and care pathways to encourage the development of value-based care models that reward health outcomes and support innovation.

Implementation. Building evidence and establishing government programmes to enable large-scale implementations of Digital Health solutions.

Systems, interfaces and interoperability. Promoting interoperability and standards that support scalability and a plug-and-play experience.

Regulatory themes include:

Medical devices. Developing and implementing clear and proportionate regulatory frameworks that aim to ensure patient safety while stimulating innovation.

Data protection. Ensuring an appropriate regulatory framework is in place for data protection and privacy is of key importance. Regulatory measures should be proportionate and facilitate the use of data in creating patient-centred and sustainable healthcare systems.

Consumer use — Telehealth

Source: PA Consulting Group

Encouraging the Growth of IoT


The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to deliver a huge range of benefits to citizens, consumers, businesses and governments. Referring to machines, devices and appliances of all kinds that are connected to the internet through multiple networks, the IoT has tremendous potential to shrink healthcare costs, reduce carbon emissions, increase access to education, improve transportation safety and much more.

Through its IoT programme, the GSMA aims to accelerate the delivery of these types of connected devices and services, and thereby enable a world in which consumers and businesses enjoy rich new services, connected by an intelligent and secure mobile network.

The IoT market is already developing at a rapid pace. According to figures from Machina Research, by the end of 2017 the number of cellular IoT connections will have reached 520 million, with that figure set to soar to just above one billion by 2020. Understandably, governments and regulators are increasingly interested in how they can capture the benefits of the IoT and channel them to their citizens.

However, IoT business models, markets and services are fundamentally different from traditional telecoms services, such as voice and messaging. In most cases, IoT services have a closed user group and the customers are not typically end users of the service, but businesses that need to be able to roll out IoT solutions globally. Also, IoT services are characterised by a significantly lower average revenue per connection than traditional voice and messaging services.

Therefore, if governments are to create a supportive environment for the IoT, they must recognise these differences. Policy and regulatory frameworks for IoT should be flexible, balanced and technology-neutral to ensure they support large-scale deployments and encourage investment.

In 2016, the GSMA introduced the IoT Knowledgebase, an online tool for policymakers and regulators that is designed to help them unlock IoT opportunities for their country, understand new IoT business models and learn about emerging policy and regulatory best practice from around the world.

Public Policy Considerations

There is huge potential for the IoT to transform economies and societies, but the technologies and ecosystem that support IoT are still at an early stage of development. If governments are to realise the significant socio-economic benefits that IoT can deliver, they must foster an investment-friendly and technology-neutral environment that will allow it to grow and flourish.

Governments can achieve this by putting in place policies that provide the right incentives for growth and innovation. They can also lead by example through the adoption of IoT solutions in the public sector or by funding research and development programmes.

As the IoT ecosystem is composed of a large number of diverse players, policy frameworks must be based on the fair regulation of equivalent services. Regulatory clarity is also hugely important to give service providers and IoT device manufacturers the confidence to make the necessary investments in this emerging technology for it to achieve global scale.

Governments and regulators can play a significant role here too, by supporting and promoting interoperable specifications and standards across the IoT industry. This is important to the future growth of the IoT, as interoperable platforms and services reduce deployment costs and complexity, facilitate scalability and enable consumers to enjoy intuitive connected experiences.

As the IoT is projected to grow hugely in the coming years, governments also need to adopt a flexible framework for both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, to ensure mobile operators can deploy the most appropriate technology mix.

The IoT presents significant opportunities for data-driven innovation to achieve economic, social and public policy objectives and improve people’s daily lives. However, for this to happen, data protection and privacy legal frameworks need to be practical, proportionate and applied consistently to all parties in the IoT value chain. This will help create a climate of trust between industry and end users.


GSMA IoT website
GSMA IoT Knowledgebase for Policy and Regulation website
GSMA Report: Mobilising the Internet of Things

Global Deployment Models for IoT


The Internet of Things (IoT) is ushering in an era where unprecedented numbers of devices will become connected all around the globe. The scale and reach of this machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity will allow new services to develop that can help societies make more efficient use of resources across a range of industries and sectors, including healthcare, agriculture, transportation and manufacturing.

However, if governments and societies are to tap into these benefits, companies operating within the IoT ecosystem will need to be able to deploy their services on a global, rather than local, scale. It is only by following global deployment models that the nascent IoT industry can pass on to consumers the benefits they get from economies of scale for service delivery.

Global approaches to service deployment have a number of advantages. For example, they accelerate the speed and quality of deployment and also drive down the cost of servicing smaller, local markets where the creation of a bespoke local service would otherwise be uneconomical. Furthermore, they help guarantee the delivery of a consistent, high-quality experience to the end user.

Mobile operators are already taking the lead in supporting global service launches in early market categories such as automotive, smart cities and consumer electronics. With the emergence of new products in adjacent categories, including healthcare and wearable devices, the importance of being able to support large-scale, global deployments is likely to increase.

Operators can choose from a range of different global deployment models, including M2M international roaming, the remote provisioning of embedded SIM technology for M2M developed by the GSMA’s IoT programme, or a hybrid of the two. New deployment models may also emerge in the future.

The choice of deployment model may depend on a number of factors, such as:

  • The particular needs of the mobile operator, IoT service provider and end user.
  • The scale and geographical footprint of the deployment.
  • The type of IoT application and its unique service requirements.
  • The device lifetime and its accessibility.

Public Policy Considerations

The IoT has the potential to bring substantial social and economic benefits to citizens and businesses through more efficient use of resources, the creation of new jobs and services, increases in productivity and improvements in service delivery.

However, IoT business and distribution models are very different to those used to deliver traditional telecoms services, such as voice and messaging. Typically, they are global in nature, with elements of the value chain spread across various countries and regions.

The great diversity in the range of services on offer and the partners involved in IoT, as well as this geographical spread in the value chain, make it hugely important for the industry to be able to develop and select the most suitable deployment models for different types of IoT services.

This is why policymakers and regulators should avoid steering the industry towards a one-size-fits-all approach to deployment and provisioning. Instead, governments should encourage innovation in IoT deployment models and understand that operators will be required to adopt flexible commercial and technical solutions in different countries and regions around the world.

Governments can support the global nature of the IoT market in other ways, such as by backing interoperable platforms and services to reduce deployment costs and complexity, ensuring that all players in the IoT market are operating on a level regulatory playing field, and working together across jurisdictions to ensure consistency and clarity on legal, data protection and privacy regulation.


GSMA Report: Understanding the Internet of Things
PWC Report: Realising the benefits of mobile-enabled IoT solutions
Remote SIM provisioning - 

Privacy and Data Protection for IoT


The Internet of Things (IoT) offers significant opportunities and potential for data-driven innovation to achieve economic, social and public policy objectives, and ultimately improve people’s daily lives. For example, the IoT will enable a raft of new applications and services that will empower consumers to monitor their health, manage their energy consumption and generally benefit from smart home and city solutions. These applications have the potential to drive a range of positive outcomes, including improved traffic management, lower pollution levels and healthier lifestyles.

Many IoT services will be designed to create, collect or share data. Some of this data (e.g., data about the physical state of machines or weather conditions) may not impact on consumers’ privacy and as a result won’t be considered personal data.

However, IoT services aimed at consumers are likely to involve the generation, distribution and use of detailed data about those consumers. For example, a smart home appliance may use data about a person’s eating or exercise habits to draw inferences about that person’s health and steer them towards healthier lifestyles, or develop a profile based on their shopping habits to offer them personalised money-off vouchers.

These types of IoT services and devices have the potential to impact 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 build trust among consumers by ensuring their privacy is respected.

Public Policy Considerations

To realise the opportunities that the IoT offers, it is important for consumers to trust the companies who 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.


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


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 continued increases in population densities. As a result, it is very difficult to redesign existing cities in most parts of the world to cope.

This is why national and local governments are increasingly interested in developing smart cities that use mobile communications technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to solve many of the challenges cities face today. For example, smart city technology can to 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 up new commercial and investment opportunities for cities.

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


GSMA Smart Cities website
GSMA IoT Knowledgebase: Smart Cities
GSMA Report: Maximising the Smart Cities Opportunity – Recommendations for Asia-Pacific Policymakers
GSMA Report: Keys to the Smart City
Video: Smart City Tainan case study

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 lifetime of each project. The smart city agency will have to be agile and, ideally, independent from traditional city departments. It should, however, be accountable to a governance body on which the city institutions are represented.
  • Appoint a chief information officer (CIO) or smart city director with strategic vision. A strong vision and strategy is key to the success of smart city projects. A CIO or smart city director should be a project leader with cross-functional skills, capable of defining a long-term strategy.
  • Communicate effectively the objectives and benefits of smart city projects. Establishing a dialogue with the local community is an essential step to ensure the design and functionality of effective smart city services. Digital media can help involve citizens in each step of the service lifetime and highlight tangible benefits that a smart city project will deliver.
  • Promote technology investment in open and scalable systems. A smart city should avoid relying on proprietary technologies tied to a single provider. Standards-based solutions are an essential foundation for the long-term evolution of a smart city.
  • Comply with privacy and security best practice, 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 services they launch and adopt in their own city.
  • Make city data available to promote transparency and stimulate innovation. While protecting individuals’ privacy, city managers should look 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 models of funding. 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 applications 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, that are defined around citizens’ needs, are managed through agile governance structures, are based on open and scalable systems and promote a culture of openness, innovation and transparency.


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

The digital economy is based on trust. Interactions — whether they be social, commercial, financial or intellectual — require a proportionate level of trust in the other party or parties involved. Today consumers are seeking secure and seamless access to digital services, while safeguarding their privacy. As a result, online service providers must reduce friction in digital transactions, while still maintaining a seamless, secure user experience. Increasingly, governments are regulating for and demanding electronic identity solutions that leverage 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, putting mobile at the heart of the digital identity management ecosystem. With mobile operators’ unique advantages — such as the SIM card, the registration processes, contextual network information and fraud mitigation processes — they have 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 network operators and 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. These solutions support huge scale, via a set of consistent technologies that benefit from low barriers to entry right across the digital identity ecosystem. These solutions also offer a seamless consumer experience that is scalable, safe and secure and puts users in control of their data and personal information.


Mobile Connect


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 applications quickly without the need to remember passwords and usernames. It is safe, secure and no personal information is shared without permission.

The key benefits of Mobile Connect include:

  • Ease of use, as it employs the user’s mobile phone for authentication, there is no requirement to use passwords.
  • Secure and strong customer authentication (as there are no passwords to steal, it improves the user experience)
  • .Adds security and trust into digital transactions (as it confirms the user’s location, identity and usage).
  • Protects privacy (as the operator confirms credentials and the user gives consent for sharing of this information).
  • Simple and cost effective to deploy.

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

Mobile Connect is supported by the GSMA Identity programme. The programme’s strategic goal is to enable operators to play a significant role in the digital ecosystem through the provision of interoperable and commercially sustainable mobile identity services via Mobile Connect.

The GSMA’s public policy activities assist the GSMA Identity programme via advocacy and pilot initiatives to support the use of Mobile Connect in regulated sectors, such as finance, e-government and e-health.

For example, in February 2018, the GSMA completed the second phase of a pilot that used Mobile Connect within the framework of the EU Regulation on Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services (eIDAS). The report, issued upon completion of the trial, provides insights into operating within eIDAS and offers recommendations on how Mobile Connect can support the growth of these services.

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.

Another key focus of the programme is aligning Mobile Connect with the requirements of the EU’s revised Payment Service Directive (PSD2). This requires banks to open their APIs to authorised financial technology companies and use strong customer authentication for digital payments.

Public Policy Considerations

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

  • Identify and assess existing legal, regulatory and policy challenges and barriers that affect the development of mobile identity services.
  • Leverage best practice and advances in technology to foster the deployment of wide-scale mobile identity services and transactions.
  • Engage 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 has developed 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 further enhance the security features used to protect mobile networks and their customers.

In summary, the mobile industry, via Mobile Connect, 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


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

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

Mobile Industry Covid-19 Pandemic Response

The mobile industry has never been more important to the world’s citizens and economy. Our role at the GSMA is to unlock the power of connectivity so people, industry and society thrive, and we will continue to play a leading role in supporting and amplifying the vital work our industry is doing at this time.

How the mobile ecosystem is tackling COVID-19