For most people, mobile connectivity has become an essential part of daily life. Across the developing world, mobile devices and networks are generating economic growth, connecting people and businesses to each other and, increasingly, to health, education and financial services. In the developed world, smartphones have gone mass-market and ordinary people now have continuous access to the internet, enabling them to watch videos, listen to music, check in with friends and family or pull up information with one touch of a screen.
At the same time, many more devices, vehicles and machines are shipping with built-in mobile connectivity. Health monitors can use mobile networks to transmit patients’ vital signs to hospitals, cars can automatically call the emergency services in the case of an accident, tablet computers can download books from almost anywhere and ‘home hubs’ enable householders to control their heating, air conditioning or lighting during their daily commute. All these services, and others like them, enrich peoples’ lives, cut costs and often lower greenhouse gas emissions. Together, they greatly enhance the emerging digital economy.
The global telecoms industry is spending more than US$300 billion a year on capital projects, expanding coverage, enhancing services and creating jobs. In fact, booming demand for mobile broadband is a one of the few bright spots in what has been an extended period of global economic retrenchment and turmoil.
Pervasive connectivity depends on extensive and robust telecommunications networks, as well as sufficient and suitable spectrum. Mobile data traffic is growing exponentially, putting networks under pressure in urban hotspots and in communities lacking fixed-line infrastructure. Policymakers need to respond by making more spectrum available for mobile broadband services.