Stakeholders must address trust deficit if 5G to take off, says GSMA

  • Industry, governments must cooperate to ensure data traverses freely between borders
  • 5G slowly taking off but 4G remains the dominant tech connectivity for years to come


Stakeholders must address trust deficit if 5G to take off, says GSMA


THERE needs to be a concerted effort to foster better trust amongst all stakeholders in the telco industry if fifth generation (5G) is to take off properly in Asia, urged the head of the GSM Association (GSMA).

Speaking at his opening keynote address at the ongoing Mobile World Congress Asia on June 26, GSMA director-general Mats Granryd (pic) noted that the industry needs to build a better future by demonstrating leadership in security and trust issues.

“We must all avoid becoming like the man who trusts nobody, which is the kind of man nobody trusts,” he said.

Granryd said currently, there is no single solution to the challenges the industry faces surrounding security and trust.  That said, there are three strategies that must be employed, to address this effectively, he argued.

Noting that the first is collaboration, he stressed, “It’s critical that we work together and share best practices on what are shared security goals. The second strategy is cooperation between buyers and suppliers as trusted business partners.

“Cooperation means working together, having shared objectives and being as transparent as possible, particularly around security,” he argued, adding that there should be trust between suppliers and between nations.

Finally, he said there is a need to embed security into the culture of every stakeholder within the supply chain and in every aspect – “from product design to decommission.”

In tandem with Granryd’s keynote, the GSMA also unveiled its latest iteration of its yearly report, The Mobile Economy: Asia Pacific 2019, at the event. The GSMA is an industry trade body representing 750 telcos and 350 companies.

The report highlighted a number of important metrics focusing on the mobile economy, figures showing 5G adoption in the Asia Pacific, key trends shaping digital societies, as well as policies for digital advancement.

Echoing what Granryd said, the GSMA report called for governments to develop policies that foster trust in the digital environment. The report further noted that to reap the benefits of a mobile society, governments in Asia must accelerate the progress of the evolution and convergence of data.

“Data privacy frameworks that protect citizens’ data together with a national digital identity system provide the foundation of trust. Data privacy frameworks must also allow data to flow across borders in ways that support trade and innovation.”

The report also highlighted the need to develop “regulatory sandboxes that create an environment for private companies to experiment with new technologies,” akin to what the fintech industry has done.

“For example, a regulatory sandbox that allows personal data to be transferred from one country to another in a controlled environment would help mobile operators, internet players and startups develop new products and services that would boost the growth of the digital economy across the region.”


Stakeholders must address trust deficit if 5G to take off, says GSMA


Old policy ways

The report urged governments to change their approach on policy development, noting that it needs to be more agile and not in a “siloed” way, which was an approach born out of legacy.

Arguing that public administrations typically operate in silos, the report pointed out that providing mobile digital services demanded collaboration across all sectors, such as in automation, energy, health and agriculture.

“To enhance the prospects for a better, mobile-enabled digital society, governments should adopt a cross-sectorial approach to policy setting,” it argued. “Competition and cooperation among digital players has been a key driver of the digital economy, so policy-makers must allow markets to develop and consolidate.”

The report also argued against any concerns that such agile policy-making approaches would dampen competition and reduce investments amongst operators.

It said that larger operators enjoy economies of scale and greater financial strength, factors that would help when it comes to extending coverage and undertaking network upgrades.

“Policy-makers must ensure their competition policy frameworks remain relevant for the digital economy, while market assessments based on market definitions that are forward- looking should be the basis for intervention.”

Julian Gorman, GSMA head of Asia, added that in the new digital world of 5G, data is the new oil and therefore has to be able to flow freely across borders.

“There should be a security framework and trust to allow that data to flow,” he told Digital News Asia on the sidelines of MWC Asia. “The GSMA is working with its policy team in different forums at both the national and regional level to facilitate these discussion in a bid to support the industry and its outcomes on the future of 5G.”

Report conclusions

Other key findings in the GSMA report noted the following:

  • Mobile operators are forecast to invest US$574 billion (capex) on new networks between 2018 and 2025, almost two-thirds of which (US$370 billion) will be spent on new 5G networks;
  • 4G became the most dominant mobile technology in Asia in 2018 (52% of connections) and will grow to account for more than two-thirds of regional connections by 2025. Around 18% of connections will be running on 5G networks by this point;
  • More than four in five mobile connections in Asia will be smartphones by 2025, up from 61% in 2018;
  • There were 2.8 billion unique mobile subscribers in Asia as at the end of 2018, equivalent to 67% of the region’s population. The number of subscribers is forecast to increase to 3.1 billion by 2025 (72% of the population), though the growth rate is slowing as many key markets approach saturation.

Edwin Yapp reports from Mobile World Congress Asia, Shanghai at the invitation of GSM Association. All editorials are independent. He is contributing editor to Digital News Asia and executive consultant at Tech Research Asia, an advisory firm that translates technology into business outcomes for executives in Asia Pacific.


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