March 13, 2017

GSMA's Annual 'Mobile Economy' Report Highlights the Mobile Industry's Growing Contribution to the Global Economy, Jobs and Social Development

In its 2017 edition The Mobile Economy, the GSMA notes that "by the end of 2016, two thirds of the world’s population had a mobile subscription – a total of 4.8 billion unique subscribers." In a press release announcing the publication of the report, the London, England-based organization says "that the 5 billion-subscriber milestone will be achieved by mid-year 2017 and will increase to 5.7 billion by the end of the decade. By that point, almost three-quarters of the world's population will be subscribed to a mobile service. Subscriber growth over this period will be driven primarily by large Asia markets such as India, which alone is forecast to add 310 million new unique subscribers by 2020." Given the rich content and overall importance of this report, I copied the Executive Summary in its entirety:
Subscriber growth pivoting to Asia 
By the end of 2016, two thirds of the world's population had a mobile subscription – a total of 4.8 billion unique subscribers. There is a clear geographic shift underway, with Asia Pacific set to account for two thirds of the 860 million new subscribers expected globally by the end of the decade. India, already the world’s second largest mobile market, will be the primary driver of this growth, with 310 million new unique subscribers. 
By 2020, almost three quarters of the world's population – or 5.7 billion people – will subscribe to mobile services. Regional penetration rates are forecast to range from 50% in Sub-Saharan Africa to 87% in Europe. 
4G uptake driving surge in mobile broadband adoption 
The generational shift to mobile broadband networks and smartphones continues to gain momentum. Mobile broadband connections (3G and 4G technologies) accounted for 55% of total connections in 2016 – a figure that will be close to three quarters of the connections base by 2020. The proportion of 4G connections alone is forecast to almost double from 23% to 41% by the end of the decade. 
5G will see a major shift in how cellular networks are designed and what they are used for. Early deployments will focus on enhanced mobile broadband as the key customer proposition but 5G's capabilities will evolve over time. 5G networks are forecast to cover around a third of the global population by 2025, with adoption reaching 1.1 billion connections. 
Mobile revenue growth outlook remains modest 
Total mobile revenues reached $1.05 trillion in 2016, up 2.2% on 2015, marking the second consecutive year of rising revenue growth. Developing markets saw a notable improvement in growth rates as the macroeconomic headwinds eased and key markets such as China and India posted encouraging growth rates. However, the future outlook remains mixed, with increasing competition, regulatory intervention and slowing subscriber growth weighing on revenue growth. 
Operators have invested $1.2 trillion in capex since 2010. With global mobile capex levels having peaked in 2015, they fell by 6% in 2016. Over the medium term, capex levels will continue to decline but at a slower rate, before returning to growth in 2020. Operators in advanced telecoms markets will begin to invest in the necessary infrastructure to support 5G towards the end of the decade, with any uplift. 
Shift in consumer engagement to mobile and the rise of the platform economy 
The shift of consumer engagement to mobile is now manifesting itself in the rapid growth of messaging platforms, which are using their scale to monetize a growing range of services. With a global subscriber base that is soon to reach 5 billion, the mobile ecosystem has created a global digital platform that is increasingly connecting everyone and everything. The impact of this digital platform is felt across a broad range of sectors as companies reinvent their business models to offer new and innovative services. 
Players across the broader mobile ecosystem have already adopted open innovation strategies and embraced the power of collaborative partnerships, particularly those in the app economy and the mobile internet. Collaboration and open standards allow platforms to scale rapidly – a key success factor when competing digital platforms have already achieved significant scale. Mobile operators are developing new business models that leverage these trends to offer new platforms and services. As well as opening the door to new revenue streams, these trends will allow a faster pace of innovation and raise the prospect of a lower cost operating model for operators at a time when margins and cash flows remain under pressure. 
Mobile contributing to jobs and economic growth 
In 2016, mobile technologies and services generated 4.4% of GDP globally, equivalent to around $3.3 trillion of economic value. This is forecast to increase to more than $4.2 trillion (4.9% of GDP) by 2020, as countries benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by increased take-up of mobile services. 
The mobile ecosystem supported approximately 28 million jobs in 2016. The mobile sector also makes a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with approximately $450 billion raised in 2016 in the form of general taxation. In addition, almost $19 billion was raised in government revenue through spectrum auctions in 2016. 
Mobile is essential to realizing the SDGs and addressing social challenges 
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their associated targets outline a broad and ambitious agenda that integrates economic, social and environmental issues across all geographies and applies both to developed and developing economies. Mobile technology provides access to tools and applications that address a wide range of socioeconomic challenges as well as enabling new technologies and innovations to build more efficient and environmentally sustainable societies. 
Mobile technology also plays a critical role in fulfilling the ambitions of universal internet access, closing the identification gap and expanding financial inclusion. The number of individuals accessing the internet over mobile devices has doubled over the past five years to 3.6 billion, and will rise to 4.7 billion, equivalent to 60% of the global population, by 2020. The spread of mobile and digital technologies offers a transformative opportunity to achieve development aims and improve access to a range of life-enhancing services. 
Rethinking regulation for the digital age 
The fundamental changes taking place in telecoms markets and adjacent sectors have major implications for all aspects of policy, including regulatory frameworks, anti-trust reviews and the way spectrum is allocated. In order to drive the transition to more connected societies, it is important that the regulatory environment continues to evolve. 
Prescriptive regulatory frameworks, which were designed for a less dynamic era, can be redesigned to encourage innovation and investment. The new features of the digital market call for a different and more nuanced approach to competition policy. Governments should ensure their competition and regulatory frameworks reflect how the market has evolved and provide a sound foundation for ongoing competition, investment and innovation that benefits everyone. Furthermore, the release of harmonized spectrum – in the right frequencies, at the right time, and under the right conditions – is crucial to the development of a rich and vibrant digital economy. In particular, governments need to identify now the harmonized spectrum that will be required to enable 5G to transform economies and societies for the better. 
As the digital economy is increasingly global, governments across the world should seek to harmonize international privacy and data protection rules. This requires accountability mechanisms to protect individuals' privacy effectively and enable the cross-border data flows necessary to develop an efficient, global digital economy. The mobile industry is engaging with policymakers to make these mechanisms interoperable. Ultimately, global harmonization will benefit businesses and consumers alike by creating a consistent and clear set of data protection and privacy rules that apply across international borders.
Infographic: GSMA
The GSMA report contains a vast amount of information about the global mobile industry. How is the report useful to your business?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

March 6, 2017

My Experiences of Working in China vs. the United States

The following is a guest post by Yan Tang.

Yan Tang in Shanghai, China
Can you imagine how much uncertainty and anxiety I had when I was working on a Global Administration (GA) project in Shanghai IBM office located in Shanghai Jinmao Tower (one of the tallest buildings in the world)? Can you imagine how I was handling with a big group of people who come from all over the world and possess significantly more experience than me?

I was 23 years old, a recent college graduate and an age when many of my peers spend their time shopping, dating or traveling. I decided, however, to face all those challenging situations with the IBM GA team as a project manager working over 20 hours a day without dates or holidays. Is that something that I would like to do it again? Absolutely!!

The experience was challenging, but full of self-accomplishments. I was surrounded by many intelligent and brilliant people. Even if I had little confidence working together with them, I found a great opportunity learning from them. That also becomes my lesson #1: it is okay to feel overwhelmed and scared by other's superpower as long as you can learn the most from them. My dad often repeats Isaac Newton's infamous quote: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." The IBM GA project taught me how to see different perspectives and learn from people who are greater than me.

I studied English and Chinese as an undergraduate in China and did not learn business skills in the traditional classroom setting. While being placed on the GA project, I was facing very competitive and stressful situations with limited knowledge of business and corporate operation. To survive, I simply used a very ineffective method to adept myself into IBM working environment: work hard before I work smart. I spent nights and weekends studying business manners such as emails, meeting arrangements, communications, and negotiation. I would practice hundreds of times in order to deliver presentations confidently in the presence of a large audience.

A friend once visited me in Shanghai. After finishing dinner together, we could have hung out for movies or shopping, but I had to go back office to work. I still remember what she said to me knowing I had to work through the night. She said: Yan, when your hard work and effort are commensurate with your desire, you are likely to succeed. You will always have my support. At that time, I learned that working hard is a virtue that you are willing to invest time and energy improving your skills.

I find myself in the United States a few years later as a student in the Professional MBA program at the Seattle University Albers School and Business and Economics. I experienced a dramatic shift going from China to the U.S. Now I am sitting in SeattleU's Lemieux Library reflecting on my experiences working in Shanghai. That was like my past life, so far away and blurry. What is happening here is the real life: going to school and completing an internship. There are no tall buildings, no urgent deadlines, or no overnight work. I just concluded a breakfast meeting with my professor this morning and met with my supervisor afterwards. Everything seems less intense and well planned; in other words, I am controlling my own pace of my life.

SeattleU's IEC team
Here in Seattle, I am engaged in several projects as a client relationship management intern for SeattleU's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC). We are managing a new initiative program named RAMP (Resource Amplification and Management Program). This is a different working environment where I cannot use my old work methods to cope with people and situations. I experienced ups and downs when working in a different country with different business cultures.

I was too result-driven and focused on getting work done. However, as a member of the RAMP team, I have been learning to enjoy the process and have fun before rushing to see what results are, as the process is where you can think, make adjustment, innovate and enjoy yourself. RAMP provides Seattle University resources to support local underserved small businesses and community partners to build capacity, grow and thrive. The results of fast growing in these businesses do not happen overnight. I need to be very patient and trust the process of what I am working on. If I can manage the process well and make sure it works smooth, the expected results will follow. My supervisor Sue Oliver always shares her philosophy with me: if we do our best in every single part of the process, we can trust the perfect outcome will unfold for us. I have come to better understand this philosophy through my work experience with RAMP.

I have experienced several aha moments over the past year through RAMP. One such moment came when I was suggested to "manage up" in order to complete my tasks. I was a little shocked by hearing "manage-up." In China, a possible consequence of manage-up is "you are fired" if you dare to challenge your boss. In America, however, managing up is considered a tactic to request resources and support from your supervisor to get work done efficiently. A result of this tactic is showing your ability to set priorities and have clear goals about what you need for task management. You can also establish a good working relationship with your boss if you can use the "manage-up" tactic in an effective way. The application of "manage-up" makes my work-life much easier and brings me job satisfaction.

It requires time to understand how people work in a different business setting and it needs tactics to perform well in a different culture. Until now, I cannot completely understand what are their thinking and acting patterns in business settings. Some tactics I used in China may not work in the U.S. However, I learned the importance of communication whenever I encounter cultural differences or have different approaches to problems. With diversified working experience both in China and the U.S., I am more open-minded and have more different perspectives when identifying situations and looking for optimized solutions.

Yan Tang is enrolled in the Professional Master of Business Administration (Marketing) program at Seattle University. She also serves as a Business Relationship Management and Small Business Coach at Seattle University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Previously, Ms. Tang worked for Manpower in the company's Shanghai, China office where she served in several roles including Service Consultant, On-Site Project Manager for IBM Shanghai, and Recruitment Consultant. Ms. Tang may be contacted at