March 8, 2023

Mobile Connectivity Is a Lifeline for Society

In its latest report that provides insights on the state of the mobile economy worldwide, the GSMA says "Mobile connectivity continues to be a lifeline for society, helping the most vulnerable people in areas affected by conflict and natural disasters to stay connected. It is also enabling advanced connectivity capabilities needed by verticals to innovate amid diverse political, social and macroeconomic headwinds."

The UK-based organization representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide adds that "By the end of 2022, over 5.4 billion people globally subscribed to a mobile service, including 4.4 billion people who also used the mobile internet." The report notes that "The mobile internet usage gap has narrowed markedly in the last five years – from 50% in 2017 to 41% in 2022 on average – but still remains significant and demands urgent attention from all stakeholders."

What is more, "In 2022, mobile technologies and services generated 5% of global GDP, a contribution that amounted to $5.2 trillion of economic value added, and supported 28 million jobs across the wider mobile ecosystem. 5G will underpin future mobile innovation and services, building on ongoing deployments and adoption. 5G adoption will reach 17% this year, rising to 54% (equivalent to 5.3 billion connections) by 2030. The technology will add almost $1 trillion to the global economy in 2030, with benefits spread across all industries."

Key trends shaping the mobile ecosystem include:
  • 5G consumer monetization comes into focus: "Throughout 2023, some 30 new markets will launch 5G services; importantly, many of these will be developing markets across Africa and Asia, making 5G a truly global trend. As 5G adoption continues to scale, the monetization imperative will grow."
  • Private 5G builds momentum: "Private wireless solutions are back in vogue, as 5G's enhanced capabilities allow deployments to move beyond low-profile niche offerings."
  • Mobile industry shifts towards circularity: "Across the telecoms ecosystem, sustainability has extended beyond corporate social responsibility to become a core strategic priority. Industry players are increasingly adopting a model of production, service offering and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible."
  • The metaverse continues to gain traction: "Momentum for the metaverse continues to grow, alongside advancements in enabling technologies like 5G, AI and wearables. The growing interest from key stakeholders and ecosystem players has led to the emergence of important building blocks for the advancement of the metaverse, notably content and applications, standards and devices, which will be at the forefront of activities in 2023."
  • Fintech presents opportunities for mobile industry players: "Fintech has transformed the way financial services cater to consumers and businesses alike. Although investor sentiments fell sharply in 2022 after record funding the previous year, the fundamentals of growth – including high demand, digital-centric lifestyles and enabling regulations – remain strong."

The report also highlights the following statistics:
  • There were 5.4 billon unique mobile subscribers in 2022, rising to 6.3 billion by 2030;
  • Globally, there were 4.4 billion mobile internet users in 2022, equivalent to 55% penetration;
  • 5G will overtake 4G in 2029 to become the dominant mobile technology by the end of this decade;
  • 5G adoption will be over 85% in the top 5G markets by 2030, led by the six Gulf Cooperation Council states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), developed Asia Pacific, and North America;
  • There will be 9 billion smartphone connections by 2030, equivalent to 92% of total connections;
  • Globally, smartphone data traffic will rise more than threefold in the period to 2028, with the biggest users in North America and Northeast Asia;
  • The total number of licensed cellular IoT connections will double to 5.3 billion by 2030, with Greater China accounting for two-thirds;
  • Revenue growth is expected to remain in positive territory in both developed and developing regions for the period to 2030;
  • At the end of the decade, mobile's economic contribution will surpass $6 trillion; and
  • The fiscal contribution of the mobile ecosystem reached $530 billion in 2022.

Infographic: GSMA

As for the mobile industry's impact on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the GSMA explains that "There are now 11 SDGs where mobile's contribution is over 50, compared to six SDGs in 2020 and none in 2015." Furthermore, "The mobile industry continues to achieve its highest impact on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, driven by the reach of mobile networks and take-up of mobile internet services."

The report encouragingly adds that "The biggest improvements were recorded in the industry's contribution to SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 2: Zero Hunger and SDG 4: Quality Education. This is due to the increasing proportion of people using mobile for activities such as accessing government services, applying and searching for jobs, and obtaining educational information for themselves or their children." The GSMA also notes that there was "an improvement in the affordability of mobile data and devices. This comes after affordability worsened in 2020 because of the decline in per capita income due to the Covid-19 pandemic."

What aspects of the report did you find of particular interest?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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