March 24, 2024

GSMA's Annual Report on the State of the Global Mobile Industry Looks at How Operators Are Exploring the Potential of genAI

According to the GSMA's most recent annual report on the state of the global mobile economy, "Mobile connectivity remains pivotal in driving digital innovation. It empowers individuals and enterprises with a wide array of transformative technologies while also aiding governments in delivering positive societal impacts."

Produced by GSMA's in-house research team, GSMA Intelligence, these reports contain a range of technology, socio-economic and financial datasets, including forecasts out to 2030. This year's report points out that "The impact of mobile connectivity is evidenced by its contribution to the economy. In 2023, mobile technologies and services generated 5.4% of global GDP, a contribution that amounted to $5.7 trillion of economic value added, and supported around 35 million jobs."

The report's key findings include:
  • 5G will account for over half (51%) of total mobile connections by 2029 and reach 56% adoption by the end of the decade.
  • 58% of the world's population were using mobile internet at the end of 2023, representing 4.7 billion users and an increase of 2.1 billion since 2015.
  • Three billion people are still not using mobile internet despite living in an area covered by mobile broadband networks (the 'Usage Gap'), underscoring the urgency of addressing barriers to adoption highlighted in the GSMA's 'Breaking Barriers' campaign, such as handset affordability and literacy/digital skills.
  • 5G is expected to benefit the global economy by more than $930 billion in 2030, of which the primary beneficiaries are expected to be manufacturing (36%), public administration (15%) and the services (10%) industries.

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence

The are two items that I found of particular interest. One is how eSIM adoption continues to gather pace. "The number of eSIM consumer devices launched has grown significantly over the last five years and the number of commercial eSIM services is also on the rise. This has set the foundation for eSIM adoption to gather pace over the course of the decade," the reports notes. What is more, "GSMA Intelligence's baseline scenario predicts around 1 billion eSIM smartphone connections globally by the end of 2025, growing to 6.9 billion by 2030. This would account for around three quarters of the total number of smartphone connections by 2030." The GSMA claims that "North America will be the region with the fastest rate of eSIM adoption due to Apple's launch of eSIM-only smartphones in the US in September 2022."

On the topic of mobile operators exploring the potential of generative AI (genAI), "the range of genAI applications is broad," the GSMA notes. "Much of the early work has focused on using the technology to improve customer services and support sales and marketing activities. However, as genAI matures, there is potential for operators to not only support internal use cases but generate new revenues from AI investments." Examples of operators generating new revenues from investments in genAI include "SK Telecom's bold AI pyramid strategy ... as do recent product announcements from the likes of KT, NTT and SoftBank."

As for maximizing the AI opportunity, the report says "The speed of AI adoption in the mobile industry may depend on several factors. First, mobile operators often face difficulties in accessing the internal data needed for training AI models, hindered by the diversity and volume of data sources. Additionally, operators must ensure the accuracy of AI-generated insights, as reliance on inaccurate data may lead to flawed decision-making."

With respect to ethical concerns around AI that still need to be addressed, the report boldly asserts that "The mobile industry is committed to the ethical use of AI in its operations and customer interactions to protect customers and employees, remove any entrenched inequality and ensure that AI operates reliably and fairly for all stakeholders. The GSMA's AI Ethics Playbook serves as a practical tool to help organizations consider how to ethically design, develop and deploy AI systems."

What trends are you seeing that are shaping the global mobile ecosystem?

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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