GSMA boasts of climate change progress

The GSMA has announced 50 telcos around the world have signed-up to an initiative to drive greater transparency through the industry with regard to its contribution to climate change.

Representing more than 66%, 5.2 billion, of the worlds’ mobile connections, the 50 telcos will disclose their climate impacts, energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The initiative will also include the development of an industry-wide plan to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement.

“Today’s announcement marks the start of a collaborative action by the mobile industry to tackle the climate emergency, demonstrating how the private sector can show leadership and responsibility in addressing one of the gravest challenges facing our planet,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.

“The mobile industry will form the backbone of the future economy and therefore has a unique opportunity to drive change across multiple sectors and in collaboration with our suppliers, investors and customers.”

Although the lobby group is giving itself a proud pat on the back, what is worth noting is that numerous other industries have already made prominent steps forward to addressing climate change. Airlines, for instance, have included a tick-box during the purchasing procedure which allows consumers to make a charitable donation to offset the carbon emissions attributed to their seat on the plane. It’s a step-forward of course, but the telco industry is not the quickest off the mark.

Using the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) framework, the industry will attempt to aid climate change enthusiasts limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Although the deadline date for the Paris Agreement is 2050, there is likely to be a huge amount of regional variance. The ability for companies to meet the deadline will be impacted by the ability to access renewable energy, current network deployments and the geographical nature of their location.

While it might not sound like much, limiting the increase in average temperatures by 2050 to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels instead of 2°C could have a significant impact. 11 million fewer people might be exposed to extreme heat, 61 million fewer people exposed to drought, and 10 million fewer people exposed to the impacts of sea level rise. The SBTi is also claiming this 0.5°C could also halve the number of vertebrate and plant species facing severe range loss by the end of the century.

This is certainly a positive step-forward, and while we suspect many will only be agreeing to the initiative as a PR push rather than a genuine belief in the perseverance of the environment over profits, does it actually matter? If the end goal is achieved, does anyone really care what the drivers of the players were?

GSMA lobbies for more and cheaper spectrum

Ahead of WRC-19 mobile industry lobbying group the GSMA has lobbied on behalf of the mobile industry.

The main concern of the GSMA, and thus we can assume the global mobile industry, is access to plenty of licensed spectrum at reasonable prices. The ITU’s 19th World Radiocommunication Conference will take place in November, but lobbying groups are getting organised well ahead of time. While the cost and availability of spectrum is a perennial issue, the advent of 5G makes it arguably more important than ever.

The GSMA has opened two lobbying fronts in this case. The first involved an open letter loftily headed ‘Delivering the greatest value for society at WRC-19’. As indicated the letter conflates the progress of 5G with that of civilization itself and warns that any failure to heed the GSMA’s wishes could have dire societal consequences.

The second initiative took the form of a report that concludes ‘High spectrum prices leave millions unconnected’. Once more the fortunes of its members are intimately associated with the progress of mankind, as the GSMA opens its presentation of the award by saying ‘the negative impacts of high spectrum prices on consumers can no longer be disputed.’

“Spectrum auctions can’t be viewed as cash cows anymore,” said Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum at the GSMA. “Any government that prices spectrum to maximise revenue now does so with full knowledge that its actions will have negative repercussions on citizens and the development of mobile services. We now have clear evidence that shows by restricting the financial ability of operators to invest in mobile networks millions of consumers are suffering.”

The GSMA is in danger of laying it on too thick with these two attempts to pressure the powers that be into making it cheaper for its members to get hold of all-important spectrum. The negative impacts of doing otherwise can and will be disputed, while appeals to philanthropy are a bit rich coming from such an affluent and profitable industry.

Having said that there are many good arguments in favour of freeing up spectrum and not allowing them to be a public sector cash grab every few years. There’s no way it costs governments and regulators the amount of money they extort from operators in spectrum licenses to manage them and in its unsubtle way the GSMA seems to be saying that if you want to service your people, try being a bit more helpful about keeping them connected.

GSMA pushes the case for 26 GHz ahead of WRC-19

In an open-letter to representatives of 170 governments ahead of the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference in November, the GSMA has pressed the case for 5G in the mmWave spectrum bands.

At the conference, taking place in Egypt, Government Ministers and executives of regulatory authorities will decide the fate of 5G in the 26, 40 and 66 GHz spectrum bands. These spectrum bands have been hotly-discussed for ultra-high capacity and ultra-high-speed services, though there have been discerning voices.

The criticism which has seemed to gain traction from some US politicians is from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which suggest 5G in the high frequency bands will impact the accuracy of weather forecasts.

“Identifying mmWave spectrum for mobile requires careful consideration. That is why the industry has been so actively involved at the ITU over the past four years of technical study of these frequencies,” the letter states.

“The methodical analysis undertaken by governments and industry through the ITU process has demonstrated that mobile can safely operate in these bands without causing harm to other spectrum-using services.”

The GSMA has also warned government agencies on taking the impact on weather forecasts too seriously, stating the officials should base their decisions on ‘sound science’. It seems to be a cheap shot, but as the conference draws closer, we suspect more vicious barbs will be thrown towards the spectrum rivals.

An interesting undertone to this is the impact to global harmonisation of spectrum. This has always been a concern of the GSMA, as it will impact the inner workings of the 5G ecosystem. A regionalised approach to the delivery of 5G is not a perfect outcome, especially when this generation of mobile technology was supposed to be a demonstration of collaboration.

That said, evidence of fragmentation is already exists.

In the US, the general approach to 5G delivery has been through the mmWave spectrum bands, though Europe is seemingly favouring the mid-band spectrum. The European approach does seem to be more effective for the moment, mid-band spectrum marries a palatable compromise between increased speeds and a tolerable range of coverage. US 5G enthusiasts might be able to get eye-watering speeds, though they will have to be stood very close to a base station.

GSMA squares up to the space industry

The GSMA has released a statement directed at the lobby groups who are attempting to limit access to the valuable mmWave spectrum frequencies over fears it would interfere with weather forecasting.

While the mmWave spectrum has long been heralded as the holy-grail for telcos when attempting to increase download speeds in the 5G era, the space and satellite industry has been attempting to limit access due to interference with various systems including weather forecasting.

No decisions have been formally made, though the GSMA naturally wants to pressure governments into releasing more spectrum as it performs it duties as the industry’s lobby group.

“We can’t let misinformation and the overly protectionist attitudes of the space industry derail the 5G revolution,” says Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum, GSMA.

“Over-stringent protection will limit the spectrum needed for 5G and have huge consequences for society. This could put the economic and innovation bonanza accompanying ultra-fast networks on hold for a generation.”

The GSMA is being fairly obvious with its message here. Ignore the fears of the space industry and give the telcos more spectrum. You shouldn’t really expect anything less from the lobby group either; telcos are screaming out for more of the valuable resource.

This spat dates back to objections from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which unveiled a report suggesting the high-frequency spectrum bands would interfere with weather forecasting systems, potentially decreasing the accuracy. Democrat Senators Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Maria Cantwell (Washington) jumped on a report produced by NOAA and NASA, writing to the Oval Office suggesting a halt on spectrum usage in the 24 GHz bands.

Over the next couple of weeks, it would not be a surprise to see this conflict enter into the back and forth as the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 is set to start in 100 days-time. At this event, 3000 delegates will attempt to agree on how radio-wave capacity will be used.

The question these delegates will have to answer is what is more important. The space agency has defended the use of the spectrum for weather forecasting, demonstrating its important to safety and various different industries, but the GSMA has done the same. Most governments are looking towards technology and connectivity as a means to generate economic momentum and the swift implementation of 5G is critical to ensure individual nations do not fall behind the global leaders.

What we suspect will happen is a middle-ground will be found, an attempt to appease all parties involved, though no-one is entirely satisfied. This is generally how such bureaucratic exercises tend to unravel.

GSMA blasts EC over connected car tech choice

The battle for the soul of the European connected car industry has come down to G5 vs 5G and the European Commission has just picked a winner.

Today the EC adopted new rules around connected an automated mobility on EU roads that amounted to an endorsement of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS). On the surface this would appear to be quite a generic thing, but it seems to refer specifically to a set of technologies supported by ETSI, which include the ITS-G5 short-range wireless communications standard that uses 802.11p wifi rather than cellular.

“This decision gives vehicle manufacturers, road operators and others the long-awaited legal certainty needed to start large-scale deployment of C-ITS services across Europe, while remaining open to new technology and market developments,” said the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Violeta Bulc. “It will significantly contribute to us achieving our ambitions on road safety and is an important stepping stone towards connected and automated mobility.”

Mobile trade association the GSMA isn’t so sure, however. In fact it reckons Europe is seriously missing a trick by going for this tech over cellular-based C-V2X, as you might expect. Not only that, but the GSMA reckons that by picking the wrong winner for connected vehicle tech, the EC is setting back the development of 5G on the whole.

“This piece of legislation relies on a biased view of technology and impedes innovation,” said Afke Schaart, VP & Head of Europe of the GSMA. “If the EU stays on this road, it will isolate itself further in the global 5G race and severely harm 5G investment in Europe.” Strong words Afke and we’re not sure accusing the EC of being biased is the best way to win it around, but you’re the lobbying expert so go for it.

The arcane matter of G5 vs 5G is a bit above our pay grade here at Telecoms.com, but a spot of light Googling reveals plenty of boffins have given it some thought. A couple of years ago this paper seemed to conclude the tech itself isn’t that important, but more recently NXP decided C-V2X is still a bit rubbish. It remains to be seen how binding this EC choice will be for the European automotive industry, but as the UK is continually reminded, the EU is not a big fan of challenges to its authority.

GSMA set for crisis meeting at MWC over Huawei bans – report

GSMA Director General Mats Granryd has reportedly been writing to members to set up a meeting on the side-lines of Mobile World Congress to discuss what to do about further Huawei bans.

Huawei might be facing pressure from governments around the world, but if reports turn out to be true, diminished support from the operator industry’s own lobby group would be a significant dent in the confidence of the vendor. As Huawei is one of the firms which contribute financially to GSMA events with astronomically large stands and branding presence, it certainly would be a brave move from the association.

According to Reuters, Granryd has proposed the implications of further Huawei bans should be discussed as an item on the agenda at the next board meeting. The meeting will take place during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of the month.

The GSMA has been evasive in its response to the claims, confirming there will be a board meeting (there always is), though the agenda has not been set. The meeting will of course discuss all the most pressing points in the telco industry, of which the Huawei situation has to be one, but there is no confirmation of specifics.

That said, it would not be unusual for such a discussion to take place. The GSMA board is made up of representatives from 25 of the worlds largest operators, the majority of which must be twitchy about the relationship between Huawei and the Chinese government. The US, Japan and Australia have already banned Huawei from contributing to 5G infrastructure, while more are putting very stringent conditions around participation.

Germany is one which is considering upping the security requirements to protect itself, however, Chinese companies which meet the criteria would still be allowed to do business. However, these protections might well be superseded by broader sweeping rules from the European Commission banning any companies from ‘suspect’ countries from providing kit for critical infrastructure.

Another Reuters report quotes German leader Angela Merkel as calling for guarantees from Huawei that it won’t hand over data to the Chinese state. Everything about Huawei will make executives nervous at the moment. To make such vast investments the telcos need certainty and consistency with policies and regulations. Huawei is the polar opposite of these concepts.

The focal point of the anxiety is the National Intelligence Law, which kicked into effect during July 2017. The law gives Chinese intelligence agency an extraordinarily wide remit to monitor both domestic and international ‘threats’, as well as the power to coerce domestic Chinese companies to aide its ambitions.

Here are a couple of the relevant articles from the original text passed into law:

  • Article 12: National intelligence work institutions may, according to relevant state regulations, establish cooperative relationships with relevant individuals and organizations, and commission them to carry out related work.
  • Article 14: National intelligence work institutions, when carrying out intelligence work according to laws, may ask relevant institutions, organizations and citizens to provide necessary support, assistance and cooperation.

For such a complex and powerful document, the language and remit are worryingly broad and vague. The law itself only has 32 articles, compared to hundreds of articles and even more clauses of immensely precise text in other countries.

Considering the GSMA named Huawei as the winner of the associations ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Mobile Industry Award’ for 2018, everything that has taken place since the last event puts it in a difficult position. If the GSMA decides on a general policy of distancing its members from Huawei in anticipation of further bans, that would be a significant further blow to the Chinese vendor.

40 execs sign a pledge to make the internet a nice place

Industry lobby group the GSMA has launched its ‘digital declaration’, signed by executives from 40 technology firms and telcos, aiming to make the digital economy a safer place, accessible to all.

With the likes of Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, Sharp, SK Telecom and Vodafone signing the deal, the GSMA is embracing its hippy calling of peace, love and digitisation. The declaration pins the hopes and dreams of the industry onto several different principles, which theoretically should lead to a warm and embracing internet.

“Social, technological, political and economic currents are combining to create a perfect storm of disruption across all industries,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “A new form of responsible leadership is needed to successfully navigate this era.

“We are on the cusp of the 5G era, which will spark exciting new possibilities for consumers and promises to transform the shape of virtually every business. In the face of this disruption, those that embrace the principles of the Digital Declaration will strive for business success in ways that seek a better future for their consumers and societies. Those that do not change can expect to suffer increasing scrutiny from shareholders, regulators and consumers.”

Looking at the principles themselves, they are relatively simple. Respect the privacy of digital citizens; handle personal data securely and transparently; take meaningful steps to mitigate cyber threats; and ensure everyone can participate in the digital economy as it develops whilst combatting online harassment. Its broad enough to allow wiggle room, but accurate enough to ensure all the right buzzwords are ticked off the list. You can have a look at the full declaration here.

While it is certainly a step in the right direction to get these organizations to sign a document recognising the importance of often ignored concepts such as inclusion and security, perhaps the next step should be to engage governments and regulators.

The CEOs of these technology and telco giants will certainly play an influential role in the success of the internet, though these are companies which will be playing within the rules set by higher powers. Policy, regulation, legislation and public funding will play an incredibly powerful part, though with such varied political regimes across the world, getting them to at least acknowledge these constant principles should be a priority.

Another interesting omission from the list are the powerful and influential internet players. The likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook will perhaps play a more significant role than the telcos and technology vendors who have already signed the document as they slip into the grey areas of regulation. The OTTs have been effectively doing what they like to date, such is the difficulty in matching regulation with the pace of change in this segment, and while such a document is little more than a PR ploy, it would at least demonstrate some accountability.

Germany green lights 5G plans despite industry protest

German regulator Bundesnetzagentur has said it will move ahead with the proposed 5G auction plan, despite German telcos and industry lobby group GSMA slamming the plans as a commercial nightmare.

The auction, which will take place in early 2019, requires minimum data rates of 100 Mbps available by the end of 2022 in 98% of households in each state as well as along all major transport paths. Each of the telcos must also install 1000 5G base stations and 500 other base stations, and by 2024, the data coverage must be extended to seaports, main waterways and other minor roads.

While data rates for the longer-term targets will be lower, this is still a big ask for a country which currently does not meet the standard for 4G coverage. For the GSMA, the conditions placed on the spectrum are unreasonable and not commercially viable for the telcos. The risk is Germany will be left behind as the rest of the world progresses into the 5G economy.

“The mobile industry is essential to delivering on Germany’s vision for 5G leadership,” said said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “We are alarmed that – despite real and substantial concerns raised by the mobile industry on the original proposals – the proposed terms make the situation worse by doubling down on unrealistic conditions that puts Germany’s 5G future at risk.

“Operators in Germany have invested billions in the country’s networks and have proven through history that they are committed to investing and providing innovative services. German consumers and businesses will be the ones to lose out from unreasonable obligations that make investment in 5G rollout uneconomical.”

One of the concerns surrounds the 3.6 GHz band, which can deliver on the high capacity demands though it does not offer the same advantages for coverage. To meet the 98% coverage conditions, the economics do not match, especially when you take the huge transport network into account. The GSMA also considers the roaming and wholesale obligations attached to the 3.4 to 3.7 GHz band as suspect, perhaps creating a critical level of legal uncertainty and will could deter investment in 5G networks. This is also where some of the telcos have found complaint.

“Our decision sets vital preconditions for the digital transformation of industry and society,” said Bundesnetzagentur President Jochen Homann. “Through the award of frequencies, we are creating planning and investment certainty, and contributing to a fast, needs-based rollout of the mobile radio network in Germany.”

Another issue with the auction requirements, which will certainly have the incumbent players up in arms, are the lighter conditions placed on new market entrants. As it stands, new comers could pick and choose their markets, as national roaming requirements could be negotiated with the regulator. It is creating a unfair environment, with the incumbents forced to provide coverage in the less commercially attractive regions while new comers could focus resources on the more profitable urban environments.

While telco moaning is usually taken with a pinch of salt, in this case you have to have a bit of sympathy for the established players. The German regulator seems determined to create an environment which increases the number of telcos in the country, and potentially builds the prospect of furthering the digital divide between urban and rural environments. Not only does this favouritism go against a lot of the independent values supposedly in place at government level, but risks the spread of wealth. This in turn will decrease a telcos ability to invest. Just as the industry is craving consolidation, the German regulator seems to be shooting off in the other direction.

The plans seems incredibly short-sighted, though it reeks of bureaucrats who wanted to clock out on time for the 4pm happy hour stein and bagel.

40% of the world’s population on 5G by 2025, says GSMA

GSMA’s Director General spoke at Huawei’s MBBF 2018 event, talking up the prospect and promises of 5G and artificial intelligence

Mats Granryd, the Director General of the telecom trade organisation GSMA made a keynote speech themed on “intelligent connectivity” at Huawei’s MBB 2018 event at London’s ExCel today. Granryd put spotlight on 5G and AI as the key enablers to what the telecom industry has to offer in the years to come.

In addition to predicting that 70% of the world’s population, or roughly 6 billion people will be on mobile internet, GSMA forecast 40% of the world population will be on 5G networks. When it comes to AI, on top of improving individual experience (e.g. Personal Assistants) and serving new industry needs (e.g. network slicing), Granryd highlighted what the combined AI capabilities can do for society. The GSMA’s “Big Data for Social Good” initiative has launched in seven countries around the world. Mobile operators in those markets have worked with local partners to enable air pollution warning, malaria spreading prediction, and natural disaster preparedness, using big data and machine learning and prediction capabilities.

Guiqing Liu, EVP of China Telecom, the world’s largest integrated operators in the world by subscriber number, then took the stage to share what China Telecom saw as the biggest opportunity for telecom operators to undertake the digital transformation, especially with the ascendency of industry markets. Liu included four key capabilities the industry in particular the operators need to master to succeed in the transformation. They are: end-to-end slicing to cater to different user and industry needs; FMC edge computing to deliver seamless experience; 5G+Cloud based network and services to provide flexible and special customisation; and 5G+AI to both optimise service delivery and network management.

Liu also outlined the key challenges the industry is facing before 5G can become a real commercial success. He conceded that use cases now are still very much focused on eMBB, and the industry has not thought through how to change business models in the new era, including how to bill customers for the new use cases. On network challenges, in addition to the CAPEX and OPEX and skill gap, Liu also pointed the indoor coverage weakness intrinsic of the high frequency bands most 5G networks will be built on.

Germany frees up the whole of C-Band for 5G and the GSMA approves, sort of

The German government has decided to make the entire 3.4-3.8 GHz band available for 5G use, which is a good idea.

For 5G to do its thing, it needs big chunks of continuous spectrum to ‘fatten the pipe’. Piecemeal auctions of 3.4-3.8 GHz spectrum (otherwise known as C-Band) such as we had in the UK earlier this year, are not as useful as offering up the whole lot in one go. The eventual outcome may end up being the same, but the whole process is a lot more complicated.

This decision has been met with approval by the mobile industry trade association, the GSMA. “The C-Band is the most vital frequency band for 5G,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “Germany is demonstrating 5G leadership in the timely release of this vital spectrum, but risks undercutting its 5G future with unnecessary obligations. Spectrum is a limited resource and it must be used and managed as efficiently as possible to ensure a 5G future that will benefit all.”

Among the GSMA’s regulatory gripes are proposed coverage obligations for 3.6 GHz spectrum, which it says disregard the laws of physics. Since the time of Isaac Newton this had been frowned on by polite society and the GSMA has chosen to use this emotive concept to point out what short range these high frequencies have.

They do seem to have a point here. 5G is all about capacity and surely coverage obligations can be left to earlier generations in the short term and 5G over lower frequencies in the long term. As characterized by the GSMA this stipulation seems to be gratuitous, counter-productive and a classic example of regulation for the hell of it.

Other than that there are some inevitable whinges about roaming obligations and high reserve prices for the auction. In the latter case we have sympathy for the GSMA position as any attempt by the German government to push up the price of spectrum is a blatant cash grab and an indirect tax on mobile subscribers.