What are the major trends that will shape the next decade of mobile technology? GSMA Intelligence lays out five in a new report.

According to the report, those trends include:

-Operators will intensify their pursuit of revenues that come from sources other than connectivity, which GSMA Intelligence categorized as “digital” revenues. Carriers are pursuing strategies including pay TV, the internet of things, advertising or fintech, depending on the country. For the 20 biggest operator groups around the world, GSMA Intelligence found, non-connectivity revenue currently averages between 10-20% of group top-line revenues — with the exception of AT&T, which garners 40% due to its acquisition of Time Warner. While there is a lot of upside in ongoing digitalization of enterprise, GSMA Intelligence said that the biggest challenge in this area “will be to engineer internal cultural change that rewards agile operations and risk taking rather than simply hitting quarterly KPIs.”

– While the global smartphone market has been in a slump over the past few years, the report noted that “most of the developing world has yet to get a smartphone” and predicted that by 2025, smartphone penetration will reach 80% globally, driven by markets such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico and a “host of fast followers” on the continent of Africa. While operators in the U.S. and Europe lost out on value to big tech, GSMA Intelligence said that “places like Africa are opportunities for operators to leverage the strong brand recognition and positive associations with providing essential services.”

-There are new platform wars starting up, as new device types emerge such as smart speakers and virtual reality headsets.

While the smartphone wars centered on the app economy — and ended up dominated by Apple and Google — GSMA Intelligence said that the “new battleground is in [artificial intelligence]development and a push towards immersive reality.”

-Network innovation “has never been greater” as the industry heads into the 2020s — but that means new types of complexity and competition for network operators, the report said. Network models have shifted “from owning everything to sharing infrastructure” — but “unbundled” networks mean a breakdown of the traditionally high barriers to entry as a network operator.

GSMA Intelligence pointed to the example of private networks, where “telcos are, in theory, the default provider – but in practice there are multiple options, from enterprise own-builds using reserved or shared spectrum (e.g. CBRS in the US, Germany) to edge cloud infrastructure from AWS and Microsoft.” It’s entirely possible that in the coming decade, “frenemy-style partnerships with adjacent sector competitors” could “become the norm rather than the exception.”

-Geopolitical tensions are consolidating two tech poles: China and the United States. The report notes that China has put substantial state backing into making itself a global hub for advanced manufacturing and advanced computing, while “the U.S. has pursued a trade war to the detriment of its own tech groups. The net effect is significant consolidation of power and influence in two countries, which will continue over the
next decade. For Europe, this puts renewed importance on governments supporting their own telco and tech groups, be that through relaxing regulations, lowering spectrum prices, providing co-investment or other means.”

Read GSMA Intelligence’s report here.

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