The GSMA today published its second annual ‘Global Mobile Trends’ report, which provides exclusive data and analysis on the key trends shaping the future of the mobile ecosystem. Published at Mobile World Congress Americas being held in San Francisco this week, the 2017 edition of this flagship report series compiles data on mobile subscriber growth trends across both developed and emerging markets, plus insight on: device innovation beyond the smartphone; the evolution from 4G to 5G networks; industry financial performance and growth outlook; competition and convergence; and statistics for every region worldwide.
“Our latest Global Mobile Trends report provides a comprehensive view of the opportunities and challenges facing the mobile industry as we move into a new era of ubiquitous connectivity,” said Laxmi Akkaraju Chief Strategy Officer at the GSMA. “Built on best-in-class GSMA Intelligence data and produced by our in-house team of industry analysts, today’s report maps out how future networks and operator business models are evolving within a rapidly shifting industry landscape.”
Key takeaways from the 2017 edition of the Global Mobile Trends:
Connecting the next billion : Five billion people are now connected to mobile networks, representing two-thirds of the world’s population. However, growth is slowing; it took four years to move from 4 billion to 5 billion subscribers and connecting the next billion will take longer still. Meanwhile, smartphone and mobile broadband growth is driving mobile internet usage and engagement, and new form factors are emerging beyond the smartphone.
Rapid 4G growth: Industry excitement around 5G overlooks the fact that 4G still has plenty of headroom for future growth. 4G is forecast to account for two-thirds of global mobile connections by 2025 (up from around a quarter today), driven by increasing 4G adoption over this period in major emerging markets such as Brazil, India and Indonesia.
The pathway to 5G: Early 5G deployments will likely target high-bandwidth applications as an extension to 4G, notably 8K ultra-HD video and VR/AR apps, although the US will focus initially on using 5G as a last-mile technology for home broadband. South Korea and Japan are likely to be among the first 5G markets, showcasing the technology at the Olympics in 2018 and 2020, respectively. However, on a global basis, it’s expected that 5G networks will be rolled out at a slower rate than 4G and adoption is therefore also likely to be slower.
Transforming the network: A paradigm shift in network architecture is required to support the shift to 5G and Internet of Things, requiring the creation of decentralised networks that combine a number of network technologies (e.g. small cells, LPWA), using software-controlled network functions, and running over both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Edge computing and network slicing will be needed to support major 5G applications.
Telecoms and media converging: Convergence is now occurring at an industry level, as evidenced by the recent M&A boom that is creating telco-media conglomerates that seek to unlock new opportunities by combining content offerings with core network services; examples include Verizon/AOL/Yahoo and the proposed tie-up between AT&T and Time Warner. However, investors have yet to price in a growth premium for converged telco-media plays, which continue to be valued significantly below major tech players. The quintet of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix have collectively grown enterprise value 3.5x since 2010, with large telecoms operators remaining relatively flat over this period.