Press Release

Innovating Through Connectivity: Creating A Path to a Digitally Transformed Future at M360 Asia Pacific 

By Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA 

For many years now, Seoul has been regarded as one of the most innovative cities in the world, with its cultural impact extending far beyond its borders. A phenomenon known as the Korean Wave. 

But, while “innovation” is a much-used word in the technology industry, what exactly does it mean?  

Well, one definition, describes innovation as “the systematic practice of developing and marketing breakthrough products and services for adoption by customers”. To me, that is disappointing, it lacks inspiration and falls short of capturing the true essence of the concept. 

To me innovation is about adventure, trial and error and experimentation, believing deeply in something and having the passion to keep going, even when others say it cannot work, and perhaps most importantly, solving real problems and finding ways to make the world a better place. 

Innovation is found in stories like Samsung’s transformation from a grocery store to one of the world’s largest producers of electronic devices; KT’s decision to invest over $5 billion in AI (Artificial Intelligence) platforms targeting robots, healthcare, and education; and South Korea’s remarkable journey to become one of the most advanced, digital nations in the world, in just a few decades. 

Innovation is so much more than a systematic practice; it is part of our DNA as an industry, the driving force behind everything we do, pushing us to constantly evolve and create a positive impact. 

Celebrating 50 Years of Innovation and Connectivity 

This year marks 50 years since the first mobile phone call was made. Since then, the mobile industry has been at the forefront of innovation, evolving and adapting to the world around us, developing new products and services to bring people closer together. 

Today, our networks cover 95% of the world’s population, serving an astonishing 5.4 billion unique customers. And, as we navigate the complex landscape around Web 3.0, AI, and intelligent connectivity, it is essential to recognise that connectivity lies at the heart of it all. 

As we look to the future, our industry is poised for a strategic shift – a transformation to future-facing tech communications companies, where everything and everyone is connected through our platforms, marking a new era of possibilities. 

GSMA Open Gateway: Pioneering the Path Forward 

At MWC Barcelona, earlier this year, we took a significant leap in this direction with the launch of GSMA Open Gateway – a framework of common APIs (Application Programmable Interfaces) that offer universal access to operator networks. This framework empowers developers and cloud service providers to enhance and build new digital services, accelerating the development of immersive technologies. Momentum is building fast, with  over 30 operators, representing more than 60% of mobile connections worldwide, participating in the initiative. 

While we had just eight proofs of concept in February, we now have 23 covering a diverse range of services from device location and SIM swap to edge discovery and quality on demand. This is just the beginning, with many more APIs developed in the coming years creating new markets, offering new services and functionality, and unlocking value from 5G connectivity, which will flow into the global economy and strengthen future investments.  

This is an incredible opportunity for telcos working together on a common strategy, for the developer ecosystem to capture their requirements, and for ‘Big Tech’ to ensure APIs solve new product and business challenges. 

As more partners join the initiative, we have the potential to build a deep ecosystem enabling innovation across industries and verticals, and bringing the transformational benefits of connectivity to all. 

Tackling the Practical Challenges 

While the future looks promising, there are some practical issues that require attention, including network investment, spectrum, and the usage gap. 

Operators in the Asia Pacific region are projected to invest $259 billion on networks by 2030, mostly on 5G connectivity, and so innovative financial models are needed to ensure these investments are realised effectively. 

Investment in innovation and partnerships will also be key to realising the full benefits of 5G and driving digital transformation across all sectors.  

Another crucial factor is spectrum availability. Affordable spectrum is essential for unlocking the full potential of connectivity, and the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), in Dubai later this year, will play a pivotal role in determining spectrum allocation. The decisions made at the WRC will shape the course of digital transformation, driving harmonisation and affordability in mobile connectivity. 

For mobile, we need this year’s WRC to deliver low band spectrum to decrease the usage gap, 3.5GHz harmonisation to drive affordability, and the 6 GHz band for the crucial expansion of 5G. If we can achieve this, we have an opportunity to put new use cases and applications into the hands of billions more people across the world and ensure that no one is left behind. 

Closing the Usage Gap 

Despite the impressive 96% coverage of mobile broadband networks in Asia Pacific, a usage gap exists, with nearly half of the population not yet subscribing to mobile internet.  

Overcoming this gap is one of the most important challenges that the mobile industry is committed to overcoming, but it will require collaborative efforts across the industry.  

Across the Asia Pacific region, policymakers and operators are working hard to address this challenge, as fantastic initiatives such as Reliance Jio’s Digital Skills Programme in India, Kistpay’s financial affordability solutions in Pakistan, and Hamro Patro’s popular localised content in Nepal demonstrate.  

However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that no one is left behind. Working together across the whole ecosystem, we must focus on addressing the barriers of device affordability and access, enhancing digital literacy, and creating relevant content in local languages to ensure that everyone, everywhere can safely access and use mobile internet. 

Embracing the Era of Innovation 

As we reflect on the past 50 years of transformation and innovation in the telecoms industry, we stand on the cusp of an even more exciting era. Through the power of passion, partnership, and perseverance, our industry’s innovation has reshaped the world, connecting billions of people. The release of the Digital Societies and APAC 5G Industries reports, this week at M360 APAC, underscores the remarkable progress we have made and the boundless opportunities ahead. 

With industry leaders and policymakers gathering at M360 APAC in Seoul this week, we have the chance to collaborate, learn, and innovate together.  

As we explore the potential of Web 3.0, AI, and intelligent connectivity, we must continue to push the boundaries of innovation, shaping a secure, open, and interconnected future for all.