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February 23, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 12:48pm

Society, not devices, dominates MWC keynotes as CEOs from Vodafone, Facebook & Telefonica take to the stage

List: 5 mobile demands from the keynotes at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

By Alexander Sword

The keynote speeches at MWC this year have focused on the usual technology, products and industry partnerships, among other things. But many of the top-level figures were looking for an overall change in direction from the industry itself or from the policy-makers whose yoke it operates under. CBR rounds up five demands from the keynotes so far.


1. Focus on quantity (and quality)

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, said:

"What has been disappointing is the idea that 4G was about giving people a good experience and 5G is about connecting things.

"It would be possible for this industry to continue to grow while doubling down on faster connections for rich people. What I personally hope is that we don’t do that but that we finish the job and make sure that the world gets internet access.

"Otherwise, the current trajectory is that we will be sitting here in 2020, there will still be almost half the people in the world not having access to internet. I hope all the people here will focus on both of these priorities: expanding bandwidth, getting faster speeds, but making sure that every single person in the world gets to share in the possibilities of having the internet."


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2. Build an economic model that includes telecoms

César Alierta, CEO at Telefonica, said:

"We need institutions, governments, citizens and policy-makers to realise the full potential of the digital world for the benefit of society. It is the opportunity to foster economic growth across the board. Digitisation is already having a positive impact on innovation, productivity and employment and will have important beneficial consequences in terms of growth.

"Recent reports estimate that a 10 percent increase in digitalisation of the economy will increase GDP per capita by 40 percent. I am totally convinced that these figures will be higher as the traditional metrics to measure economics are not capturing the total benefit of the digital era. Digitalisation gives benefits in inclusion, efficiency and greater integration.

"We clearly need a balanced scenario among all the players in the digital ecosystem. I stress that current regulation has to change to achieve the application of the same services, same protections, same rules principle in the space."


3. Education, education, competition

Vittorio Colao, Vodafone CEO said:

"A big change in society in the next five years will really be shaped by all of [the MWC delegates]. This has been called the mobile society or hyper-connected society. My name for it is the gigabit society. It is a society of hyper-connectivity, but also high speed, low latency, ultra-dense coverage and very secure exchange of data.

"We need a thriving ecosystem of providers. We need to be sure that no dominant position can steer the gigabit society in one direction or another. In some sectors, some people have dominant positions; this needs to be monitored.

"Once you have built the gigabit society it will be impossible to come back. It is important we have a clear vision of what a thriving ecosystem looks like.

"It is important that we concentrate our educational resources, our academic resources, our research resources to ensure that we have the skills developed and that the youth can find the jobs that the society will create.

"We need to support regulatory frameworks that allow strong competition. There is a tendency to say that you either have investment or competition. This is a false ideology; we need to have both investment and competition because we want the future to be healthy for everybody and not just a few."


4. Treat telecoms infrastructure as a competitive advantage

Hans Vestberg, Ericsson CEO, said:

"We have a big responsibility as an industry to continue to talk to regulators all around the world. We need to get them to understand that this is something that is going to transform the country. The borders between countries will go down.

"If you don’t do it, and wait and let other countries do it, it is going to be a competitive advantage to have really good solutions here. We need to get the message out that you can do public good by using this technology.

"So far it has been that if you increase the price of the frequency it is good short-term for the budget. But long-term you need this infrastructure if you’re going to compete with other countries."


5. Encourage investment

Ralph de la Vega, Vice Chairman of AT&T, said:

"There has to be a pro-investment policy that helps us justify the capital that we’re going to have to spend to get this going.

"In 2015 we invested $7 billion in Mexico because Mexico put in place a very pro-investment policy. We brought two wireless carriers, put them together and we now have 45 million people in Mexico covered with 4G, soon to be 100 billion. That happened since we were last here in Barcelona because the policy was right.

"In order for us to deploy 5G the regulatory policy has to be right so that we can earn an appropriate return on these investments."


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