BARCELONA, Spain-- In addressing the crowd gathered before him at Mobile World Congress's keynote speech, "Sustaining Growth in Challenging Times," GSMA's CEO Rob Conway wasted no time illustrating the severity of the world economic crisis.
"We gather today in the face of an economic tsunami," he said.
However, despite frozen credit markets, massive government bailouts and bankrupted companies, Conway said the mobile industry is in a position to weather the economic downturn."Which sector is noteworthy for not being part of the bailout crowd?" he asked. "Telecoms, and particularly the mobile industry."
Conrad said the crisis must be viewed as an opportunity, and that governments should look to the mobile industry as a way out of the crisis, through the industry's innovation, infrastructural improvements and job creation. "We are the best answer to the downturn and we can do so in a more environmentally sensitive way," he said.
In the United States alone, he noted, substitution of landline phones with mobile phones has doubled since 2004. "Smartphones are creating their own unique demand," he said. "There will be a 22 percent growth in smartphones in 2009, according to the IDC, and they will feed mobile social networking, the next big wave in our industry."
Beyond infrastructural improvements and job creation, Conrad said that exploiting opportunities in new markets--most notably China-coupled with increased deployment of mobile broadband capability across handsets and territories, is the future of the mobile industry. "Mobile investments create jobs that are six times more productive [than other sectors]," he said.
Thus began Conrad's pitch for the essential importance of the mobile industry's share of spectrum bandwidth, referred to as the Digital Dividend. Conway asked Europe's regulators and governments to put aside a quarter of the radio spectrum freed up by the switch to digital television. "One hundred million Europeans are beyond the reach of fixed broadband," Conrad said. He advocated for a "low-band harmonized spectrum" which reduces cost of deployment and power consumption and improves coverage.
"The tremendous success of mobile broadband means we will be out of capacity without new spectrum," he warned. "Mobile must get its needed share of the digital dividend; how many TV channels do you need?" Because operators invest for the long term, Conrad said regulatory stability is essential, and mentality must extend to LTE (Long Term Evolution), which he termed "our future." He said GSMA embraces operators' decision to embrace LTE. "You can talk about WiMax, but it is a sideshow to this event," he said.
Conrad used the keynote to lay out a swath of environmental initiatives as well, including initiatives for efficient base stations. "We can see solutions emerging for a more efficient industry," he said, describing wind- and solar-powered base stations and the promotion of a "green power for mobile" alternative energy program. "Mobile and ITC in general can reduce total emissions by 20 percent by 2020," he said.