GSMA Introduces Era of Earth Computing at MWC23

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BARCELONA, Spain—Following the opening of the first keynote of Mobile World Congress 2023 (MWC23), titled “Vision of an Open Future,” GSMA Director General Mats Granryd, Telefonica CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete and Orange CEO Christel Heydemann outlined new strategies for the mobile industry based on open infrastructure, APIs and new ways to connect the global networks, focusing on the concept of Earth Computing.

During the keynote, GSMA’s Granryd outlined the current state of the mobile industry, focusing on the immense benefits that networks and connected technologies are bringing to consumers, enterprises and public services, as well as on how operators have been able to deal with the immense surge of traffic the past three years without significant disruptions.

GSMA Director General Mats Granryd at MWC23.
GSMA Director General Mats Granryd at MWC23 (Source: Pablo Valerio)

Following the keynote, Granryd unveiled GSMA’s new industry-wide initiative called GSMA Open Gateway, a framework of universal network APIs that enable developers to launch new services accessing core features of operators’ infrastructure and traffic—an initiative that Granryd believes could be the next step to improving collaboration between industries and stakeholders in the global wireless market.

“By applying the concept of interconnection for operators to the API economy, developers can utilize technology once, for services such as identity, cybersecurity or billing, but with the potential to integrate with every operator worldwide,” Granryd said. “This is a profound change in the way we design and deliver services. In 1987, representatives from 13 countries worked together to harmonize mobile voice services and enable roaming. I believe that 35 years on, GSMA Open Gateway has the potential to deliver a similar impact for digital services.”

The new Open Gateway initiative launches with eight universal network APIs, including SIM Swap, QoD, Device Status (Connected or Roaming Status), Number Verify, Edge Site Selection and Routing, Number Verification (SMS 2FA), Carrier Billing (Checkout) and Device Location (Verify Location), according to the GSMA. The initiative plans to launch further APIs throughout this year.

The APIs are defined, developed and published in CAMARA, the open-source project for developers driven by the Linux Foundation and the GSMA.

After the initial unveiling of the GSMA Open Gateway, Telefonica CEO Álvarez-Pallete, who is currently serving as chairman of the GSMA, outlined the benefits of global connectivity and how, by increasing collaboration between industries and stakeholders, the global wireless market can enter into a new era, which he called “Earth Computing.”

“This is the time to merge the best of the earth with the best of the cloud,” Álvarez-Pallete said during the keynote. “This is the time for collaboration between telcos, big tech and digital players to create a digital future with opportunities for all. Something as amazing as this has happened before.

“Not so long ago, in 1987, GSMA changed the world,” he continued. “Now, the GSMA has over 1,100 members. Over 680 operators connect 5.5 billion people with voice, data and roaming services. Why not do it again? We can do it by remembering who we are. We created something unique. We were not afraid to radically transform connectivity to embrace mobility and computation and make it simple and universal, to make something [that is] very complex easy for customers and developers. That is the ambition behind Open Gateway: to create a common layer to expose network capability. To connect the earth and the cloud.”

Telefonica CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete.
Telefonica CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete (Source: Pablo Valerio)

Álvarez-Pallete then went on to extol the initiative’s critical role in eliminating the divide between mobile operations and cloud services—a crucial step to paving the way for next-gen concepts, such as Web3.

“GSMA Open Gateway will enable single points of access to ultra-broadband networks and provide a catalyst for immersive technologies and Web3—giving them the ability to fulfill their potential and reach critical mass,” he said. “Telcos have come a long way in developing a global platform to connect everyone and everything. And now, by federating open network APIs and applying the roaming concept of interoperability, mobile operators and cloud services will be truly integrated to enable a new world of opportunity. Collaboration amongst telecom operators and cloud providers is crucial in this new digital ecosystem. The world would not be the same today if the GSMA had not done its job. … Today, we are ready to do it again. We are reinventing the GSMA. We are making things happen.”

Next, Orange CEO Heydemann took the stage to discuss operators’ challenges in this global, connected economy. She was adamant about the challenges operators are facing, especially in Europe.

“Over the past 10 years, the situation for European telecoms has become completely paradoxical,” she said. “Our sector is dealing with contradictory requirements. According to PWC, 46% of telco CEOs think they won’t make it another decade.”

Heydemann made some strong comments about the vast investments that CSPs need to make to provide the best connectivity and faster networks—all while offering very competitive prices for consumers and, simultaneously, allowing internet companies and content providers to enjoy the benefits.

Without disclosing names, she blamed regulators and internet companies for expecting all the investment—over €600 billion ($640 billion) in the past 10 years—to come from the operators, making it difficult for them to share the benefits of the digital economy.

“Because of the massive network investments, over €600 billion in the last decade happened to be hard to monetize, and consumers expect to pay less and get more,” Heydemann said. “Currently, telcos face pressure to reduce their capex while coping with exponential traffic growth, mainly coming from a handful of digital players. Five of the largest online traffic generators account for 55% of daily data traffic. It represents a cost of approximately €15 billion per year, paid by European operators. I truly wonder if this is what we had in mind 10 years ago for the future of our European digital industry.”

Orange CEO Christel Heydemann.
Orange CEO Christel Heydemann (Source: Pablo Valerio)

This is where Heydemann believes Earth Computing can step up to meet the unique challenges that continue to negatively impact the global wireless market.

“In line with our new plan, called ‘lead the future,’ we must step aside and take a fresh look at our industry. … European telecommunication companies are committed to taking the future into their own hands, side by side, with an open, sustainable and collaborative approach,” she said. “It’s the concept of Earth Computing that José María talked about. We can make the earth talk and connect with the cloud in a simple way. … It’s time to recognize that the telecom industry has been one of the greatest contributors to our economies with massive investments.

“Our telco industry is absolutely essential, and it is fast adopting the latest innovations,” she continued. “So we must capture the full value of our services and the next generation of open networks. And we can’t build our future alone. So I ask everyone here to step forward, not to lead the future but to lead our future.”

At the end of the session, GSMA’s Granryd reminded the audience about the challenges of connecting the remaining 3.6 billion people without access to mobile internet. He said that while there is coverage in most areas, many people cannot enjoy the benefits of digital connectivity due to the cost of mobile devices and, in many cases, lack of digital literacy. He believes that mobile stakeholders, internet companies and the public sector must act quickly to reduce the digital divide.

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