Kathy Gibson is at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona – Telecommunications is enabling the move towards a smart, more connected world – but the industry is still striving for more level playing fields while providing better trust.

According to Mats Granryd, director-general of the GSMA, networks themselves are evolving to be more liquid and smarter.

He used his keynote address at MWC 2019 to appeal to regulators and governments to enable a more open and competitive environment within which telecommunications can thrive.

“The investment-intensive nature of our industry requires a new and fresh regulatory approach,” says Granryd. “We need policy makers to be open to a market that is structured to encourage investment.”

The same holds true for spectrum, he adds. “Governments are using 5G as a cash generator, but spectrum needs to be allocated for longer times and there needs to be a level playing field.

“We ask for the same rules, obligation and pro-investment framework,” Granryd says.

Another concern that needs to be addressed by the industry is the issue of data. “We are flooded with data,” Granryd says. “It will improve the world in ways we have yet to imagine. Data can be a powerful source for good, improving our quality of life.”

However, Granryd stresses that we need to be aware of the nature of that data, and understand what it is used for.

“We think data could be treated as a new factor of production and contributor to the world’s GDP,” he says.

“Data is like dignity: it has its own value. It cannot be expropriated, it has fundamental rights, and citizens must be in charge of their own data and the value it has. Data must be guarded by ethical standards.”

This leads into the next issue that needs to be addressed: that of ethical business.

“What does it mean to be an ethical business?” Granryd asks. “Our stakeholders expect us to embrace sustainable economic models that create long-term value for customers.

“This implies doing business in a financially, environmentally and economically sustainable way.

“It is uncharted territory, the rules not yet written. The opportunities are amazing: let’s honour it.”

Among the benefits that AI could offer to society include better care of the elderly and connected vocational training, Granryd says.

Combined with connectivity, it opens up a range of new possibilities. “Driverless cars will be connected to smart streets and can start to bring together smart cities. And will be able to use our resources more effectively.”

Consumer trust is still a stumbling block when it comes to intelligent connectivity, Granryd points out. “Network integrity and security is a hot topic right now.”

He says critical connectivity requires harmonised spectrum with the right conditions. “But this can’t happen if operators are burdened with debt. Don’t kill the golden goose.

“We need to maintain competition,” Granryd adds. “We ask for the same rules for equivalent digital services.”

And there is a need for globally harmonised data protection and privacy rules, he says.