Intelligence Brief: Are women less likely to use mobile?

Women in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs) are 8 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone and 20 per cent less likely [1] to use mobile internet, or own a smartphone.

While this mobile gender gap is well documented, new econometric analysis by GSMA Intelligence and GSMA Connected Women finds women are less likely than men to own a mobile phone, use mobile internet, or own a smartphone even when other relevant socio-economic and demographic factors are controlled for.

As a result, women are prevented from accessing essential services for health, education and finance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic [2]. To address this issue, it is essential to understand what the underlying drivers of the gap are.

Are women less likely to use mobile because of broader gender inequalities in literacy, education, income or employment, or are there other factors at play?
To answer these questions, we have carried out new quantitative analysis (available on request) to better understand the key drivers of mobile ownership, mobile internet use and smartphone ownership, using three years of data (spanning 2017 to 2019) across 31 LMICs from GSMA Intelligence’s face-to-face consumer surveys.

The results show how key demographics influence uptake of mobile handsets, mobile internet and smartphones, building on previous research by various organisations on how different factors impact the mobile gender gap. Our findings show that:

Individuals in rural areas are less likely to own a mobile phone than urban populations, and the effect is even greater for mobile internet and smartphone adoption.
Those with lower incomes and those not working are less likely to own a mobile, use mobile internet, and own a smartphone.
Individuals that have only completed primary education are less likely to own a mobile, use mobile internet and own a smartphone than those with a degree or above, and those that have completed secondary education are more likely than those with only primary education, but less likely than those with a degree.
Similarly, those with low levels of literacy are less likely to access these three types of mobile technology than those with good literacy skills.
This analysis also finds that the probability of the three types of mobile technology adoption generally declines with age.

Women are less likely than men to own a mobile phone, use mobile internet or own a smartphone, even when other relevant socioeconomic and demographic factors are controlled for
Due to broader gender inequalities in literacy, education, income or employment, the above results show women are less likely to adopt and use mobile technology than men. However, addressing these inequalities will not close the gender gap completely. Even if women in LMICs had the same levels of education, income, literacy and employment than men, our analysis finds there would still be a gap in the adoption and use of mobile technology.

In other words, this additional negative effect can be solely attributed to gender.

Even when all these other relevant socio-economic and demographic factors are controlled for, women in LMICs are 5 percentage points less likely than men to own a mobile phone; 6 percentage points less likely to use mobile internet; and 4 percentage points less likely to own a smartphone.

This gender effect could be attributed to mechanisms which are hard to measure such as discrimination and social norms. We found this gender effect is worse for women living in rural areas, those who are unemployed, and those with lower levels of literacy.

By region, this gender effect was particularly strong in Africa and Asia, whereas in Latin America women are just as likely as men to own a mobile, use mobile internet or own a smartphone once other relevant factors are controlled for. This suggests certain types of women face different degrees of the gender effect which prevents them from becoming digitally included.

The results of this study have important implications.

They suggest even if broader gender inequalities in socio-economic outcomes are addressed, such as equalising access to income and education among men and women (which in itself is unlikely to occur in the short-term), there is still likely to be a persistent mobile gender gap. These less visible drivers, which could for example relate to discrimination or social norms in certain countries and which certain segments of women appear to experience more acutely, need to be better understood and addressed if the gender gap is to ever be closed.

Caroline Butler – economist, GSMA Intelligence and Matt Shanahan – insights analyst, GSMA Connected Women

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.


“Operators need to up their game in the IoT market”

In this article by Telecom TV  Sylwia Kechiche (@SylwiaBo) shares insights from our IoT revenue: state of the market 2020 report and comments on the opportunity for operators to capture growth from the IoT market.

According to our Enterprise in Focus research, less than 10% of enterprises see mobile operators as their primary choice of IoT partner, and, even though the connectivity services market is set to reach a value of $48 billion by 2025, it only represents a fraction of the overall IoT market opportunity.

If operators want to be considered as IoT partners by enterprises, they will need to develop vertical-led applications and partnerships to support the digital transformation efforts of enterprises.

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Intelligence Brief: What has Covid-19 cost the IoT?

In our recently published report IoT revenue: state of the market 2020 [1], we highlight how the overall size of the IoT revenue opportunity in 2025 will be $900 billion, a 2.6-times increase on the 2020 figure. However, we factored in a contraction of $200 billion in IoT revenue compared to our 2018 forecast. Covid-19 (coronavirus) is obviously a driver of this revision. The pandemic has disrupted the world as we know it, both on the supply and demand side. While IoT budgets and spending will contract in the short term, the legacy of Covid-19 will be faster digital transformation. To address this opportunity, players across the IoT ecosystem have to work together to simplify deployments and address the needs of end-users, whether that’s consumers, enterprises or governments.

While forecasting anything in the current climate is tough, I’ve highlighted below some of the key assumptions and drivers influencing our new revenue forecast (see chart, click to enlarge).


Deeper recession
In June, the IMF adjusted its outlook on the depth of the economic crisis. It now projects global growth at –4.9 per cent in 2020, 1.9 percentage points below the April 2020 World Economic Outlook forecast. There are still massive uncertainties, with waves of new infections, lockdowns re-emerging and potential vaccines all affecting market recovery. However, one thing is certain: government measures matter. Regions that cannot put stimulus plans in place will suffer more than others. We see sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America contracting the most. Northern America, Western Europe and pockets of Asia Pacific will benefit from fiscal stimulus plans which aid recovery, particularly in the important SME sector.

Short-term disruption but long-term upside potential
In this [3] blog post I discussed the impact Covid-19 will have on IoT connections [4]. We forecast IoT connections to grow at a slower rate compared to our December 2019 forecast: in 2020, net additions will decline by 45 per cent. Due to a combination of two trends, a short-term slowdown but stronger adoption of IoT across enterprise verticals that have to adjust to the new normal, we expect 24 billion IoT connections by 2025. This is a similar figure to our December 2019 outlook. In the short term, the economic uncertainty could constrain demand and funding for IoT projects. However, every crisis leaves a legacy in terms of faster innovation and a new normal. It is reasonable to assume that Covid-19 will lead to faster adoption among companies of IoT, AI/ML and 5G to drive digital transformation. Business will have to automate their operations. The nature of working is changing all over the world: to stay in the game, businesses and individuals have to adapt. Moving forward, enterprises and governments will want to build resiliency.

Applications, platforms and services are still key
IoT is all about data, and data will power the digital transformation of many sectors of the economy. Enterprises are deploying IoT to achieve cost savings, generate new revenue and comply with regulations. As such, enterprise deployments continue to centre on applications focused primarily on operational efficiencies such as quality control and the management of supply chains, assets and fleets.

The value from IoT data is what fuels application revenue growth. IoT service providers are simplifying deployment by offering complete but also customised solutions. The more these solutions are in the field, the more data will be collected and the more likely it is that new application revenue will be generated. Welcome to the virtuous cycle of data. To enable this, players continue to transition from a product sales strategy to a recurring product-as-a-service (PaaS) revenue model. Vendors, including operators, from across the ecosystem are vying to become the one-stop shop for IoT solutions. Those that have strong credentials and offerings in cloud computing platforms and infrastructure have an advantage. According to our Enterprise in Focus Survey 2019, 21 per cent of enterprises highlight them as first-choice providers for IoT solutions. Cloud players are busy inking partnerships across the ecosystem.

Don’t bet on connectivity
Although connectivity revenue will grow over the forecast period, it will only account for 5 per cent of the total IoT revenue opportunity by 2025. Compared with our previous forecast, connectivity revenue has changed the least. The main difference between then and now is the slower realisation of the 5G opportunity. The potential uplift from 5G IoT adoption depends on how quickly Release 16 can be deployed in commercial networks. We see 5G features such as ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (URLCC) becoming commercially available in 2022.

5G also grants operators an opportunity to address certain verticals such as manufacturing [5], look out for a blog on that soon. Recent announcements suggest operators have progressed in the way they are addressing the manufacturing sector, including SMEs, as they are increasingly offering simple, out-of-the-box solutions. Our research shows [6] IoT connectivity is likely to account for the bulk of IoT revenue. However, operators have been expanding their capabilities beyond connectivity to capture a larger proportion of the overall market to offer end-to-end solutions which involve other IoT capabilities such as platforms, security and analytics.

Professional services suffer the most
This segment (comprising consulting, systems integration and managed services) will suffer a 23 per cent contraction in 2020 compared with our previous forecast, linked to a decrease in new projects but also the fact that vendors are facing pricing pressure and accommodating changes to payment terms.

Systems integration will continue to be the biggest contributor towards professional services revenue as enterprises continue to struggle with integration. Our survey shows [7] that more than half of the companies surveyed reported integration as a key challenge. IT is the most difficult area to integrate, especially across Asia Pacific where companies are struggling the most (nearly 90 per cent of companies surveyed across India and Japan, for example).

So what does it mean for the players across the IoT ecosystem?

Our Enterprise in Focus Survey 2019 shows companies prefer to buy custom products from one provider. However, the simple truth is that no single company can address the needs of an entire IoT ecosystem. M&A continues, as do partnerships to provide IoT-as-a-service offerings to target different verticals. Recent examples include a Qualcomm and Infinite partnership for smart cities, Honeywell and SAP for smart buildings, and Verizon Business and Microsoft Azure in analytics.

Many solutions have been repurposed or created to address the short-terms goals of enterprises: ensuring workers’ safety, adherence to Covid-19 regulations and continuity of business operations. IoT vendors should focus their efforts on helping businesses quickly deploy IoT solutions to address these immediate needs as well as guiding them along the path of digital transformation.

– Sylwia Kechiche – principal analyst, IoT and Enterprise, GSMA Intelligence

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.


Intelligence Brief: Can FWA maintain its successful trajectory?

Over the past year or so, I’ve attended an increasing number of briefings and events focused on fixed wireless access (FWA). One thing always amuses me: the context-setting part that highlights how FWA is not actually a new technology or service. It’s a fair point, and only serves to remind me that I started looking at the space about 20 years ago.

I was there for LMDS in the US, for the plethora of proprietary solutions for leveraging MMDS (2.5 GHz) spectrum, and for the rise and fall of WiMAX. I believed in my overly optimistic market forecasts. Mostly, however, I believed (and still do) in the promise of using wireless technologies for fixed broadband use cases.

It was great, then, to tune into last month’s FWA Technology Forum launch [1]. The Forum brings together FWA-focused operators, manufacturers and analyst shops, with a goal of driving the industry and driving collaboration across industry players. And, if nothing else, it was an important reminder of some key market realities: FWA services play a critical role in connecting the unconnected; with 100 million users across 4G and 5G technologies, it’s no longer a niche technology; and the industry is now supported by an array of suppliers, giving operators plenty of equipment choice but potentially making those choices more difficult.

By bringing together insights from a broad set of FWA players, the Forum launch was an opportunity to gain further insight into the direction of the FWA market, helping to answer questions on the future of FWA and what we need to be thinking about if we want it to continue on a path to success.

What’s more important: 4G or 5G?
With 5G being rolled out around the world, it’s natural to think that any new interest in fixed wireless would be linked to it. The reality of FWA is more complicated.

Ultimately, to address rising capacity demand, operators will need to leverage all suitable spectrum. And, where spectrum is tied to a specific technology generation, this means leveraging 4G as well as 5G. Both come with specific advantages, ensuring that each has its place. 4G, for example, will be the logical option where 5G spectrum hasn’t been allocated, but also benefits from the infrastructure and CPE cost efficiencies that reflect its global scale and maturity – scale represented by the deployment of 401 FWA networks based on 4G (according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association, GSA). Clearly, there’s no shortage of successful 4G examples for operators to look to.

5G, meanwhile, will be an important technology for scaling FWA capacity and addressing new, high-bandwidth services thanks to the use of new spectrum bands but also technology innovations such as enhanced uplink and massive MIMO. Beyond bandwidth, however, 5G should help operators deliver differentiated services in the home. It’s a similar story to the way 5G is being positioned in the enterprise. And, while there aren’t as many 5G-based FWA networks, the fact remains that 50 per cent of 5G networks support FWA use cases (again, per the GSA). Since, like LTE, 5G represents a common technology that can support fixed and mobile services, this isn’t surprising.

What’s more important: networks or CPE?
It might seem silly to suggest that either network or CPE assets are more important in delivering FWA services. Services, after all, cannot be delivered without both. That doesn’t mean it’s not a question worth asking, or one without an answer.

Think about mobile broadband services. New generations of networks bring impressive features and capabilities – new speeds, new services, lower costs and added user scale. But device availability, features and costs always remain a gating factor on success. Fixed wireless is no different. Network infrastructure innovations help to make the business case, but CPE is critical to the business case in terms of costs (EG, device and deployment costs) and services (EG, home networking features and differentiated services). Now more than ever, as FWA looks to address multiple use cases, these service capabilities are critical.

And this is one place where the FWA Technology Forum could lend real value to the market. Experience sharing is a nice goal, and discussing technology trends is appropriate. Meanwhile, bringing CPE players into a solution catalogue, backed by integration testing and a CPE Open Lab, should help develop the FWA CPE ecosystem and get the right CPE into the hands of operators.

What’s more important: services or experiences?
I’ve heard the FWA sales pitch many times over the past few years. For their part, vendors often start by calling out an opportunity to connect the unconnected, while highlighting the value of specific solution assets: RAN re-use, CPE management tools, QoS and performance evaluation capabilities, service provision management (including coverage planning and prediction). All of these received attention in the Forum launch too.

Vendor marketing aside, however, this all points to the notion that FWA needs to be about more than connectivity or broadband services. It needs to be about in-home experiences. This is reflected in the way operators talk about themselves and the services they want to deliver. Just as importantly, we saw this reflected in the Forum’s discussion of using FWA to deliver multiple services (gaming, SME services, cloud services) and the provision of tools to manage the in-home experience (including a focus on in-home networking capabilities) versus simply delivering broadband to the home.

I don’t really recall how many FWA connections I forecasted back when I started looking at the market a couple decades ago. If I’m being honest, I don’t really want to remember – I’m sure I was way off. But with 400+ FWA networks built on 4G, and 50% of 5G networks supporting the use case, it’s clear that we are now talking about big numbers of users and connections and traffic. That’s a testament to how far the industry has come in the past few years – but a reminder that the market’s potential is far from being achieved, and that it won’t be achieved without the technology innovation and ecosystem development that makes it easier to deploy FWA and deliver compelling services with it. While it may not deliver all of this, the FWA Technology Forum launch seems like a step in the right direction.

– Peter Jarich – Head of GSMA Intelligence

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.