Curated: GSMA Intelligence takes on mobile news

April 2021

In this new monthly blog series, we explore recent mobile industry announcements, and why they matter to you and the ecosystem. These insights are based on our Industry Feed, one of the most complete repositories of mobile news in the market, curated daily by our team of experts.

In the last few weeks, there were several developments in the mobile industry involving, but not limited to: Open Ran deals, 5G launches, coverage expansion, private networks demos/trials, industry partnerships, network/operator closures, restructuring…and more.

From these recent events, the team selected two market developments, and pondering their impact on the future of the industry:

Spin-off, Sell, or Shuffle – What is the latest with restructuring in telecoms?

Do you know that…

Recently two big operators announced new restructuring plans. Bharti Airtel shuffled its existing structure and announced a new structure that involves: (1) folding “Airtel Digital – the digital assets company” in the main holding company “Bharti Airtel”, and (2) creating a new 100% owned subsidiary “Airtel Limited” that will focus on the telecom business of the company (includes DTH business that will eventually be folded into the main telecom company). Separately, SK Telecom announced plans to spin off its telecom businesses into a new separate entity. The existing entity, also referred to as surviving entity, will house the telecom businesses (including SK Broadband), and a new holding company will be created that will oversee the leading tech subsidiaries of SK Telecom dealing into businesses ranging from semi-conductors to e-commerce. In another news, Indosat – Indonesia has joined the club of operators monetizing their tower/infrastructure business. The operator completed the third and final sale of its tower assets involving sale of 4,200 towers at a value of USD 750 million. The proceeds from the sale will be used to improve network performance and launch digital innovations.

So what?

Whether it’s a spin-off, organizational shuffling, or asset sale, the purpose and focus of restructuring is same: Monetize non-core businesses, unlock valuations of tech subsidiaries, tap digital innovation opportunities, and drive future growth in telecom business.

Not one size fits all! The same structure might not work for all the operators universally but what will work is the identification of assets/business that can be monetized in some or the other form and leveraging those assets. For some, it can be the tower business whereas for others it can be e-commerce companies or digital channels that will unlock valuations and drive funds too.

In another news…

Operators and Vendors step up their efforts on 5G private networks

Do you know that…

Operators are quickly moving from the partnership stage to trials/demos and deployment of 5G private networks. In recent announcements from U.S., AT&T has developed a 5G private network at Chicago’s MxD to help companies learn how private 5G networks can improve their manufacturing operations while Verizon, on the other hand, along with AWS, is testing private MEC at Corning’s Smart factory. Outside the U.S, TDC – Denmark and Ericsson came together some time ago and launched private 5G network pilot at grundfos plant, the findings and learning are now shared as valuable insights for future applications. From Asia, Singtel launched GENIE, a portable 5G platform to enable enterprises to experience 5G’s capabilities and trial use cases in their own premises. Meanwhile, Edzcom deployed private 5G networks at Mussalo and Hietanen shipping terminals and NOS installed 5G network at Sport Lisboa e Benfica stadium.

Industry partnerships are also very important and require the ecosystem to come together to deliver private networks set-up for enterprises. In last few weeks, we saw this as a number of players joining forces in separate deals to bring private 5G networks to life. Some of them are:

  • Orange partners with Ericsson to provide private automotive connectivity to Applus+ IDIADA
  • T-Mobile to deploy 5G campus network for Czech university
  • Claro, Embratel and Ericsson set up 5G Smart Campus in Sorocaba
  • Siriraj Hospital teams up with Huawei to develop a cloud-based unified management system

So what…

Now is the time for players to gain first mover advantage when it comes to 5G private wireless networks. LTE private wireless networks are already on the market, but 5G is expected to unlock new opportunities. Industrial IoT and a number of other enterprise use cases demanding low latency, high throughput and secure communication can be realised with 5G private networks.  There are various business models at play in the deployment of private networks; identifying your role in these models and early partnerships to seize on the opportunity will give an operator/vendor leading edge.

Finally, do you know that…

All the above analysis is based on news curated by our team of analysts, and taken from our Industry Updates feed. Visit our feed today for more of the news shaping the mobile industry of tomorrow, without interference.


Radhika Gupta, Head of Data Acquisition, GSMA Intelligence

Intelligence Brief: Does intent matter in network automation?

Earlier this month we wrote an analysis [1] looking at network and service automation and why it was an increasingly important topic, especially in a 5G context.

But, while we captured the main automation market drivers, we left out one important consideration: the role of intent-driven networking and the importance of collaboration in making it possible.

The analysis is worth a quick read but, to save you some time, I can recap the main points. They are fairly straightforward.

With operators scaling their 5G networks and services in 2020, it’s fair to say we are now firmly in a period of commercialised 5G. Nearly 150 operators around the world have launched services, and affordable smartphones can put services in the hands of an increasing number of consumers.

But 5G comes with its own challenges (costs) for operators:

Network operations. 5G involves new radio access and core assets deployed in new architectures and places, all alongside legacy networks.
B2B operations. The enterprise sector is a major source of 5G optimism: for most operators, it represents their greatest hope for new revenue. Yet, much like 5G itself, moving into the enterprise comes with new network architectures and assets to be deployed, adding even more complexity into the picture.
Quality demands. Selling consumers or enterprises on the 5G promise will only be possible if services are reliable and deliver as promised. Against the backdrop of new network complexity and operations challenges, that cannot be taken for granted.

Now, recognising opex is the major cost centre for most operators, easily outpacing capex by up to four-times, it’s clear solving these challenges by simply throwing more resources or labour at them isn’t a palatable option. Network and service automation, then, takes on a renewed importance but through the lens of a journey where automated systems and processes can be put in place in a step-wise manner.

What is intent-driven networking?
With the background context out of the way, it’s time to introduce a new concept into the discussion: intent.

Intent Management. Intent-driven networks. Intent-based networking. The concept goes by many names, but the basic idea is a relatively simple one, if often accompanied by lots of technical detail.

Intent-driven networking aims to strip out the complexities associated with network policies (creating them, managing them, enforcing them in line with general business objectives) to limit the need for (and errors caused by) human capital. Of course, AI and ML play a major role in enabling this.

Now, if this seems like a very broad description of automation in general, you’d be correct. But the difference here is all about the term “business objectives.”

The notion of intent is built around network configurations and commands that are driven by business objectives. This means policies need to be user/business friendly and outcome-based. At the same time, it means business intent needs to be translated into specific actions in terms of resource allocation, policy enforcement and network/service monitoring, all with AI/ML tools doing their work in the background. When it’s in place, intent-management promises network administrators the ability to define a business outcome/intent with the networks AI/ML capabilities sorting out how to make it happen and then actually make it happen.

Can you have intent without collaboration?
On paper, then, the concept of intent is straightforward: a focus on business outcomes instead of network configurations aligns completely with the goal of reduced complexity and improved service quality.

But is implementation just as straightforward?

You probably already know the answer. It’s going to be a complex effort because operator networks, themselves, are multi-layered and complex. This may seem obvious, but it is an important reminder. A given operator will maintain many multiple OSS systems, as well as myriad element management (EMS) and network management (NMS) assets. Going forward, these will need to consider many new network infrastructure locations (think edge computing), from which new services will be coordinated and/or delivered. In most cases, the network will be built from a number of different vendors. And this is all taking place against the backdrop of a universe of operators, many of whom may try to drive intent-based automation forward in their own ways.

This comes with a very clear implication: we will need collaboration across many multiple dimensions.

Of course, strategically we will need collaboration across vendors and operators to ensure we can identify (infer) the intent of various applications and that APIs remain open enough to support all of this. More fundamentally, however we will need collaboration across OSS, EMS, and NMS solutions. Without this, the end-to-end view needed to deliver on automated intent management just won’t work. And, remember those new network locations? They obviously need to be a part of this equation, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking. Yes, these assets will need to be managed. But, as automated (intent-driven) service delivery is rolled out, operators will need to consider the best locations from which to have decisions made, closer to the core for cross-domain, global, non real-time decisions versus closer to the user where real-time performance requirements take precedence. This too will need close collaboration.

If the value of intent as a core component of network and service automation is so obvious, you might be asking why we didn’t address it in our analysis.

It’s a good question, with a simple answer.

While we know that operators are prioritising automation, it’s still unclear how they view intent as a part of those strategies. To be fair, vendors claim no shortage of operator collaborations around automation and even note intent as part of that. But, consider your average network slicing conversation. How integral is the concept of intent? It should be central to the very existence of slicing, but they aren’t always mentioned in the same breath.

Now, we can’t necessarily expect two emerging technologies, driven by different sets of interests, to have their terminologies align perfectly. Yet, this does highlight a disconnect and why we need to understand better how operators are thinking about intent.

While we looked at automation extensively in our last Network Transformation survey, we did not dig into the topic of intent. As we launch an update to our survey, look for further insights on the topic in the future.

– 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.


Intelligence Brief: How is false online info on Covid-19 being tackled?

Last month big tech bosses were summoned to a US congressional hearing, held virtually. They were questioned about unrest in Washington DC’s Capitol Hill on 6 January and on the escalating issue of how false information online can fuel extremism.

The term false information has two dimensions: misinformation and disinformation. While the former often refers to misleading or inaccurate content shared innocently, the latter is generally characterised by an intent to cause harm through malicious untruths. False information online presents challenges for all countries, not just the US, and has been exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

With some countermeasures prone to unintended, if not damaging consequences, addressing the issue in the long run is expect to need collaboration across the public and private sectors.

The spread of false information online: why is this a growing concern?
Society has long grappled with the dissemination of false information, however the arrival of the internet has proved an accelerant, with one Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study indicating so-called fake news is able to permeate the digital world faster than real news. Online channels are efficient instruments to spread false information for a number of reasons:

the scale of online communities and platforms.
convenience and instantaneity, particularly of mobile-based channels.
technological tools and techniques that drive virality including bots, videos and deepfakes.
the proliferation of user-generated content, which is often unregulated and unverified.

While much information online is trustworthy and credible, the growing volume of false information means people can become misinformed, particularly impressionable or less tech-savvy users, with potentially dangerous effects.

Further, the wide range of themes targeted by false information online, including politics; climate change; religion; and health, makes the ramifications all the more significant. Outcomes for affected individuals and communities can include increased stigmatisation and victimisation, outright human rights violations and even violence. Yet arguably the most significant and widespread impact is the growing mistrust of institutions and the disruption of democratic processes, which could have dire consequences for social cohesion and inclusive economic development.

This has been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic, which has been accompanied by an infodemic, an abundance of information, which has in some cases posed risks for measures to control virus transmission.

For the telecoms industry, the erroneous link between Covid-19 (coronavirus) and 5G is particularly relevant, the impacts of which include protests, harassment of engineers and arson attacks on mobile towers.

Far-reaching impacts: how are policymakers and other organisations responding?
Understandably, tackling false information online has become a priority for governments and other stakeholders around the world. This has led to various countermeasures, some with implications for content creators, platforms, internet users and mobile operators. A forthcoming GSMA report analyses the situation in four Asia Pacific markets, where governments are at the forefront of efforts to address false information online (see chart, below, click to enlarge). Typically, the rationale is to maintain social cohesion and protect the integrity of institutions, as well as to protect vulnerable individuals and communities.


Encouragingly, several major social media platforms, tech companies and mobile operators have also taken action, particularly in Asia Pacific, which is home to some of the biggest and fastest growing online communities globally. In Indonesia, the Google News Initiative has partnered with the Ministry of Communications and Informatics and anti-slander society Mafindo to run a media literacy programme to train the public to spot false information and hoaxes on the internet. As the pandemic developed, Twitter expanded its use of machine learning and automation to detect the spread of potentially abusive and manipulative content (exempli gratia fake cures or treatments) and flag it for removal. Moreover, Pakistani operators have used ringing tones and SMS to disseminate information about Covid-19 (coronavirus), complementing measures to zero-rate access to health agency websites.

Nevertheless, while the dangers associated with the viral distribution of false information are widely recognised, some (usually ex-post), government initiatives are not without consequence and should not be underestimated. One particular intervention to highlight is state-ordered internet shutdowns to control the flow of information, which can undermine users’ trust in the internet, with knock-on effects for the advancement of the digital economy and the reliability of critical online government services. They also come with significant economic and social costs, as well as negative reputation and revenue impacts for mobile operators.

Addressing the problem long-term: what should stakeholders consider?
All of these efforts indicate how successfully tackling false information online will require a multi-stakeholder approach. Governments, internet-based platforms, citizens and citizens groups, and mobile operators all have roles to play in confronting and managing this pressing challenge.

Governments: As false information online can erode confidence in the state and institutions, considerations for governments which are especially relevant given the pandemic, could be to establish dedicated departments focused on this issue and to run mass awareness campaigns that engage with, inform and reassure the public.
Social media platforms: Social networks have been at the centre of efforts to disseminate false information and they will be vital to addressing it. They will likely need to consider how to balance reasonable, open debate with the potential for inaccurate or harmful material to flourish, and be transparent on how and why content is left up or removed.
Mobile operators: There can be misconceptions that wrongly put the blame on operators for the spread of negative content online. Still, operators can contribute positively by having the procedures in place for the timely compliance with notice and takedown orders upon receipt of a judicial order, and can employ their own channels to assist customers in finding verifiable, accurate information.
Citizens and citizen organisations: Citizens are the most harmed group from false information (and disproportionate countermeasures), but can also be responsible its circulation. The public should remain vigilant and consider some fact checking before sharing content with their online communities, while citizen groups can support or drive initiatives to improve digital literacy among their members.

As the amount of false information online grows and delivery mechanisms will no doubt change as technology evolves, considerations such as these signal a collective effort to meeting the problem head-on and cultivate a safer, more enriching digital experience for all internet users.

– James Robinson – lead analyst, 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.