Let's make the most of 4G before rushing to 5G, says GSMA's Bouverot

NICE, France--The dilemmas faced by mobile operators got a good airing during Wednesday's keynote sessions at the TM Forum Live conference here, with the GSMA's director general giving what could be interpreted as a gentle rebuke to vendors and "politicians" who are trying to rush ahead to 5G.

Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSM Association

Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA

Anne Bouverot pointed out that at 200 million connections globally, 4G--or what purists prefer to call LTE and LTE Advanced--is still really only beginning, with Europe still accounting for just 3 per cent of subscribers globally.

"We need to be careful not to rush into 5G," said Bouverot, who observed that the reason why Europe has been playing catch-up with markets such as the US and Asia on 4G is partly because 3G spectrum auctions burdened the sector with so much debt.

Bouverot said there is still a great deal of "inter-generational evolution" left with 4G, as technologies such as voice over LTE (VoLTE) and LTE Advanced are picking up pace. She was critical of the hype surrounding 5G at present and the way some vendors and politicians, without naming names, were pushing the industry to move faster even though 5G has not yet even been defined.

Bouverot also noted that the US, Japan and Korea currently account for more than three quarters of 4G connections, with Asia expected to increase its share to 50 per cent of subscribers in 2017 thanks to growth in China.

The GSMA executive also used the TM Forum Live platform to highlight other focus areas for mobile operators, such as digital commerce, the security and protection of personal data and connected living.

On the subject of digital commerce, she said there are now 200 mobile money services in the world, with 200 million registered users globally. Half of these are in Africa, she said. Bouverot also called on the TM Forum to help drive forward digital commerce by helping to create a standard interface for the mobile wallet.

Wearables were also cited as an interesting development for the mobile industry, and indeed Bouverot herself was sporting a rather trendy orange fit band. "I think this is a great trend," she said, although she added that she saw greater traction for wristbands initially than for other form factors.

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