The GSMA called for governments to pursue policies that “incentivise investment and promote development of digital economies”, in a report created in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group.

“As the digital and mobile revolution continues to accelerate, new technologies – artificial intelligence, robotics and IoT – promise great benefits, but also continued disruption resulting from the digitalisation of many industry sectors. Forward-looking policies can enable citizens, businesses, societies and countries to prosper, improving lives and livelihoods, while mitigating the possible adverse effects that can accompany economic change,” said John Giusti, chief regulatory officer of the industry association.

Despite the benefits of digitalisation, the GSMA warned the pace of change creates the possibility of a gap between those who are digitally connected and those who are not. Governments therefore have an important role to play in creating a policy environment which allows for an inclusive digital society, “where few feel threatened or left behind”.

The report encourages policymakers to be “the architects of change” by using policy to drive change and transform economies for the benefit of citizens. This includes enabling high speed, reliable and robust digital infrastructure; digitally “willing and capable people”; digitally competent and engaged businesses; a trusted environment for digital interactions; and a government that “leads by example”.

Spectrum pricing
A separate GSMA report said high spectrum prices are linked with more expensive, lower quality mobile broadband services.

The study, developed in collaboration with NERA Economic Consulting, said average final prices paid in auctions increased 250 per cent from 2008 to 2016, “with the most exorbitant price tags often influenced by policy decisions”.

“The era of judging the success of auctions based on headline-generating revenue figures is over. The damage done to consumers – and the wider digital economy – by policies that artificially inflate spectrum prices has been too great,” said Brett Tarnutzer, head of spectrum, GSMA.

The report offers four key pricing policy recommendations: set modest reserve prices and annual fees, and rely on the market to set prices; license spectrum as soon as it is needed, to avoid artificial scarcity; avoid measures that increase risks for operators; and publish long-term spectrum award plans proritising public welfare benefits over state revenue.