LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS AMERICAS 2017: Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of the GSMA, believes there has been a “remarkable turnaround” in the US technology industry over the past decade, but warned that an “insular approach” to immigration could see the country falling behind.

Mittal, who is also chairman of India-based Bharti Enterprises, said the US was “significantly falling behind” until the last 10 years in particular, when the country began to establish a leading position in important new technologies.

“All of us witnessed how poor the mobile networks used to be, the ecosystem looked like yesteryear, and there has been a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of this country,” he said.

The executive put the transformation down to two key factors: access to capital, which has been “phenomenal”; and the “influx of high quality immigrants coming in and settling down in this country”.

He said these newcomers added to the “momentum” of innovation in the US, and San Francisco in particular.

“I think the US will be doing itself a great deal of damage by going into a more insular approach by not welcoming the immigrants coming here,” he said.

Speaking in today’s Chairman’s Keynote, Mittal also vowed that the mobile industry would “rise to the challenge and meet the demands that this ecosystem asks of us”, despite bemoaning the large capex costs operators have to deal with in the current environment.

He estimated that the industry would spend $700 billion in the next three years, and that is mostly on 4G.

“As an industry put together, we are looking at spending hundreds of billions of dollars on capacity creation and spectrum auctions, but we have to do this to stay relevant by what’s been done by Apple today, for example, and that is putting more powerful phones in the hands of the people.”

Apple earlier today unveiled its iPhone 8 and iPhone X handsets at a launch in San Francisco.