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Innovation, digital transformation, decarbonization: Why the world needs telecom standards

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Each year at the World Standards Day we celebrate the efforts of experts worldwide who have worked and collaborated to make standards that help society progress in an inclusive, shared and fair way. In telecom, standardization through 3GPP has enabled global connectivity, created millions of jobs and contributed a significant proportion of global GDP. Here’s how.

Vice President, Head of Standards & Industry Initiatives

Why telecoms standards are important
Credit: Unsplash @robynnexy

Vice President, Head of Standards & Industry Initiatives

Vice President, Head of Standards & Industry Initiatives

On the 14 October the members of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) celebrate World Standards Day, a way to pay tribute to the collaborative efforts of thousands of experts who develop voluntary technical agreements that are published as international standards. In the telecommunications industry standardization has been vital to facilitate global connectivity, support millions of jobs and generate a sizable proportion of global GDP.

In this blog post we’ll detail why the world needs telecom standards: how the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has helped ongoing digital transformation and decarbonization of society now accelerated by 5G, and why continued standardization is important to maintain that momentum going forward. We call that the mobile miracle.

1. The mobile miracle

It is no exaggeration to say the mobile miracle has had a transformative effect on the world we live in. According to figures from 2019, mobile technologies and services generated 4.7 percent of global GDP or $4.1 trillion of added economic value. The mobile ecosystem supported 30 million jobs directly or indirectly and contributed to $490 billion in general taxation[1].

Key to making this seismic impact possible is standardization, which generates scale economies that lower costs and make mobile technologies and services affordable. Mobile is the fastest scaling technology ever, and the transition to 5G is even faster than any previous shift, driving digital transformation and decarbonization of economies.

2. 3GPP: how it works and what it does

3GPP – of which Ericsson is a member – is the leading standards organization that creates the specifications for end-to-end mobile networks. It defines a blueprint for an operator to build a network from the device through to the Radio Access Network, core network and finally applications and services.

More than 700 companies contribute to 3GPP, which has achieved global interoperability, roaming and economies of scale. With its frequent releases new technologies enabling game changing services have become available at an unprecedented speed. Its scope has expanded from communications services for consumers to those for enterprises and newer use cases in areas like public safety.

As an industry leading innovation model, 3GPP defines a complete multi-vendor platform for an interoperable global ecosystem and creates a full system-level design. Its open standards facilitate new entrants on both the network and device side to innovate, launch products and successfully compete.

Without 3GPP there would be no mobile internet, the primary means of access for most of the world’s population, which has paved the way for the app economy. Global standards and scale economies are key to ensuring that remains the case, particularly now as the far-reaching consequences of 5G’s rollout continues. 5G will enable mobile broadband, Internet of Things (IoT) and low-latency industrial connectivity to an expected sum of $2.2 trillion to the global economy between 2024 and 2034[2].

3. FRAND: Encouraging innovation and collaboration

A basic premise is that patents can prevent others from using the technology you have invented. In the telecom industry, however, the commitment to broad dissemination of standardized technology via licensing under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions means the use of standardized technology is not blocked. FRAND licensing ensures those who contribute to technology standards receive adequate compensation and incentivizes continuous reinvestments for future development.

This principle means innovative companies are encouraged to share and compare ideas during the standardization process so the best technology standard can be set.  The FRAND licensing framework has encouraged competition, created wide choices for consumers, provided clarity and helped reduce prices while simultaneously improving quality and performance.

4. Looking to the future: The impact of 5G and its role in decarbonization

5G and its evolution towards 6G is going to have a revolutionary impact on the future. Central to enabling further use cases is the horizontal network platform architecture based on open industry standards and open-source software produced in 3GPP and corresponding standardization bodies.

The open network platform will be built on the key 3GPP interfaces and complemented with additional interfaces key to fully utilizing cloud and virtualization technologies. In the coming years digital infrastructure based on 3GPP will be fundamental to the rapid digitalization of countries, demonstrating that it is a truly open innovation platform. The platform is essential to the digital developments of society, a central contributor to reducing global carbon emissions – some estimate it can account for up to one third of the 50 percent reduction targets set for 2030.

For more than two decades 3GPP has established the fastest scaling global technology ecosystem ever, and 5G’s network launch rate and number of new connections is unprecedented. The mobile industry’s economic contribution will increase by almost 20 percent to $4.9 trillion in 2024 – or 4.9 percent of global DDP – and 3.5 billion 5G connections are predicted by 2026.

Standardization in telecoms has been a vital part of this journey and must remain a fundamental principle to ensure the mobile miracle continues. The fruits of that collaborative spirit should be celebrated on World Standards Day, and its benefits kept in mind when looking to the future, for both societies and our planet.

Explore how Ericsson gets a fair return on it’s R&D investment via FRAND licensing terms.

Learn more

Read more about Ericsson’s work developing standards

[1] The mobile economy 2020

[2] GSMA

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