Mobile communications and environment

Mobile needs global standards to ensure a greener, safer world

Image credit: Kornnphoto/Dreamstime

Now that mobile communications have become a pervasive part of everyday life, the right approach to establishing industry standards can help manufacturers and operators make a significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions while also increasing security.

Standardisation plays a vital role in ensuring that products developed for one market can be sold in others with no, or minimal, modification to the production process. Its impact is huge in the mobile communications sector, where it has helped the industry evolve to the extent that it touches everything from healthcare to commerce.

Standardisation forms a collection of blueprints for the mobile industry and connected technologies such as IoT devices, encouraging competition by establishing a level playing field as well as helping the market as a whole to innovate in ways that meet consumers’ evolving needs.

Let me share some thoughts on how mobile standardisation is likely to progress over the next three to five years, relating to innovation, security and climate.

Greater competition among manufacturers is a key benefit of standardisation within the mobile industry. With common standards in place, manufacturers don’t have to create proprietary technologies that might not be compatible with other devices. Instead, they can focus on differentiating their products through design, features and pricing.

Standardisation also allows developers to create new applications and services that can be used on multiple devices and networks. This leads to a more vibrant and diverse mobile ecosystem, with greater innovation, better products and more choice for consumers.

What’s more, it helps operators to expand their networks and reach new customers, especially in developing countries, by using standardised equipment and technologies. This can help to bridge the digital divide and bring mobile services to people who might not have had access to them otherwise. I anticipate a wave of innovation, particularly from India and Africa, using the building blocks created by standardisation.

What’s important is that standards are not so strict that they slow the pace of innovation. When manufacturers are required to conform to common standards, they may be less willing to take risks and try out new ideas.

Over the coming years, standardisation will be increasingly driven by security concerns. Mobile devices and networks are becoming more interconnected and relied upon for sensitive personal and business information, making them a key component of national infrastructure.

One particular area of concern for mobile security is telehealth. The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns created an unprecedented healthcare crisis. Telehealth was widely adopted to provide a measure of healthcare without the need for physical contact.

This resulted in a rapid development of a burgeoning telehealth market. Yet confidentiality and security of patient information became limiting factors, incentivising new solutions and services that would meet demand.

Putting standards for mobile device security in place makes it easier for developers to design and implement solutions that protect mobile devices against hacking and data breaches. This can include things like encryption, authentication and access controls, which can help to protect devices from unauthorised access and secure new telehealth services.

However, it's important to remember that standardisation alone is not enough to ensure mobile device security. It must be combined with other efforts including user education and regular security audits to ensure that mobile devices and networks are protected from threats. Security standards also need to be as accessible as possible if they are to encourage rather than stifle innovation.

Turning to the environment, at present the mobile industry contributes around 3.5 per cent of total global carbon dioxide emissions, twice as much as the aviation industry. And as the sector grows, so too will carbon emissions - unless we make major changes.

Standardisation in the mobile operator market can play a significant role in decarbonising the telecoms industry. Establishing common technical standards for the deployment and operation of mobile networks can enable the development and deployment of technologies and practices including energy-efficient base stations, energy-saving modes for devices, and efficient use of spectrum.

Standardisation can also enable the development of new technologies and services that can help to reduce carbon emissions. For example, 5G enables technologies such as the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications, which can help to optimise energy and use, and improve resource efficiency in various industries such as agriculture, transportation and healthcare.

Over the next few years, we will see an increasing number of new standards within the mobile industry specifically targeting carbon reduction. Some will be directly designed to help mobile operators find more energy-efficient ways of operating, others will impact other areas of wider society.

Daily experience reminds us how mobile technology touches almost every area of our lives. Operators and manufacturers can play a major role in reducing carbon emissions and increasing security, as long as standards encourage, rather than hinder, cooperation and innovation.

Dario Betti is CEO of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum.


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