Mobile Ecosystem Forum outlines Telecoms & Media Regulation

The telecoms sector can expect regulatory changes that reflect the evolving landscape of technology & society says Dario Betti, Mobile Ecosystem Forum CEO

Established in 2000, the Mobile Ecosystem Forum is a global trade body that acts as an impartial and authoritative champion for addressing issues affecting the broadening mobile ecosystem. MEF provides its members with a global and cross-sector platform for networking, collaboration and advancing industry solutions. The goal is to accelerate the growth of a sustainable mobile ecosystem that drives inclusion for all and delivers trusted services that enrich the lives of consumers worldwide. 

Dario Betti, CEO of the MEF, shares his expert insight with Mobile.

How will changes in technology be treated by telecoms regulators? 

Consumers in the Netherlands, Germany and the US have all seen the switching off of 3G networks, and mobile providers in the UK will be retiring 3G this year to allow them to focus on fourth and fifth generation technology. As the shift in priority to 5G spreads across the world, regulatory bodies will deliberate issues such as spectrum allocation, security standards, and privacy concerns associated with 5G infrastructure.

Ensuring universal access to affordable and reliable telecommunications services will also be a top priority. While 5G expansion will be encouraged, regulatory initiatives will aim to expand connectivity to underserved and rural areas.

Artificial intelligence continues to redefine many industries, and the telecom sector is no exception. Regulatory bodies will need to take positions on a variety of challenges posed by AI in areas such as network management, customer service, and data analytics.

Telecom companies deploying AI solutions may face scrutiny to ensure transparency and accountability in their algorithms. Regulators may develop frameworks to govern the use of AI in decision-making processes, particularly where it impacts user experiences and data privacy.

With important elections taking place in the UK and USA in 2024, concerns about cyber security issues are only going to increase. Headlines will likely focus on possible interference in these elections, but what about consumers?

The issue of privacy has become a focal point for regulatory bodies worldwide, with an increasing emphasis on safeguarding user data and communications. Security concerns related to cyber threats and network vulnerabilities will drive regulatory changes. Governments and regulatory bodies will likely enforce comprehensive security measures to fortify telecom infrastructure against cyber attacks. This may involve the implementation of advanced encryption protocols, regular security audits, and the establishment of incident response mechanisms to mitigate potential risks.

Increasingly high levels of identity fraud, protection of minors, business impersonation and counterfeiting mean regulatory bodies will renew and redouble their focus on issues related to online identity verification and authentication. Customer identity is still crucial for the Internet—it has been an ‘identity-less’ structure—but the anonymity on the Internet is now challenging the protection of minors. Age verification is becoming more concerning given the success of online social media and messaging platforms. 

Environmental and sustainability issues are never far from the top of the news agenda – will the telecoms sector find itself in the spotlight? 

The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is responsible for about 2% of all global emissions, about the same as the aviation industry, and it is inevitable that the telecom industry's environmental footprint will come under increasing scrutiny, leading to calls for more effective sustainable practices. In 2024, regulatory changes are likely to focus on reducing the industry's carbon footprint, minimising electronic waste, and promoting energy-efficient technologies.

Governments may introduce incentives for telecom companies that adopt green technologies and impose penalties on those failing to meet sustainability standards. Collaboration between regulators, industry stakeholders, and environmental organisations will be crucial in developing and enforcing regulations that promote a more sustainable telecom sector.

The number of mobile operators is reducing in many countries. Will consolidation in the sector be a concern?

Competitive pressures are creating challenges for Telecom and Media players regarding increasing their average revenues, which in turn is depressing profit margins.  But new and advanced networks are still requiring large cyclical investments. New technologies have required new approaches and perspectives from policymakers.  An example is the ongoing deployment of 5G wireless networks.  In several jurisdictions, policymakers are moving forward with subsidy programmes and other efforts to encourage the deployment of advanced networks more deeply into unserved and underserved areas.  

Striking a balance between fostering innovation through healthy competition and preventing anti-competitive behaviour will be a key challenge for regulators. Telecom companies contemplating mergers will need to navigate regulatory approval processes carefully, considering both national and international implications.


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