Approach, Deliverables and Milestones
The initiative, Delivering on Digital Infrastructure, was launched in May 2013. It provides a venue for industry-shaping discussions on strategy, innovation, market structure, regulation and business models. To this end, the World Economic Forum has organized multistakeholder regional meetings and workshops, and conducted individual interviews. Through those discussions and with the help of a steering committee and a working group drawn from leading companies of the industry, key challenges were analysed and recommendations proposed.
The deliverables are a series of publications, e.g. blogs and op-eds, and a report to be released in May 2014 that gathers the findings and recommendations.
Project Findings and Initial Recommendations
Basis of the Vision of a Healthy Digital Infrastructure:
Discussions with industry participants highlight the importance of having a positive vision for digital infrastructure to spur investment from infrastructure and services providers, and to drive adoption by consumers.
This vision rests on four pillars:
1. An environment that actively encourages investment and innovation in infrastructure
2. Industry models defined by cooperation
3. Regulators capable of tackling tomorrow's challenges
4. The digital economy as a means to resolve societal challenges
While several issues are globally applicable, others are largely regional and require tailored solutions.
Spectrum: Invisible Infrastructure:
Across all geographies, spectrum availability will be one of the greatest constraints on digital infrastructure in coming years. Major inefficiencies in allocation and utilization exist. Regulators and policy-makers should focus on the release of more licensed and unlicensed spectrums as well as harmonization at the regional and international level. Meanwhile, better utilization through a change in licensing procedures and an improved management of licensed spectrums are required.
IP Interconnection Agreements:
The growth of online streaming has put increased pressure on IP interconnection agreements, challenging the economics of involved parties and, in some cases, impacting consumers. Among stakeholders, this is a controversial issue but, as of today, the current agreements have proven to be relatively functional. Although alternative models should be tested in competitive infrastructure environments, stakeholders should maintain the commercial nature of IP interconnection agreements. At the same time, greater transparency for all parties is required to resolve disputes as they arise.
Europe – Crafting the Digital Renaissance:
In Europe, mobile infrastructure investments have fallen over the last 10 years, resulting in the level of LTE penetration lagging behind those of other regional markets. To craft the required digital renaissance, regulators should improve the investment environment for operators by allowing targeted consolidation, seeking regional and cross-industry alignment and focusing on competition laws rather than sector-specific ones. Likewise, operators must adapt their business models to increase demand for services through partnerships with digital services companies and restructured pricing.
US – Ensuring Innovation in Infrastructure and Services:
The US market is defined by a “more for more” approach. Consumers pay more for connectivity, but also consume more services; operators generally invest more and have healthier operations. While this environment has inspired adequate investment, there is an opportunity to support more innovation from existing players and new entrants. Policy-makers should encourage competition and innovation at a local/municipal level and eliminate barriers to innovative models.
Emerging Markets – Forging a New Path:
The digital economy has a tremendous opportunity to improve the lives of billions of citizens in emerging markets. Several challenges such as a digital divide between wealthy urban centres and poor rural districts, low ARPU and unaffordable mobile devices are unique to those markets. But these challenges also offer many opportunities, like the ability to leapfrog to new mobile technologies or grow new digital services to solve local challenges. Governments should provide vision to inspire investments from local and international investors and shape their own path.
For more information, please contact: TelecomsCommunity@weforum.org