The GSM Association (GSMA) has recently published its Mobile Connectivity Index for the year 2016. This is an interactive analytical tool, available via GSMA’s website, that measures the performance of 150 countries, representing 98 percent of the world’s population, with regard to mobile internet adoption. The Index assesses the countries by scoring (0–100) four key enablers—infrastructure, affordability, consumer readiness and content. Based on their scores, countries are characterized as “leaders,” “transitioners,” “fast transitioners,” “emerging” or “discoverers.”
Each of the four enablers is broken down into several dimensions. For example, under the heading of infrastructure is mobile infrastructure, network performance, other enabling infrastructure and spectrum. Affordability includes mobile tariffs, handset price, income, inequality and taxation. Consumer readiness includes basic skills and gender equality. And content breaks down into local relevance of several types of content and availability of apps. Each of these in turn is further broken down, for a total of 39 metrics. Using the interactive, map-based interface on GSMA’s site, users may view any or all of the data, global or country-specific, selected according to chosen criteria, in various graphic and tabular formats.
As an “input index” rather than an “output index,” the GSMA’s Mobile Connectivity Index essentially measures not the reasons why people are using the mobile internet but why they may not be—that is, the four enablers represent areas in which there could be impediments to mobile penetration. Consequently, study of the Index will indicate to mobile operators and other market participants what they must do to remove any impediments in these four areas and thereby increase penetration.
In this sense, it is a powerful intelligence tool with which operators all over the world can garner actionable information with which to boost uptake and consumption of services, and thereby to increase revenue as well as solidify their future and that of their national markets. As GSMA points out, “almost four billion people in the world remain offline”—a number that while daunting, represents a gigantic opportunity for providers committed to realizing, by means of mobile networks, “the ambition of universal access to the internet.”
It is almost unnecessary to point out that the success of a massive undertaking such as the Mobile Connectivity Index depends on the quality and richness of the data that goes into it. GSMA, as the representative of almost 800 operators and 300 related companies worldwide, has the capacity, through its division GSMA Intelligence, to generate a great deal of its own data. Still, in producing the Index, the GSMA relied on several outside entities with various areas of expertise to supply data. One of these is Tarifica, which was the source for most of the data in two dimensions of the affordability enabler—mobile tariffs and handset prices. The retail prices were captured as of the first quarter of 2017, and the data baskets used by the GSMA for these metrics were partly based on those currently used by Tarifica in its own data gathering and analysis.
“Affordability is one of the principal enablers of mobile connectivity,” says Kalvin Bahia, Principal Economist at the GSMA. “If consumers cannot afford a handset or a mobile tariff at the prices available to them, they will not be able to access and realize the benefits of mobile internet services. The price of mobile plans and devices is therefore a critical input in the GSMA Mobile Connectivity Index. In order to measure and compare prices across markets, Tarifica carried out primary research in more than 100 countries. The dataset they have developed is one of the most comprehensive available on mobile pricing in terms of the number of operators and countries included and the number of baskets considered.”