GSMA Director General Mats Granryd to bow out after MWC 2025

With the mobile industry facing an uncertain future, Mats Granryd has decided to step down next year from his position as Director General of the GSMA.

Nick Wood

June 3, 2024

3 Min Read

In his nine-year stint, Granryd has extended his contract on two occasions. "After much contemplation, I've made the decision not to extend this third time round," he said in a video uploaded to X. He will stay on as DG until the end of March 2025, after which he will take on the role of special advisor the GSMA board for the remainder of the year.

Granryd left his job as CEO of Sweden-based Tele2 to join the GSMA in 2015. His role as DG became effective from the beginning of 2016. noted at the time of his appointment that operators were "increasingly struggling to turn subscriptions into profit" and were "consequently looking to M&A activity as well as multiplay product strategies to survive."

To be clear: it's not Granryd's responsibility to single-handedly revive the financial health of an entire industry. However, considering the GSMA's main job is to advocate for operators' interests, it is certainly worth comparing where telcos stand today with where they stood back then.

The short answer is not much has changed.

While network coverage and capacity has continued to improve all over the world, operators are still struggling to turn subscriptions into profit. 5G has so far failed to deliver on its great promise due mainly to the slow progress of standalone (SA) deployments.

Multiplay product strategies have had to evolve as streaming services have come to dominate the content market. A lot of telcos are focusing more on value-added connectivity services to make their subscriptions stickier and to prop up ARPUs.

Many telcos are still looking to M&A activity, either divesting sub-scale operations to focus on core markets, or carrying out 'mergers of equals' to give themselves a chance of staying in the fight for a bit longer.

Online service providers are still being blamed for stealing telcos' lunch while not being subject to the same rules as network operators. The industry continues to lobby – more or less in vain – for level playing fields and regulatory holidays.

Operators have also been flogging off more of the family silver.

In addition to carving out and monetising network infrastructure, CSPs have also turned to open network APIs – inviting developers to innovate on their behalf in hopes of getting some scraps from the table.

While APIs have the potential to become a new source of revenue, other players – like network vendors and hyperscalers – are also jockeying for position in the API ecosystem. Depending how the API market takes shape, operators could be left with a diminished role.

The industry's effort to stimulate competition in the vendor market through the Open RAN movement has also yet to bear fruit.

On top of all that, there are macro uncertainties, like the ongoing economic headwinds caused by inflation, and – for European operators in particular – a new European Commission looming on the horizon.

The GSMA hasn't named Granryd's replacement but said there is a "well-established plan for succession." Let's hope whoever steps into Granryd's shoes can inject some new energy into an industry that's starting to look a little stagnant.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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