HomeMobile EuropeIs it time for the GSMA to open up?

    Is it time for the GSMA to open up?


    It runs the biggest mobile event in the world and isn’t afraid of telling you about it. As you will be aware, last week over 60,000 people attended MWC in Barcelona, a new record for the event. There are hundreds of exhibitors, all keen to access that audience. Add in a slick and very impressive analyst and media operation and that’s a lot of stand, ticket and sponsorship sales.

    The event serves many useful purposes. It’s a high level talking shop allowing operators, service providers and major vendors the opportunity to distribute their messages globally. It’s a marketplace bringing together operators and their suppliers at a high level. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the media to access operators and vendors and, let’s be honest, to turn an advertising dollar or two at the same time. It generates a mobile bubble, virtually mandating a yearly product cycle.

    All these are good things. Without the GSMA’s scope and reach, no-one else could replicate it.

    So what follows isn’t “GSMA bashing”. The GSMA is a membership organisation that quite rightly acts in the interests of its members. I appreciate the work the GSMA does, its technology initiatives, its advocacy of the economic, social and cultural benefits of mobile. Many of its staff are helpful and personable and see their work, quite rightly, as facilitating the development of the mobile industry as a whole, for the benefit of all concerned.

    What I want to know is  – why not be more open about the figures? What is the total turnover of the MWC? What funds does the event generate to go forward into the overall activities of the GSMA? Where, in short, does all the money go?

    I asked the first two questions on Monday and was told by the GSMA that as a membership organisation it doesn’t share those numbers, and that all funds are reinvested in the industry and GSMA initiatives. I understand this, what I am asking for is a greater understanding of what that funding entails.

    So yesterday I asked the following questions, to explain why I think communicating this could be of value. Here’s what I asked.

    “Would it not be beneficial for the GSMA to publicise how these funds are invested – to demonstrate not just the scope of the GSMA’s activities, but to highlight and justify what is in essence the industry’s investment in itself?

    “Aside from subscriptions and other revenues, the GSMA runs the largest event in the industry which is often described in idle chatter as being a “money maker” for the GSMA. Yet the understanding of how those funds are used within and for the benefit of the industry is poor. Hence one common perception is of many, many millions of dollars being harvested from the event with little commensurate understanding of exactly where that money goes, and who benefits. The GSMA could, as an organisation, take some simple steps to change that.

    “Why should the GSMA not now be open about its total income, including income derived from events, and then break down how that is spent – including distribution and disbursements to initiatives, overall running costs, salaries (total, not individual!), etc?

    Perhaps you are already sharing this information amongst your members. How are GSMA accounts distributed currently? Are members given an annual report breaking down income and expenditure?”

    That was only yesterday, so this today is not intended as a piece bemoaning any lack of a response and neither is this piece intended as any kind of pre-judgement of a response from the GSMA.

    But I want to ask – do you agree with me? Has the time now come, given the scale and scope of the GSMA’s activities, for the organisation to open up on the income it generates, and how that is disbursed? Or perhaps you think it’s a complete non-issue, that exhibitors and sponsors will respond to any value they see in the events or services the GSMA runs, and where the money goes after that is up to the GSMA. That, too, strikes me as a valid opinion.

    For my part, I think the GSMA has long since gone beyond acting as a private members’ club, due in part to the sheer volume of funds that are generated from the industry. It may be that it now has a responsibility to its customers and the industry at large to open up. I cannot see the downside.

    If you too would like to ask the GSMA to open up, or tell me I’m talking rubbish, or express any view in between, please leave a comment below, or email me at