Posts

Analytics within digital transformation engagements depend on high-quality people and data

This week, TBR publishes the first Digital Transformation Insights report for 2020, building on the 2019 series, which included analysis around blockchain, digital marketing, IoT and quantum. The first report centers on IT services vendors’ strategies and performances within their analytics practices. Senior Analyst Boz Hristov notes that, “The maturing A&I services market continues to hold strong digital transformation opportunities for vendors, as long as they can address buyers’ business model complexities through collaborative and coopetitive delivery frameworks. Additionally, vendors that can address skills gaps and ensure data quality and security standards are met are positioned to win.” Next month’s DTI report will look at edge computing within digital transformation. In March TBR will examine the SAP practices of a few leading services vendors.

Additional assessments publishing this week from our analyst teams

Sprint’s rising churn rates, weakening financial performance and high debt load highlight the necessity of the proposed T-Mobile merger. Subpar network quality remains at the root of Sprint’s issues as postpaid phone subscriber losses continue to escalate, despite the operator’s aggressive pricing and elevated network capex spending since 2018. A more significant capex budget is required for Sprint to successfully compete long-term in the U.S. market; however, Sprint’s inability to generate significant free cash flow hinders the company from doing so.” — Steve Vachon, Analyst

“As Infosys ramps up cyber offerings to better address the complexities associated with the next wave of emerging technologies, an aggressive pricing strategy paired with revamped account management enables the company to expand its client roster as it turns into a solutions broker.” — Hristov

Verizon remains able to capitalize on its reputation as a premium wireless service provider to attract customers willing to pay a higher price for the operator’s network coverage and premium unlimited data plans. However, Verizon’s wireless network is becoming a less significant differentiator as AT&T and T-Mobile are now on par with Verizon in LTE coverage and as the rival companies are improving signal quality and data speeds by deploying services on additional spectrum.” — Vachon

“Though AT&T is facing short-term challenges, the company’s ambition to transition from a traditional telco to a global digital service provider is a long-term endeavor requiring a broad array of assets that may not all pay dividends in the short term. AT&T also has abundant opportunity to reduce expenses without divesting core business units via initiatives such as WarnerMedia synergies, nonvital headcount and real estate reduction, and deeper integration of network virtualization.” — Vachon

“TBR anticipates Fujitsu Services will report revenue growth acceleration in 4Q19, as Fujitsu enhances its software, digital, hybrid IT and cloud offerings, which help offset declines in traditional areas. Reorganization and investments within its sales organization, such as the consolidation of its European sales force and the implementation of Account Planning and Opportunity Planning software to improve management in North America, will also contribute to revenue expansion in 2019. The business model adjustments allow the company to better execute and deliver on initiatives to drive adoption of hybrid IT and software offerings, providing recurring revenue opportunities.” — Kelly Lesiczka, Analyst

Senior Analyst John Caucis notes that the U.S. federal earnings season kicks off this week with three defense majors and one services-led defense contractor releasing the results from the final calendar quarter of 2019. First up is General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), releasing earnings on Jan. 29. Sales are expected to continue sliding for GDIT, owing to recent asset disposals, portfolio reshaping and operations realignment. TBR projects GDIT’s top-line revenue will decline between 11% and 12% year-to-year to roughly $2.1 billion. A strong rebound for GDIT will hinge on the full leverage of CSRA’s capabilities to win big-ticket, next-generation federal IT engagements in 2020. 

Two additional defense majors, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, will release their earnings on Jan. 30. Northrop Grumman’s Technology Services (TS) unit completed what was likely its final quarter and last fiscal year as a dedicated, stand-alone business line offering technology, sustainment and modernization solutions in 4Q19. TS, which includes the bulk of Northrop’s technology-related services, was integrated into Northrop’s emerging Defense Systems (DS) business group, effective Jan. 1, 2020. TBR projects TS’ 4Q19 sales will continue the rebound begun in 3Q19, with year-to-year growth between 2% and 3%, bringing TS’ 4Q19 revenue to roughly $1.1 billion. Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services (IIS), the services division of Raytheon Technologies, is expected to continue expanding its sales at a robust pace, putting the wraps on a red-letter year accentuated by consistent revenue and bookings growth, record backlog levels, improved margin performance, and of course, the pending merger with United Technologies (UT). TBR projects IIS will post revenue of about $1.9 billion in 4Q19, up between 10% and 11% year-to-year.

Finally, Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) will release earnings on Jan. 31. We project BAH will expand its top line between 8% and 9% in 4Q19 to over $1.8 billion, building on the momentum established during the first half of its FY2020. BAH’s strong performance stems from traction with its technically focused solutions, increasingly infused with advanced technologies that enable the mission aims of its federal agency clientele. Operationalizing AI has clearly become a strategic growth platform for BAH; AI featured prominently in the company’s alliance activity, new contract awards and introduction of new offerings in 4Q19.

Verizon, Ericsson, and Qualcomm Boast DSS Advancements

“The technology is still, at least partially, theoretical because it remains under development and hasn’t been commercially deployed at large. Nonetheless, ‘DSS is a big deal and I think it’s underrated,’ said Chris Antlitz, telecom principal analyst at Technology Business Research. DSS is a software feature that can be baked into the radio access network (RAN) platform or added via remote provisioning, he explained. It’s a big deal for network operators because it’s going to save them a lot of money by removing previous requirements to completely refarm spectrum for new network technologies, Antlitz added. ‘You can run out of the same spectrum band, out of the same radio, two technologies simultaneously and the traffic can be dynamically orchestrated depending on how much capacity is being asked from the system,’ he said.” — SDXCentral

Mixed results expected in the U.S. federal sector for IT services vendors

Earnings season for federally focused IT vendors begins the week of Oct. 21. Senior Analyst John Caucis has been tracking Northrop Grumman Technology Services (TS), General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) and Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services (IIS) ahead of their 3Q19 fiscal earnings release. 

Raytheon IIS is expected to be the top performer among the first group of companies to tender their financial performance, owing to new contract signings in the lucrative cyber and space sectors and expanding project volumes on existing programs in these segments. Growth is likely to moderate in 3Q19, though this is expected with the ramp down of the Warfighter Field Operations Customer Support (FOCUS) program. Some of the lost Warfighter FOCUS revenue will be offset by a recent rise in domestic bookings that is converting to revenue on IIS’ top line while IIS continues expanding its overseas footprint.

Northrop Grumman TS’ recent sales slide is expected to continue in 3Q19, though we also expect the pace of TS’ contraction to continue moderating as the impact of large engagement losses wanes and bookings with sustainment, logistics and modernization programs strengthen.

The CSRA acquisition is no longer inorganically lifting GDIT’s revenue, and recent business divestitures (GDIT’s call center and 911 businesses) are expected to further erode GDIT’s revenue base. The expiration of a handful of large engagements in 3Q19, combined with the expiration of those in early 2019, will exacerbate the impact of the aforementioned issues on GDIT’s performance. Cross-sales with the Aerospace and Mission Systems segments of General Dynamics are helping offset these headwinds, as are the large-scale awards GDIT is increasingly booking, but a complete return to top-line growth is not expected until 2020.

Additional assessments publishing this week from our analyst teams

Driving innovation across its North America client base via a senior leadership team strengthened by its new Digital Transformation Office and establishing an Application and Technology Services practice will enable Atos to ramp up activities with clients around improving business operations and results through next-generation solutions. The next step for Atos is to successfully cross-sell its solutions by explaining the company’s capabilities to internal sales and delivery teams and to existing clients, as well as to effectively deliver services to grow revenues and improve profitability in North America. Elitsa Bakalova, Senior Analyst

With Atos’ 3Q19 earnings release TBR expects cloud will remain a vibrant segment for Atos, and revenue growth in the segment will continue to outpace the company’s total revenue growth. Atos’ cloud business will be positively affected by increased activities with clients, such as around transforming legacy applications and infrastructures to cloud, orchestrating hybrid cloud, ensuring cloud security through services and IP-based solutions, and providing cloud-enabled IoT solutions. Collaborating with clients’ IT and business stakeholders during cloud transformations and adding industry expertise will improve Atos’ ability to drive business outcomes for clients through cloud. — Bakalova

TBR expects six consecutive quarters of bookings growth and cross-selling opportunities to clients that came from recent acquisitions such as Leidos Cyber will sustain Capgemini’s growth momentum in 3Q19. Enhancing client relationships and industry expertise, such as through the acquisition of KONEXUS Consulting and the proposed acquisition of Altran, and approaching clients’ CxOs will improve Capgemini’s ability to access budget stakeholders and sustain revenue growth. — Bakalova

With a robust legacy client base and deep relationships with key technology partners, Accenture’s cloud business will continue to flourish. Accenture is doubling down on Google Cloud, adding another node to its multicloud management strategy. Additionally, Accenture Security continues to provide the trust needed to win new buyers and fuel cloud opportunities. Boz Hristov, Senior Analyst

Though Verizon will continue to trail T-Mobile in postpaid phone net additions for the foreseeable future, Verizon remains able to capitalize on its reputation as a premium wireless service provider to attract customers willing to pay a higher price point for the operator’s network coverage and premium unlimited data plans. Additionally, aggressive cost-cutting and digital transformation initiatives are helping improve profitability. Steve Vachon, Analyst

HCL Technologies’ (HCLT) acquisition activity and efforts to strengthen in-demand portfolio offerings generated double-digit growth in 2Q19. We expect HCLT will leverage its partner network to gain access to an expanded client base and lead with its expertise in Engineering and R&D Services to support its ability to differentiate and compete against peers as well as maintain growth momentum in 3Q19. Kelly Lesiczka, Analyst

Timely clearance of mid-band spectrum is essential for U.S. to remain at forefront of global 5G race

TBR perspective

Significant progress has been made on 5G ecosystem development since the 2018 5G Americas Analyst Forum held last October, as commercial mobile 5G services have been launched by the four U.S. Tier 1 operators, as well as in Uruguay by state-run operator ANTEL, over the past year. However, the infancy of the 5G era in the Americas has been somewhat underwhelming due to tepid smartphone adoption, the limited range of service on millimeter wave spectrum, and lack of coverage outside major metro areas.

The U.S. is at risk of falling behind other countries, especially South Korea and China, in the global 5G race. 5G adoption is growing at a more accelerated rate in South Korea, as the country gained 2 million 5G subscribers within the first four months of commercial services being offered and reached 3 million 5G subscribers as of September. South Korea’s rapid growth is being driven by its widespread 5G coverage, which is expected to reach 80% of the population by the end of 2019, as well as operators heavily subsidizing 5G devices to offset high smartphone prices. Conversely, China will make a strong entrance into the 5G market by launching commercial services in 50 major cities in the beginning of October, with plans to deploy 100,000 5G sites by the end of 2019.

The greatest barrier to the U.S. competing at the forefront of the global 5G race is its current lack of mid-band spectrum as global operators across all major regions have already been allocated a significant amount of mid-band licenses to support initial deployments. Offering 5G services across a mix of low-band, mid-band and high-band spectrum is critical to provide optimal coverage. Though deploying services on millimeter wave spectrum is necessary for U.S. operators to realize the fastest 5G speeds, the licenses are limited by the short range of coverage they provide.

Conversely, low-band spectrum will provide the coverage range necessary for operators including AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile (Nasdaq: TMUS) to deploy nationwide 5G services in 2020, but the spectrum will not yield significantly faster speeds compared to LTE. Mid-band spectrum provides the best of both worlds, speed and range of coverage, and the acquisition of mid-band licenses will play a pivotal role in the Americas’ position in the global 5G market as well as how individual operators compete for 5G market share in their respective countries.

Nearly 200 industry analysts and representatives from well-known telecom operators and vendors convened at the 2019 5G Americas Analyst Forum to discuss the state of the developing 5G market in North America and Latin America. The event featured an opening presentation from T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray regarding 5G leadership in the Americas, a fireside chat with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, and a choice of 26 roundtable discussions focused on key 5G topics including IoT, edge computing, 5G network infrastructure and technologies, regulatory considerations, and private cellular networks. 

CSP spend on edge compute infrastructure will grow at a 76.5% CAGR to over $67B in 2023

TBR estimates over 100,000 mini data center (edge) locations will be built out globally by CSPs through 2023. The primary driver of edge build-outs during the forecast period is CSPs’ network transformations, which entail migrating to a cloudified and virtualized network. In this new architecture, network functions will be virtualized and housed in NFVI, which is essentially data centers. Central office overhauls will be the primary edge compute location in the early years of the forecast period, with the build-out of the capillary system required to support revenue-generating low latency use cases expected to begin in the middle years of the forecast period.

CSP spend on edge compute infrastructure will grow at a 76.5% CAGR to over $67B in 2023

According to TBR’s 2Q19 Telecom Edge Compute Market Landscape, cost optimization of the network is the primary initial justification for CSPs to build out edge compute infrastructure, with new revenue from low latency use cases expected to materialize in a few years. This initial edge build-out will lay a foundation for CSPs to support new business models as they emerge, particularly as it pertains to low latency services.

Cost savings from the use of edge sites stem from infrastructure virtualization and real estate footprint consolidation as well as bandwidth optimization. One of the key areas of cost savings for CSPs is the use of white-box hardware in their virtualized networks. According to TBR’s research, white-box hardware can cost up to 50% less than black-box hardware. This represents significant cost savings to CSPs that adopt white boxes at scale. Webscales already widely use white boxes in their central data centers, and leading CSPs such as Rakuten, AT&T, Verizon and Telefonica are beginning to build their edge sites using almost exclusively white boxes. The use of white boxes will make it economically feasible for the capillary network to be built out, as cost feasibility is one of the primary inhibitors to edge build-outs.

CSPs are in the experimentation phase of testing new business models that leverage edge compute, with low latency services being the focus area. Though there are myriad potential use cases that would require low latency connectivity, such as connected transportation and AR/VR gaming, the business case remains unclear and the theoretical investment to enable and support said use cases is high. TBR believes it will take a few more years before new revenue-generating use cases for the network that require edge compute become commercialized and begin to contribute to CSPs’ revenue.

Competition from MVNOs and smaller rivals limits subscriber growth for Tier 1 U.S. and Canadian operators

Wireless revenue rose 2.2% year-to-year to $64 billion among U.S. operators covered in Technology Business Research Inc.’s (TBR) 4Q18 U.S. & Canada Mobile Operator Benchmark, driven by continued subscriber growth and adoption of premium smartphones. All benchmarked U.S. operators except Sprint were able to gain postpaid phone net additions in 4Q18 as opportunity remains to target first-time wireless customers in the country. Postpaid subscriber growth is also fueled by prepaid migrations as many subscribers are moving to postpaid plans for benefits such as bundled streaming services and increased LTE data limits for mobile hot spots.

4Q18 Wireless Revenue, OIBDA Margin & Year-to-year Revenue Growth

Subscriber growth for U.S. Tier 1 operators is, however, threatened by the growing momentum of new mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) entering the market. Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile and Charter’s Spectrum Mobile are attracting wireless customers via low price points and the convenience of being able to enroll in multiple services through a single provider. Altice also plans on providing wireless services in 1H19, giving the company the opportunity to cross-sell mobility services to its current residential base of over 4.5 million customers. TBR also anticipates Google Fi, which was rebranded from Project Fi in November, will gain further traction in 2019 as the brand is launching new incentives to attract customers including bring-your-own-device options for most Android and iPhone smartphone models.

Combined wireless revenue among Tier 1 Canadian operators rose 6% year-to-year to $6.9 billion due to continued subscriber growth spurred by shared data programs and expanding LTE-Advanced coverage. However, subscriber growth for Tier 1 Canadian operators is limited by mounting competition from smaller competitors. Tier 2 Canadian operators, most notably Shaw Communications’ Freedom Mobile and Quebecor’s Videotron, which now have a total of about 1.5 million and 1.1 million customers, respectively, are accelerating subscriber growth via their pricing promotions and network investments. TBR anticipates Freedom Mobile will further disrupt the Canadian wireless market in 2019 as the company will expand LTE coverage to an additional 1.3 million Canadians throughout the year in markets in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

For additional information about this research or to arrange a one-on-one analyst briefing, please contact Dan Demers at +1 603.929.1166 or [email protected].

Cost of ‘intelligent connectivity’ must decline significantly for intelligent world to unfold

TBR perspective

Realizing the intelligent world presented by the mobile industry at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019 (MWC19) will require a fundamental change in how networks are architected, including a radical reduction in the cost of providing connectivity. It will also require business transformation for companies tied to the old world, namely communications service providers (CSPs) and their incumbent vendors.

It was readily apparent at the event that technology is advancing at a much faster pace than the establishment of business cases that economically justify deployment of the technology. The reality for the mobile industry is that the cost of building, owning and operating networks is too high and networks are too inflexible to support the business realities of the digital era, whereby connectivity is relegated to a commodity service and the value lies in the platforms and applications that run over the network. The industry has known this for years, but changes have been minimal, until maybe now.

The entrance of Rakuten to the mobile industry could be a game changer and provides a glimpse into what a digital service provider will look like. In what could arguably be the most important takeaway from the entire event, Rakuten’s approach to building and operating a network could signify a paradigm shift in the industry. Not only will Rakuten’s network be agile, flexible and dynamic to provide digital services, it will also enable a dramatic reduction in the cost of connectivity.

The theme of MWC19 was “intelligent connectivity” and centered on how 5G, IoT, AI and big data are coming together to enable the intelligent world. Against this backdrop, Rakuten stole the show with the evangelization of its end-to-end virtualized and cloud-native network, which is being deployed across Japan this year. Rakuten’s network provides a glimpse into what the intelligent network of the future will look like.

Deeper convergence of mobility, broadband and video services creates revenue opportunities and disruption for CSPs

The digital era is bringing fundamental, disruptive changes to traditional business models for communication service providers (CSPs), including telecom operators and cable providers, as the mobility, broadband and video industries converge more deeply. These shifts are driven by the following trends, which will gain further traction over the next several years:

  • The rise of cable mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) — New entrants including Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile are attracting wireless customers via low price points and the convenience of being able to enroll in multiple services through a single provider.
  • Preference for over-the-top (OTT) video — The popularity of OTT services including Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now are contributing to video subscriber losses for cable providers and bundling opportunities for wireless operators.    
  • Wireless as a broadband replacement — Over the next several years, customers will gradually substitute traditional fixed broadband connectivity with wireless-based services due to enhanced 5G and LTE-Advanced coverage, fixed-wireless services, and increased data allotments for mobile hot spots.

These trends create both revenue opportunities and disruption for CSPs as cable providers have opportunity to take market share from telecom operators and vice-versa. Cross-selling multiple services enables CSPs to maximize revenue opportunities per customer while also helping to reduce churn. Conversely, the deeper convergence within the telecom and cable industries will create greater challenges for CSPs as broadband and video access will become more commoditized, which will make competitive pricing more crucial to attracting and retaining customers.

Graph showing 3Q18 postpaid phone net additions

Cable MVNOs are disrupting the mobility industry

Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile has emerged as a stronger player within the U.S. wireless market as the brand has garnered over 1 million customers since launching in mid-2017 and has been able to consistently outperform AT&T and Sprint in postpaid phone net additions the past several quarters. Contributing to Xfinity Mobile’s success is the low price of its unlimited data plans, which are currently undercutting prices from all Tier 1 U.S. operators, for the underserved market of single-line customers. Xfinity Mobile is also attracting customers by offering pay-as-you-go pricing for $12 per GB, which provides price-sensitive customers who consume minimal data an alternative amid the market’s emphasis on unlimited data plans.

Xfinity Mobile will become a stronger competitor in the U.S. market over the next several years as it expands its retail footprint and Comcast gains additional broadband customers to which it can cross-sell wireless services. Spectrum Mobile, which became available across Charter’s footprint in September, will also disrupt the U.S. wireless market by offering similar pricing incentives as Xfinity Mobile. Additionally, Altice USA plans to launch an MVNO offering in 1H19 that will focus on serving bring-your-own-device customers, giving the company the opportunity to cross-sell mobility services to its current residential base of over 4.5 million customers.

Chart showing single-line postpaid unlimited data plans

To counter disruption from cable MVNOs, operators can capitalize on the value proposition offered by their unlimited data plans, which bundle in popular OTT streaming services as well as other incentives including high-speed data tiers for mobile hot spots. Telecom operators are also relying on the discounts provided to multiline unlimited data accounts, which are not currently offered to Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile customers, to undercut cable MVNOs.

Chart showing video services bundled with unlimited data plans

Wireless begins to disrupt the traditional fixed broadband market

Significant enhancements in wireless technology over the past few years, such as the inception of 5G, which makes millimeter-wave spectrum viable for commercial use, as well as the inventions of carrier aggregation, 256 QAM and massive MIMO, have made it economically feasible for CSPs to offer mobile broadband as an alternative to traditional fixed broadband services.

Though Verizon was a major driver of this trend with its early use of 5G fixed wireless, TBR expects more CSPs will begin to leverage their wireless assets to provide similar services in 2019 and beyond. AT&T, with its Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, essentially provides a nomadic ultra-high-speed broadband connection leveraging 5G. T-Mobile is also looking to jump on the bandwagon, arguably in a much bigger and more market-impactful way, especially if its proposed merger with Sprint is approved. Regardless of whether the deal goes through, T-Mobile intends to leverage its mix of low-, mid- and high-band spectrum assets with the aforementioned wireless technologies to provide its own mobile broadband as an alternative to fixed broadband services.

A new phase of price competition for internet service could come to North America due to wireless. TBR also expects this trend to unfold in other developed and developing markets, especially where fixed access is not widely deployed. Offering wirelessly delivered, high-speed internet services could become a major new business for telecom operators that are in countries where internet penetration is relatively low.

Consumers will reap the greatest benefits from cable and telecom industry convergence

Though CSPs have the opportunity to create new revenue streams from the deeper convergence of mobility, broadband and video services within the cable and telecom industries, these benefits are largely outweighed by the competitive challenges spawned by industry convergence. Consumers will reap the greatest benefits from cable and telecom industry convergence as they gain more flexible service options as well as the ability to enroll in additional services from a single provider. The competition created from cable and telecom industry convergence will also spur CSPs to become more competitive in their wireless, broadband and video pricing to maintain market share.

Opportunities for wireless subscriber growth remain plentiful for U.S. operators

Cable providers are disrupting the U.S. wireless market

Subscriber growth for U.S. Tier 1 operators is being limited by the growing momentum of Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile brand, which outperformed AT&T and Sprint in postpaid phone net additions in 3Q18 and now has a base of over 1 million subscribers. Xfinity Mobile will become a stronger competitor in the U.S. market over the next several years as it expands its retail footprint and Comcast gains additional broadband customers to which it can cross-sell wireless service. Spectrum Mobile, which became available across Charter’s footprint in September, will also disrupt the U.S. wireless market by offering similar pricing incentives as Xfinity Mobile.

 

TBR’s U.S. & Canada Mobile Operator Benchmark details and compares the activities of the largest U.S. and Canadian operators, including financial performance, go-to-market initiatives and resource management strategies. Covered companies include AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Sprint (NYSE: S), T-Mobile (Nasdaq: TMUS), U.S. Cellular (NYSE: USM), Rogers, Telus and Bell Mobility.