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5G brings massive disruption to U.S. wireless market

The competitive landscape within the U.S. wireless market is transforming rapidly as a result of the T-Mobile and Sprint merger and disruption from new players including Dish Network, Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile and Altice Mobile. Heightened competitive pressures are spurring U.S. operators to revamp their go-to-market strategies to maintain market share as the 5G era progresses.

Join Principal Analyst Chris Antlitz and Analyst Steve Vachon for an in-depth, exclusive review of TBR’s most recent U.S. Mobile Operator Benchmark, during which they will discuss the financial and go-to-market performance of leading U.S. wireless operators as well as recent key developments impacting the U.S. market.

The U.S. Mobile Operator Benchmark details and compares the initiatives of the largest U.S. operators, including financial performance, go-to-market initiatives and resource management strategies. Covered operators in the benchmark include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Altice Mobile, Dish Network, Spectrum Mobile and Xfinity Mobile.

Don’t miss:

  • How Tier 1 U.S. operators compare in 5G development
  • How the T-Mobile and Sprint merger is impacting the U.S. wireless market
  • How emerging players will disrupt the U.S. wireless landscape

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, June 30, 2021, at 1 p.m. EDT,
and REGISTER to reserve your space.

2Q20 store closures curbed postpaid subscriber growth, but higher uptake of prepaid plans partially offset the impact

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became more significant for U.S. operators in 2Q20 as temporary store closures caused consumer activity, including gross subscriber additions and churn rates, to dampen in the quarter. Though operators will not experience significant subscriber losses amid the pandemic as cellular connectivity is essential for most consumers, economic challenges are causing some customers to seek less expensive service options. For instance, the prepaid market is undergoing a resurgence as the segment is spurring subscriber growth from price-sensitive customers. The low price points of cable wireless offerings are also helping to attract economically challenged consumers.

The U.S. & Canada Mobile Operator Benchmark details and compares the initiatives of the largest U.S.- and Canada-based operators, including financial performance, go-to-market initiatives and resource management strategies.

5G-related investment fuels vendor growth; greenfield 5G and Industry 4.0 opportunities emerge

U.S. cable operators and Dish Network are exploring building out their own 5G networks

Rakuten’s mobile broadband network deployment demonstrates that vendors must be aware of new opportunities to deploy 5G networks for customers that do not currently own mobile broadband networks. In November Dish Network selected Ericsson to supply a radio access and core network for Dish’s Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network, which is expected to be completed in March 2020. Dish, which has been closely watching Rakuten’s build-out, is also contemplating a nationwide 5G network, on which it could spend up to $10 billion. Cable operators Comcast, Charter and Altice, which are currently mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) of Tier 1 mobile operators, are contemplating greenfield 5G network builds as well.

Industry 4.0 will drive demand for cellular connectivity within the enterprise, but not for a few years

TBR’s research suggests that Industry 4.0, which includes mass 5G adoption globally, will not ramp up until between 2022 and 2025, at which point business cases will be proven, justifying an increase in market spend on ICT infrastructure. Cellular technologies, namely LTE and 5G, have better uplink and security capabilities, and lower latency than Wi-Fi, all of which are necessary as enterprises begin to use network technology for mission-critical workloads rather than “best effort” communications. Certain vendors, namely Nokia, Huawei and Cisco, are better positioned than others to capitalize on this trend as they sell both directly and indirectly into enterprises, as well as through communication service providers (CSPs). Ericsson, in contrast, plans to go to market almost exclusively through CSPs, which will place it at a disadvantage as many large enterprises will want private networks.

TBR’s Telecom Vendor Benchmark details and compares the initiatives and tracks the revenue and performance of the largest telecom vendors in segments including infrastructure, services and applications as well as in geographies including the Americas, EMEA and APAC. The report includes information on market leaders, vendor positioning, vendor market share, key deals, acquisitions, alliances, go-to-market strategies and personnel developments.

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.

2019 Telecom Predictions: 5G will be an evolution, not a revolution

The first few years of the 5G era will be underwhelming, but the future looks brighter for the telecom industry, especially as Industry 4.0 gains steam

The telecom industry entered a brave new world with the inception of 5G in 2018. Stakeholders industrywide are hoping this newest network generation will provide much needed revenue growth after the prior network generation, 4G, fell short of this goal over the past decade. Stakeholders hope 5G enables Industry 4.0, which will spur revenue generation opportunities for service providers that provide the connectivity layer and value-added services to businesses.

Though TBR agrees Industry 4.0 will ultimately take hold, our research suggests the cycle will start later and take longer to play out than many expect. TBR expects 5G to drive a renaissance in new commercially viable use cases for the network between 2022 and 2025, which will be beneficial in the long run but makes the next few years a continuation of the same challenges the industry has been dealing with, namely a lack of growth prospects and additional margin pressure.

In the interim, communication service providers (CSPs) will focus on cost optimization and will allocate their initial 5G investments to enhancing their traditional connectivity businesses to more cost-effectively support the ever-increasing amount of data traffic coming onto their networks. This cost optimization mindset, coupled with digital transformation ambitions, will lead to an acceleration in spend on NFV/SDN-related initiatives as well as 5G access build-outs, particularly in lead countries.

2019 Predictions

  • CSPs justify initial 5G investments for their cost efficiency attributes
  • CSPs accelerate network transformation endeavors
  • Wireless begins to disrupt the traditional fixed access business model

Register for TBR’s webinar 5G will be an evolution, not a revolution, Feb. 13, 2019.

U.S. operators will improve service revenue in 2H18 via continued subscriber growth and adoption of premium unlimited data plans

HAMPTON, N.H. (Sept. 11, 2018) — Wireless revenue rose 2.4% year-to-year to $59.1 billion among U.S. carriers covered in Technology Business Research Inc.’s (TBR) 2Q18 U.S. & Canada Mobile Operator Benchmark. The increase came as a result of higher equipment revenue spurred by the adoption of premium devices as well as improving service revenue trends. Verizon and AT&T (when excluding the impact of the ASC 606 revenue recognition standard) were able to return to year-to-year service revenue growth in 2Q18 as the bulk of customers have transitioned to nonsubsidized service plans. Service revenue is also benefiting from customers migrating from lower-priced tiered data plans to more expensive unlimited data plans and will be further aided by the recent launch of new premium unlimited data tiers, such as Verizon’s Above Unlimited and Sprint’s Unlimited Plus plans.

Graph depicting 2Q18 wireless revenue, OIBDA margin and year-to-year growth

Service revenue will also benefit from U.S. operators sustaining smartphone and connected device subscriber growth in 2H18. “Despite growing smartphone saturation, all Tier 1 U.S. operators were able to gain postpaid phone net additions in 2Q18 as opportunity remains to target first-time wireless customers, including young adults and immigrants entering the country,” said TBR Telecom Analyst Steve Vachon. “Postpaid phone subscriber growth is also coming at the expense of prepaid growth, which is slowing as more customers qualify for postpaid plans as the economy improves. Operators are also expanding their connected device portfolios in areas including wearables and connected car to bolster postpaid subscriber growth. The Apple Watch 3 has particularly bolstered postpaid connections as the device is the first Apple Watch model capable of receiving LTE connectivity.”

Combined wireless revenue among Tier 1 Canadian carriers rose 5.1% year-to-year to $6.2 billion due to continued postpaid additions spurred by shared data programs and expanding LTE-Advanced coverage. The postpaid market in Canada continues to flourish, with Bell Mobility and Rogers increasing postpaid net additions year-to-year in 2Q18, in part due to the country having a significantly lower wireless penetration rate, which is currently estimated at about 87%, compared to the U.S. Canadian operators are also bolstering postpaid subscriber growth by providing low-cost connectivity options to support connected devices, including tablets and wearables, as part of their shared-data family plans. Competitive pressures are challenging average revenue per user (ARPU), however, as Bell Mobility and Telus experienced year-to-year blended ARPU declines in 2Q18 as the companies priced more aggressively to maintain market share. ARPU declines were also driven by Tier 1 Canadian operators offering targeted promotions to combat aggressive pricing offers from regional companies such as Videotron and Shaw’s Freedom Mobile brand.

The 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, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Rogers, Telus and Bell Mobility.

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].

 

ABOUT TBR

Technology Business Research, Inc. is a leading independent technology market research and consulting firm specializing in the business and financial analyses of hardware, software, professional services, and telecom vendors and operators. Serving a global clientele, TBR provides timely and actionable market research and business intelligence in a format that is uniquely tailored to clients’ needs. Our analysts are available to address client-specific issues further or information needs on an inquiry or proprietary consulting basis.

TBR has been empowering corporate decision makers since 1996. For more information, please visit www.tbri.com.

 

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Ready when you are: Nokia prepared to migrate customers to 5G

TBR perspective

At Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) 2018 Analyst Conference, held in Tokyo in August, the company emphasized that its end-to-end portfolio, supported by a robust R&D program, is ready and able to take its customers into the 5G era. The vendor also stressed that 5G is much more than just a radio upgrade and that realizing the full potential of 5G requires a fundamental change to the architecture of the network.

Given how much disruption is facing the telecom industry, it was refreshing to see that Nokia is being proactive in aligning with where the market is trying to go, even if that means disrupting itself. Though a part of the company will remain focused on servicing the legacy platforms of the past, the other part of the company will focus on realizing the future. Given that most operators are stuck in between both worlds as well, it is fitting that Nokia will be able to support the migrations of its customers toward the network of the future.

Event overview

Nokia hosted a select group of industry analysts in a two-part event. The first part of the event was a two-day workshop about the company’s global Fixed Networks business, and the second part of the event was a two-day Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) regional update to deep dive on specific trends occurring in those markets.

In addition to the usual market overview, strategy and portfolio updates, Nokia hosted several customers at the event, namely Infracapital, KDDI, NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank and Marubeni, to discuss their own businesses and share how Nokia is helping them achieve their goals. A representative from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications was also present to provide an overview of Japan’s telecom industry and how policy is shaping that country as it transitions into the 5G era.

Hosting the event in Japan was pertinent and timely given the country’s history as an early technology adopter and its upcoming adoption of 5G. With the 2020 Summer Olympics less than two years away, Japan will showcase for the world cutting-edge use cases of telecom networks leveraging 5G technology. The country also symbolizes the monumental changes occurring in the telecom industry, namely that domestic operators are challenged to evolve into digital service providers to better compete against digital-native competitors in their home market, such as Rakuten, as well as realize new business models from the 5G era to grow.

Altice and Dish Network oppose T-Mobile and Sprint merger

The proposed T-Mobile and Sprint merger would disrupt the cable and pay-TV industries. T-Mobile will try to cross sell its Layer3 TV video platform to combined customer base of over 125 million wireless subscribers. — Analyst Steve Vachon

 

Full article

Competition will intensify in the U.S. telecom market heading into 2020 due to the launch of 5G services and the potential T-Mobile/Sprint merger

HAMPTON, N.H. (June 8, 2018) — Wireless revenue rose 3.1% year-to-year to $58.4 billion among U.S. carriers covered in Technology Business Research Inc.’s (TBR) 1Q18 U.S. & Canada Mobile Operator Benchmark as higher equipment revenue spurred by the adoption of premium devices offset continuing service revenue declines. Increased adoption of premium devices is benefiting equipment revenue as devices such as the iPhone X have pushed the acceptable average selling price for smartphones to over $1,000. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint expect service revenue declines will gradually moderate in 2018 as the bulk of customers are now on unsubsidized service plans. However, service revenue will be negatively impacted by the new ASC 606 industry accounting standard as well as lower overage revenue stemming from the growing adoption of unlimited data plans.

The report examines how the recently announced T-Mobile and Sprint merger would disrupt the wireless and cable industries should it gain regulatory approval. “The proposed T-Mobile merger would serve as a lifeboat for Sprint, alleviating the company’s long-term financial challenges, including its high debt load and struggles to generate positive net income,” said TBR Telecom Analyst Steve Vachon. “The scale gained from Sprint’s operations would also enable T-Mobile to compete more aggressively in the 5G era and strengthen its margins, which historically have trailed those of Verizon and AT&T.”

The proposed T-Mobile and Sprint merger would also disrupt the cable and pay-TV industries, as the combined company would have a base of over 125 million wireless subscribers to which it could cross-sell T-Mobile’s upcoming Layer3 TV video platform. The combined company’s 5G services may also serve as a replacement for traditional wireline broadband connectivity as the combination of T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s spectrum would yield estimated speeds of 450Mbps on a national average.

Combined wireless revenue among Tier 1 Canadian carriers rose 8.8% year-to-year to $6 billion due to continued postpaid additions spurred by shared data programs and higher data usage arising from the accelerated speeds offered by LTE-Advanced services. Despite steady increases in smartphone penetration in Canada, the postpaid market continues to flourish as Rogers and Bell Mobility reported their highest first quarter postpaid net additions in 1Q18 since 2009 and 2011, respectively. Subscriber growth will remain strong throughout 2018 as prepaid customers transition to postpaid plans with higher average revenue per user (ARPU) and as connected device adoption increases in Canada. Carriers will also have the opportunity to target first-time wireless customers in Canada, including youths and young adults as well as immigrants entering the country.

The 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, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Rogers, Telus and Bell Mobility.

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].

 

ABOUT TBR

Technology Business Research, Inc. is a leading independent technology market research and consulting firm specializing in the business and financial analyses of hardware, software, professional services, and telecom vendors and operators. Serving a global clientele, TBR provides timely and actionable market research and business intelligence in a format that is uniquely tailored to clients’ needs. Our analysts are available to address client-specific issues further or information needs on an inquiry or proprietary consulting basis.

TBR has been empowering corporate decision makers since 1996. For more information, please visit www.tbri.com.