Next generation fixed network development and deployment has taken even longer. Cable is on DOXCIS 3.1, three major versions since 1997.
Yet we seem to be in the middle of a remarkably quick redefinition of what the telecoms industry sells just now, particularly in Europe. Facilitated by a sympathetic regulatory perspective on mergers, acquisitions & competition, driven to some extent by cheap money, and in response to falling revenues, multi-play operators are emerging at an embarrassing pace.
It is entirely credible that the UK wireless market will have shifted from a five operator environment to a single pure-play infrastructure operator in less than five years. T-Mobile and Orange merged into EE which in turn is being acquired by BT. O2 it seems will be swallowed by Three. And it is inconceivable Vodafone will sit on the sidelines and allow itself to become the smallest wireless player in its home market. Sky and Virgin Media must have investment bankers living in their ears just now.
Spain has witnessed a similarly profound shakeup with TeliaSonera’s Yoigo seeming left out. Orange have purchased Jazz and Vodafone Ono, at least for starters. Telefonica has successfully knitted together quad-play offers from its fixed and mobile assets. Movistar Fusion customers have grown from 2.6 to 7.6 million accounts over the course of 2014, 150% of net additions for Telefonica. Quin-play, including wireless broadband as a backup to fixed broadband, grew by 215% in 2014.
Illiad’s Free service in France started the ball rolling on discount and bundle, prompting an accelerated rollout of fiber by Orange and an indecent scramble to secure content and cable by Bouygues and SFR. More than 60% of French households will take wireless as part of their fixed broadband service by the end of this year.
Yet most of this activity happens at billing, a discount off the total, little value added. The challenge to the industry may be to create value through more innovative, integrated services that customers find appealing. Talk to us, we might have some ideas! That or wait for 5G to come along.