Market revenue growth in the UK residential communications sector dipped down to 4.5% in Q3, from 5.4% in the previous quarter, but underlying revenue growth actually rose a touch by our estimates. In an intensely competitive quarter, BT lost ground relatively in broadband, with its net adds dropping compared to growth at the others, but BT still had the highest net adds in absolute terms, and continued to lead the way in revenue growth

With BT’s mooted bid for a mobile operator and quad play moves being highlighted by several operators, in this report we re-examine the evidence for consumer demand for quad play and find it still wanting. In the UK since 2001 there have been eight attempts at cross-selling between fixed and mobile, with five outright failures (three of which were from BT), two attempts that lost market share after an acquisition but are now growing modestly, and one attempt which has successfully gained modest share

The UK fixed business has better growth and far better margins than the mobile business. BT alone makes more cashflow in the UK than the entire mobile industry put together – the grass may always seem greener on the other side, but in this case it definitely is greener in fixed. The fixed operators have far more to lose than to gain, and for this reason alone they should perhaps be wary in their approach to quad play

TalkTalk had a solid quarter for net adds, helped by churn being held well under control, with broadband perking up, TV dipping down as pre-warned, and fibre and mobile both significantly accelerating

Revenue and ARPU growth accelerated, although not by as much as might have been expected given the timing of price rises, with the lower priced SimplyBroadband product likely still driving significant ARPU dilution

The company disappointed the financial markets with a warning of higher SACs in H2, and its medium term EBITDA margin target remains challenging, but continued revenue growth and margin expansion are nonetheless likely

Market revenue growth in the UK residential communications sector continued to be robust in Q2 2014 at 5.4%, a slight increase on the previous quarter, with continued volume growth and firm pricing countering weak call volumes and the negative impact of a VAT legislation change hitting Virgin Media and TalkTalk

BT was the fastest growing out of the ‘big four’ in revenue terms in Q2 even after the direct revenue impact of BT Sport is excluded, a remarkable turnaround after being in last place a year ago, driven by both volume and ARPU growth continuing to accelerate, with fibre helping both

Since the end of Q2, promotional activity has already intensified, particularly from BT and Sky around the start of the new football season, and churn is likely to be under more pressure at all of the operators, although the disruption is likely to be less severe than that experienced around the launch of BT Sport last year, and we expect all of the major players to continue to grow in net terms

TalkTalk’s June quarter results revealed solid subscriber trends, with broadband, fibre, line rental and TV net adds all either matching or slightly improving upon the previous quarter

Revenue growth dipped down on the previous quarter (3% vs. 5%), but the price increases in May/June have yet to have a full quarter’s effect, and the company remains confident in its full year guidance of at least 4%

Churn dropped again on the previous quarter, and the company makes a strong case that its triple play strategy should reduce it further, but the big test will be whether it can continue the trend over the rest of the financial year



Ofcom’s fibre margin squeeze test’s initial indicative assessment concludes that BT’s current wholesale/retail pricing is ‘close to the boundary’ of creating a squeeze on its competitors

While BT can take comfort that it is at least close to passing the test, its DSL competitors (Sky, TalkTalk et al) can take comfort that BT cannot make life materially more difficult for them without failing it

Crucially, the costs of BT Sport are included in the test, so BT is now heavily dis-incentivised from further aggressive bids for sports rights, which is positive news for the prospective cashflows of both Sky and indeed BT itself

Market revenue growth in the UK residential communications sector was surprisingly robust in Q1 2014, rising a touch to over 5% (or around 4% excluding the direct impact of BT Sport) from just under 5% the previous quarter, despite facing a number of headwinds

Revenue growth at the top four operators has converged to around 4% for all, which marks a major long term turnaround for BT and TalkTalk, who back in 2012 were both experiencing firmly declining revenue well below market growth, and have since done much to stabilise their subscriber bases and sustain ARPU growth

Looking forward, we expect that BT will continue to do well in the June quarter given Sky’s continued focus on TV products, but thereafter its focus may change, and whether BT's recent competitive boost from fibre will continue growing is uncertain. Having said this, any likely market share shifts are relatively minor in the context of the market, with the general theme likely to remain that the rising tide is lifting all boats

Sky and TalkTalk are rolling out fibre in a small part of York, using a model that they could potentially extend to cover 10-15% of UK households

The economics of greenfield fibre build are still terrible in general, with even building in cherry-picked areas very hard to justify under current conditions, although the economics will improve over time as demand for speed increases

Moreover, once it is built it is built, and BT loses the wholesale revenue forever. Taking the hint and offering more reasonable wholesale fibre pricing may not be a bad option if Sky and TalkTalk persist

Enders Analysis co-hosted its annual conference, in conjunction with BNP Paribas and Deloitte, in London on 4 March 2014. The event featured talks by 13 of the most influential figures in media and telecoms, and was chaired by Sir Peter Bazalgette.

This report provides edited transcripts of the talks given by seven of those speakers: James Purnell, BBC; Dido Harding, TalkTalk; Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook; John Paton, Digital First Media; Mike Darcey, News UK; Ashley Highfield, Johnston Press; Michael Comish, Tesco

The UK residential communications sector maintained strong revenue growth of 5% in Q4 on a reported basis, or 4% underlying, bolstered by strong volumes and solid pricing, with recent price increase implementations supporting the latter going forward

It is still hard to see a very significant competitive impact from BT Sport, with BT’s broadband net adds up by only 20k-30k on a year earlier, but the impact on costs is very clear, with increased sports rights costs, increased marketing costs and pay TV box/device subsidies driving up the cost base of all operators

Looking forward, in the short term market volumes are likely to be suppressed by recent bad weather lengthening provisioning times, and the detailed timings of price increases will suppress ARPU growth. In the medium term the outlook is much stronger, although the prospect of increased competitive activity around the next Premier League rights auction still casts a shadow

The Court of Appeal has judged that the Competition Appeal Tribunal erred in law in its rejection of the Ofcom Wholesale Must Offer remedy for premium sports by failing to deal adequately with all of Ofcom’s competition concerns but agreed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal that Ofcom had acted within its regulatory powers Sky’s appeal against the 2010 Ofcom decision will therefore be re-heard at the Competition Appeal Tribunal and we believe the likelihood is that the Wholesale Must Offer remedy will be approved, while the jurisdiction issue may yet have some life if Sky takes its appeal to the Supreme Court The seven year old pay-TV saga is far from over as major changes have occurred in the last four years. Irrespective of the progress of the Competition Appeal Tribunal review, we think it will have little bearing on the outcome of the Premier League auction in light of the strategic objectives of Sky and BT