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The Glasgow Climate Pact agreed at COP26 sets out national pledges to achieve net zero and contain global warming to 1.8°C above its pre-industrial levels— COP27 will buttress pledges, now at risk from the energy crisis, and advance some nations to 2030.

The TMT sector is a leader on net zero in the private sector. Companies that measure their end-to-end carbon footprint throughout their supply chain—as many do in the UK’s TMT sector—can target their GHG emissions.

The TMT sector underpins the UK’s vibrant digital economy that enables hybrid work-from-home (WFH), which reduces fossil fuel use thus heading off both the energy crisis and the climate crisis.

Whilst we remain sceptical of the churn reduction benefits of fixed/mobile convergence, the pandemic and a more astute approach from the operators is enhancing the case for it in the UK.

Creating the impression of a giveaway whilst minimizing the effective discount is key, as is extracting any loyalty and cost benefits.

Even if well executed, any upsides are likely to be modest. Operators are right to keep discounts to a minimum and to avoid M&A premia predicated on fixed/mobile convergence synergies.

European mobile revenue growth was zero for the third successive quarter with better mobility but less roaming upside, some B2B weakness, and stronger competitive intensity in the Italian and Spanish markets

Q1 should evidence some similar trends but the impact of out-of-contract notifications will begin to emerge and roaming looks set to become a significant boost from Q2

Consolidation fever continues to dominate the headlines though this is set against a backdrop of considerable uncertainty regarding regulatory approval

Mobile service revenue growth improved slightly to -1.7% in Q4 as a higher mobility boost outweighed drags from continuing B2B weakness and MTR cuts.

Q1 prospects look mixed but the real turning point remains Q2 when the impact of inflation-linked price rises looks set to boost growth by 2-5ppts—nudging sector growth into positive territory for the first time since 2018.

Ofcom’s market review did not outline a change of stance on investment and consolidation in our view, but its inclination to have fewer consumer-focused initiatives is a welcome development.

The UK mobile operators are increasingly vocal about their concerns regarding the tech giants, namely Apple and Google, encroaching on the mobile connectivity market.

eSIMs enhance the case for the tech giants launching their own MVNOs (such as Google Fi in the US) or, perhaps more realistically and concerningly, becoming gatekeepers to mobile airtime subscriptions.

Many things would need to line up for the tech giants to effect this and the MNOs need to stand as one to ensure that they are not successful. Policy makers should be equally reticent.

Iliad has reportedly tabled a bid for Vodafone's Italian operations—unsurprising given challenges in that market for both players.

Press reports appear to be a concerted effort to pressure Vodafone to deal. There is the potential to resolve Vodafone's leverage issues, but there are implications for Vantage Towers.

Regulatory approval remains very much in question, but it makes sense to test the system with the potential for very positive read-through elsewhere. If a deal can be struck, it will likely be just the beginning of a long and checkered road.

The recent shareholder pressure on Vodafone seems to focus on consolidation (where we see approval prospects as only slightly improved), Vantage (where a sell-down may create more value than an industrial merger), and improving operational performance (which continues to struggle).

The zero-growth German fixed business took another step down this quarter and looks set to worsen.  This will be central to growth prospects next year and a write-down of the investment looks inevitable.

A culture necessitated by a sprawling asset base may be holding back performance but any break-up would be costly and protracted, with real premium valuations achievable only with consolidation.

Higher overall inflation, together with a bigger mark-up than in previous years for some, is implying significant in-contract price increases for the UK telecoms operators—an average of 7.7% for the mobile operators.

Although we may see a 5-6% short-term boost to mobile service revenue growth from these price increases, new-customer pricing remains crucial and could erode the boost from these in-contract rises entirely.

We have been surprised by Ofcom’s interventions to discourage these price increases. The industry needs all the help it can get to fund next generation 5G and full fibre networks, and these in-contract price increases are no guarantee that prices and revenues overall will start to rise.

The UK net neutrality rules are up for review; as usual, the operators are pressuring for relaxation, and there are strong arguments that the competitiveness of UK telecoms markets make such rules innovation-quashing with no consumer benefit.

The chances of mainstream video content providers producing a windfall for telcos are slim, but there are a host of more intensely commercial content providers which have far greater potential to pay extra money for higher quality content delivery.

Future services such as virtual and augmented reality will stretch even FTTP/5G networks; allowing the telcos to develop custom business models to facilitate their delivery may well speed up the development and implementation of the metaverse in the UK.

The boost from annualising the COVID-19 hit dissipated this quarter with service revenues flat-lining at –2.5%. The year-on-year mobility boost weakened and pandemic upsides of lower churn, cost savings and B2B demand unwound.

Q4 looks mixed with an improving year-on-year mobility boost but further unwinding of some pandemic upsides. Spring 2022 has the potential to be the long-awaited panacea with price rises of up to 8% and the prospect of renewed roaming revenues.

The operators continue to seek sources of market repair through price rises (to compensate for regulatory intervention elsewhere) and consolidation—but with little visible support from policymakers as yet.