UK mobile service revenue growth nudged down in Q3 2012 by 2.0ppts to -3.8%, with 0.5ppts driven by an increase in the effect of regulated MTR cuts and 1.5ppts caused by underlying factors, largely driven by a weakening UK economy

In October EE launched its new brand and 4G service to great fanfare. The response of the other operators has been very mixed; Vodafone has indicated that it will launch a better 4G network next year, H3G has emphasised the merits of its 3G network, and O2 has not focused on networks at all. We continue to believe that EE’s 4G products will be good for its ARPU but not necessarily raw subscriber numbers, with the rebrand exercise bringing additional synergy benefits to its bottom line

The overall outlook is looking tough for the next six months, with consumer confidence still low and unlimited tariffs hitting pricing, but more promising thereafter, as the 4G premium becomes more material, and the regulated MTR cuts finally start to moderate in Q2 2013

After a host of TV-related announcements/launches last quarter, the main feature of the last three months has been price increase announcements, with all four of the large operators announcing a significant price increase(s) to take effect between December 2012 and February 2013

High speed net adds remained strong at BT, and grew dramatically at the other DSL operators, although the latter figure remained very low in absolute terms. In time we expect strong adoption by Sky and TTG subscribers, but it may take years rather than months for consumer expectations of what is a ‘standard’ broadband speed to change

TTG reported some encouraging but not market-changing early figures for its new TV product, and BT is expected to launch a product with extra linear channels within the next few months. We continue to believe that both companies’ products will struggle to win subscribers off Sky and Virgin Media, but that they may have appeal to a modestly sized group of consumers that are not currently pay TV customers

Keen to reposition itself as a media conglomerate, Vivendi is considering merging SFR with private equity-owned Numericable and its B2B sister Completel, while reducing its stake in the new entity to below 50%.

Sizeable savings would come from migrating SFR’s fixed line subscribers in urban areas from Orange’s copper network to Numericable’s coax and FTTB, and from eliminating Completel’s LLU network and Numericable’s marketing spend.

In the short term, execution would be challenging and require sizeable capex. In the longer run, coax is a much cheaper alternative to investing in FTTH. The merger would put pressure on the other two altnets, Iliad and Bouygues, to consider consolidation scenarios.

EE announced its 4G pricing today, with the prices broadly set at a premium of around £5 a month to those of 3G services from Orange, T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone

Perhaps more importantly, the pricing includes unlimited voice and text as standard, which pushes the minimum spend to £36 a month, a substantial uplift from current average contract values of £20-£25

Whether the £5 premium is sustainable or not, EE’s efforts to promote it (and competitor responses) will likely shift the market focus to network quality as opposed to price and handset range, a very healthy development in our view

A number of developments over the summer have, at least in theory, made the UK 4G mobile spectrum outlook a lot clearer: in July Ofcom issued its final policy statement regarding the 800MHz and 2.6GHz ‘4G’ auctions, in August it decided to allow Everything Everywhere (EE) to ‘refarm’ its 1800MHz spectrum for 4G use, and EE announced that it had sold 15MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum to H3G

The main short term implication is that EE will have clear short term advantage of being the only operator offering 4G (LTE) services for about 12 months from (roughly) the end of September 2012 to (roughly) the end of September 2013

The main uncertainty is legal action; O2 and/or Vodafone may appeal Ofcom’s decision to allow EE to refarm its 1800MHz spectrum, which would trigger EE to appeal the 4G spectrum auction rules, and give 4G in the UK an unhelpful delay

In this presentation we show our analysis of revenue growth trends for mobile operators in the top five European markets (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain). The historical analysis is based on the published results of the operators, although they include our estimates where their data is inconsistent or not complete. A copy of the underlying data in spreadsheet format is available to our subscription clients on request.

This report contains our annual assessment and forecasts for recorded music, in the context, as always, of the implacable physical-to-digital transition in music consumption and purchase, which continues to drain the topline of the recorded music industry.

Although 2011 was another year of decline in global recorded music retail sales, these fell just 4% in 2011 compared to 10% in the previous year, on a strong year for the album in the top markets, notably Adele’s 21 album.

Globally, the CD remains the recorded music industry’s leading sales format – accounting for the majority of retail sales in 2011. Despite brisk retail sales of download to own (DTO) tracks and albums, and encouraging sales of subscriptions in 2011, sales of mobile formats (ringtones, ringbacks, tracks) have been in decline since the peak in 2008. This gives urgency to the industry’s successful transition to digital music purchase in their top markets.

Much of the consumption of recorded music is free-to-the user, whether licensed, already purchased or pirated. Live streaming is the top music behaviour, shifting from the computer to the handset via adoption of smartphones and the free apps offered on the iTunes and Google Play storefronts, amongst others. Pandora is the emblematic supplier of ‘smart radio’, and dominates this segment in the US. Smartphone adoption is also driving subscriptions to the premium mobile tier of Spotify, Rhapsody and similar services.

The centre of digital music purchase remains the download-to-own (DTO) track or album, which we estimate accounted for $4.8 billion of retail sales in 2011, roughly 10 times the level of subscription revenues. Apple has built an unassailable lead on the DTO segment, leveraging the ecosystem created for its devices.

It is well known that piracy drains the creative industries of retail sales, although the precise interaction between piracy and foregone sales is difficult to pin down. Anti-piracy regimes are being established to combat digital piracy of cultural goods, including music, but effective implementation is slow.

Our forecasts for recorded music sales do not factor in any uplift to retail sales from successful anti-piracy action. We expect retail sales of digital formats to surpass the CD by 2015, more or less stabilising the market’s topline revenues. However, sales of around $16.5 billion by that time would be just a fraction of their 2005 level of $30 billion.

In this report we show our analysis of trends in UK broadband and telephony to March 2012, based on the published results of the major service providers.

Highlights for the March quarter include broadband subscriptions exceeding 21 million, a sudden uptick in broadband market net additions and local loop unbundling accounting for a record 40% of broadband subscriptions. The proportion of unbundled lines that are fully unbundled exceeded two thirds for the first time.

This quarter we also include a look at pricing, including prices for high speed broadband that show how BT Retail is using high speed broadband to reduce the price advantage of its competitors.