UK mobile market service revenue grew by 2.4% in Q3, a level not seen since early 2011. However, this 0.6ppt improvement on the growth rate in Q2 was very disappointing in the context of an expected 2-3ppt revenue growth bolster from the annualisation of roaming tariff cuts 

EE and O2 shared the top spot for growth, more than double the growth rate of H3G and far ahead of Vodafone which remains in negative territory and had only the slightest uptick this quarter

O2 is likely to be hit by its well-publicised network blackout in December, but experience from a similar problem back in 2012 suggests this will be modest and temporary, and it is otherwise performing well

European mobile service revenue growth was sharply lower this quarter dropping to -0.7% after two years in positive territory, owing to weakness in the southern(ish) European markets of France, Italy and Spain

Iliad has strong momentum in Italy and we expect ARPU dilution to worsen into Q3, with the subscriber loss impact also growing.  Any loss of traction for Iliad is likely to drive another round of price cuts

We expect continued north/south divergence in Q3 with the anniversary of the European roaming cuts boosting the UK and Germany in particular whilst the outlook for Southern European operators remains challenging

UK mobile market service revenue grew by 1.7% in Q2, up from 1.3% in the previous quarter, a disappointing result in the context of boosts from both IFRS 15 accounting and the annual price rises in the quarter

O2 was the star performer this quarter, with its service revenue growth leaping ahead to claim the top spot. BT/EE’s service revenue growth declined on an underlying basis, with weak contract net adds over the last six months catching up with it, and H3G and Vodafone were slightly improved and steady respectively excluding some one-off effects

Next quarter, the impact from the EU roaming cuts will annualise out, providing a substantial fillip to all operators. Ceteris paribus, this would put market growth in the vicinity of 4%, a figure not reached for years

BT’s Q1 results were fairly robust given a number of one-offs hitting in the quarter, with revenue growth of -2% in line with full year guidance, EBITDA growth of 1% ahead of plan, and a number of metrics looking promising

Openreach’s newly announced volume discount plans offer advantages in growing high and higher speed volumes, infrastructure competitiveness and regulatory pricing pressure, while giving up little in external revenue, a win-win-win for BT at least

Full-fibre regulation appears to be slowly moving towards more clarity, but is still far too unclear to justify an accelerated investment, with critical issues being ducked (for now) by government and Ofcom alike

Despite significant changes in people’s video viewing habits over the last few years, the TV platform landscape has appeared to reach an equilibrium

We expect pay-TV to retain its utility status for most existing customers. At the margins, movement from Sky and Virgin Media to free-to-air or pay-lite services will be mitigated by population growth

The excitable growth phases for Netflix and Amazon are likely to be over, but they have carved out prominent positions in the market. Meanwhile, the uncomplicated allure of free TV remains strong for half the UK

UK residential communications market revenue growth strengthened in Q1, but this was entirely driven by an overlapping price increase from BT, and the decline in market volume growth continues

Continued pressure on both subscriber volume growth and ARPU has led to diverging strategies, with most operators focused on sustaining ARPU, but TalkTalk chasing volumes at the low end, with the former approach currently proving more successful

Looking forward, the benefit of BT’s price rise will fall away completely next quarter and market revenue growth will likely resume its downward trend, but the nadir may be within sight if the flight to quality persists at most operators

European mobile service revenue growth was down slightly to 0.3% in Q1, with improving trends in all countries other than France, which was down sharply due to the closure of the VAT loophole and intensifying competition

Iliad's launch in Italy was somewhat muted but its focus on straightforward tariffs is likely to hold considerable appeal there, with hidden charges there commonplace and being investigated by the antitrust authority

We expect greater polarisation between the North and South as the year progresses, the key question marks being Vodafone's strategy in Germany, Iliad's traction in Italy, and whether Iliad's revamp in France will lessen or worsen mobile competition there​

Service revenue growth for the UK mobile market improved in the first quarter of the year, lifting from 1.0% to 1.2%. There was an easing of the EU roaming regulatory impact helping growth improve, but the SIM-only drag likely grew to counteract this, suggesting a modest underlying improvement overall

We expect continued market growth improvement in the coming year due to a number of tailwinds, namely annual price rises, the arrival of IFRS 15, and the EU roaming impact dropping out

The fundamentals of the market remain solid: competition is rational; pricing is firm; data demand is strongly rising; supply is partially constrained; MVNOs and convergence do not appear a threat

BT has emphasised ‘convergence’ in its new Consumer strategy, but it has avoided most of the usual fixed-mobile convergence mistakes, with separate brands, minimal discounting and only slightly flawed converged products

The general strategy is to improve customer service to improve market share trends (particularly in broadband), enable premium products/positioning, and allow for cross-selling of a strong set of converged (in a broader sense) products, which is very sensible in our view

It does require extra spending in the short-term to improve customer service and the perception thereof (particularly in broadband) before premium positioning and cross-selling can be effective, therefore improved trends at the bottom line may take some time to come through

 

BT Group met expectations for the 2017/18 financial year, but future guidance is very modest compared to previous performance and financial market expectations, with 2018/19 revenue and EBITDA both guided to decline by around 2% with capex rising

In our view, this weakened outlook is primarily driven by the ongoing slowdown and increasing competitiveness of the UK broadband market, with operating metrics at BT Consumer particularly weak

BT’s re-vamped strategy looks good in parts, and could deliver the incremental improvements necessary to outperform the new (much more modest) expectations, helped by existing – and likely continued – strength in mobile