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.

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.

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.

Across Europe, markets are becoming more competitive. Incumbent pay-TV paltforms (e.g. Sky or Canal+) face increasing threats from both internet-based services (e.g. Netflix and Amazon), and telecoms operators

Telecoms providers are proving the most potent challengers as they enter the premium football rights market to create attractive triple and quad play bundles – examples include BT, SFR and Telefónica. The latter is now the main pay-TV operator in Spain whereas France’s Canal+ has entered into a strategic alliance with Orange

Across the top five markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), Sky remains the leading operator with an estimated 21.5m video subscribers, twice as many as Netflix

 

European mobile service revenue growth remained stuck at zero in Q1, with a heightened impact from the mobile termination rate cuts in Germany and price promotional activity in southern Europe mitigating improving markets in the UK and France

‘More-for-more’ price rises continued both during the quarter and after, and appear to be more widespread than the 2016 increases. This should be driving revenue growth at a healthier rate than zero, and may well do as out-of-bundle revenue declines fade away in significance and regulated MTR and roaming cuts annualise out

On the downside, there remain clear disruptive threats from consolidation in Italy, the potential for improved non-incumbent competitor performance in Germany and Spain, and the potential for further consolidation, with its distinctly mixed blessings for competitors, in the UK and France

European mobile service revenue growth was unchanged in Q4 on the previous quarter at -0.1%, tantalisingly close to growth but just held back by renewed mobile termination rate cuts in Germany

‘More-for-more’ tariff changes are becoming increasingly commonplace, as operators increase data bundle sizes to allow for volume demand growth, but nudge up pricing as partial compensation.  This has not yet translated into positive revenue growth across Europe as a whole, but increasingly looks like it will do, with a number of moves made in early 2017

The quarter saw completion of two M&A deals in Spain and Italy with MasMovil completing its acquisition of Yoigo, and H3G Wind completing their joint venture to form Wind Tre. While the former is unlikely to alter the market dynamics much, the latter, resulting in the entry of Iliad in Italy, has the potential to disrupt the pricing dynamic in that market, although ultimately it will be limited by Iliad’s initial MVNO economics and dearth of spectrum