While altnets continued their strong expansion in 2023, a slowdown in 2024 is looking very likely, with financing drying up due to tougher financial conditions and disappointing operating performances from some.

Consolidation is the obvious answer, and the altnets could consolidate into a pure wholesaler (via CityFibre), a retail/wholesale player, or could be absorbed into VMO2/nexfibre.

Which of these routes is taken, and how quickly, will have a profound impact on the structure of the industry, and all players should be careful what they wish for, with long-term outcomes hard to reliably predict in such a complex marketplace.

Ofcom’s final statement on net neutrality addresses most of our prior concerns, leading to opportunities for UK telcos to effectively address internet congestion, and monetise their network capabilities.

BT is looking to take advantage of its new freedoms with new TV distribution services, which could save network capacity, improve user experience and earn it a share of the content distribution value chain.

We think that there are many other attractive opportunities, but telcos will have to work hard to sell any of them given the need to work together and reverse the bad blood that has developed with many content providers.

Service revenue growth was broadly flat this quarter as some unwinding of price increases was compensated by a pickup in roaming revenues.

Vodafone has made some progress on its turnaround plan: it has sold its ailing Spanish unit; is rumoured to be in talks about a deal in Italy; and its German business is (just) back to growth (for now).

We expect muted guidance for 2024 with lower prospective price increases for most, inflated cost bases, and continued consolidation uncertainty.

Ofcom’s plan to ban inflation-linked price rises creates a headache for most operators, but the financial hit will not be felt for years, if then (depending on their replacement).

Ofcom is correct in pointing out some of the drawbacks of the practice, but it will likely be replaced by an alternative tactic that may well end up being worse for consumers.

The unintended consequences could be significant, with a period of uncertainty for operators, low-end plans less appealing to offer, and poor signaling to investors in the sector.

Mobile service revenue growth dipped to 5.6% this quarter as the impact of Q2’s price rises began to wane, and the prospective lower price rises look set to slow growth to 2% by the end of 2024.

Bargain-hunting in the sector continues with the MVNOs still taking the lion’s share of net adds, to the detriment of the MNOs.

EE is offering keenly priced convergence and family plans with its new platform—another challenge for the other MNOs who don’t share the same incentives.

Market revenue growth was robust in Q3 at 1.4%, but heavily supported by price rises whose effect will wane over the next year.

Broadband net adds remained negative, with pay TV and telephony more negative still, mainly thanks to strained consumer finances.

Declining volumes and waning price rise boosts are likely to lead the market into decline next year, with a recovering economy needed to reverse this.

 

The metaverse is a radical expansion of online experiences— sparking a host of new safety challenges on harmful content, economic activity, and privacy.

Building safety into the metaverse will take a village: platforms and communities will set policies and moderation. Regulators could struggle to future-proof their tools, especially with decentralised platforms.

AI age verification and moderation is in a race against AI hazards: disinformation, deepfakes and dynamic user content all intensify harms in immersive settings.

Market revenue growth surged to 2% in Q2, but entirely-and-more driven by price rises, with underlying trends negative across volumes and ARPU.

Broadband volumes in particular turned sharply negative, largely due to a post-lockdown hangover combining with weak economic conditions.

The outlook is bleak: price rise benefits are set to wane and then reverse, and weak volumes will feed through, with economic recovery needed for a return to sustainable growth.
 

Social tariffs have provided relief for some at a time of household income squeeze and otherwise unavoidable high inflation-driven telco price increases.

Adoption has risen but remains very low, limiting their effectiveness, and more widespread adoption would expose their shortcomings, with the risk of penalizing low cost operators and significantly increasing prices for non-adopters (by up to 20%).

A better approach might be to recognize that affordability issues are narrower but deeper than current social tariffs can address, with fuller, centrally funded subsidies targeted more narrowly at those most in need.

On 18 May 2023, Enders Analysis co-hosted the annual Media and Telecoms 2023 & Beyond Conference with Deloitte, sponsored by Barclays, Financial Times, and Salesforce.

With over 550 attendees and over 40 speakers from the TMT sector, including leading executives, policy leaders, and industry experts, the conference focused on how new technologies, regulation, and infrastructure will impact the future of the industry.

This is the edited transcript of Session Four, covering: news publisher growth, the way forward for UK telecoms, regulation, and closing remarks. Videos of the presentations will be available on the conference website.