The UK mobile market was steady this quarter at around -2% ahead of out-of-contract notifications hitting from February.

The mobile sector is playing an important role in tackling COVID-19 and is likely to be relatively resilient in the short term with a broadly-neutral financial impact. Longer term it will be exposed to the fortunes of the economy.

Elsewhere, there have been green shoots of positivity in the outlook: some good regulatory news; a degree of price inflation; Carphone Warehouse’s retreat is a positive for the operators, and some financial drags will drop out as the year progresses.

The capacity boost with 5G will be more important than any speed or latency uplift. We estimate a 7-fold increase in mobile capacity in the UK and 13x+ for O2 and H3G

We view fixed mobile substitution products as quite niche although the number of mobile-only households is likely to creep up. mmWave would have the capacity to substitute for fixed but has many hurdles to overcome

Capacity-constraints have tempered competition of late and their removal risks an increase in intensity, especially as H3G views itself as sub-scale – good for policy makers but another challenge to add to the industry’s woes
 

European mobile service revenue growth dropped to -1.3% – its lowest level in three years – particularly disappointing as growth should be bouncing back post-EU roaming tariff cuts

Having enjoyed relatively favourable dynamics in 2018, the UK and Germany are facing marked changes in momentum from here

Regulation limiting intra-EU call prices could hit hard – up to 6% of revenues and 20% of EBITDA in the UK, although other EU countries may be less exposed due to lower tariffs currently

Following record growth last quarter, the UK mobile market took a step down to just 0.9% growth in the quarter to December on the back of increasing pressure in the business market and the impact of out-of-bundle limits

2019 looks set to be a tough year for the sector with: a series of potentially painful regulatory hits; markedly lower price rises than last year; and early signs of a degree of creeping competitive intensity

We view 5G as a much-needed means of expanding capacity in the sector with upsides from M2M and IoT likely to remain relatively small