Saturday, April 29, 2017

By 2021, Fixed Voice Will Represent 7.7% of Global Telecom Revenue

By 2021, fixed voice will represent only about 7.7 percent of total global telecom revenues, compared to mobile at 59 percent of total, according to researchers at Ovum.

Fixed network broadband will represent 18 percent of total revenues, while subscription TV represents about 15 percent of total revenues.

The global telecoms & media market will generate $1.58 trillion in revenues in 2021 from 11.96 billion connections, according to Ovum, which counts fixed network, mobile network and video services in its tally.

The mobile segment will dominate, with revenues of $933 billion and nine billion connections in 2021, Ovum predicts. However, fixed broadband will be the fastest-growing market, with revenues growing at a compound annual growth rate of 3.02 percent from 2016 to 2021, ahead of subscription TV at 2.51 percent and mobile at 1.91 percent.

Global broadband will generate $288 billion in revenues in 2021, ahead of subscription  TV with $239 billion and fixed voice at $122 billion.

Not all estimates include video. But even some of those forecasts are in line with Ovum projections.

The relative importance of mobile, fixed broadband, and subscription TV markets varies by country and region.

In 2021, the mobile market will generate 87 percent of total telecom and media revenues in Africa and 70 percent in the Middle East, compared to 50 percent in North America and 49 percent in Western Europe, Ovum predicts.


Friday, April 28, 2017

FCC Chairman Pai Discusses Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has outlined his vision for the future of Internet regulation, including a plan to undo "Title II." 

In 2015, Pai's predecessor, Tom Wheeler, reclassified broadband Internet as a "common carrier" service under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. Net neutrality activists say that public utility regulations are necessary to have a free and open Internet. 

Critics of Title II, including Pai, argue that the rules are outdated and depress investment and innovation. 

Does the answer lie somewhere in between? What role might Congress and the Supreme Court play? Listen to Chairman Pai discuss those issues.

5G Business Models Will be Disparate in Early Rollouts

Ironically, in a business where capacity always has been expensive and scarce, internet access capacity is becoming less an issue than business models that take advantage of that abundance

Those changes are coming at a time when revenue earned from selling access connections to humans, for devices they want to use, is reaching saturation. That is why internet of things is so important: services used by sensors and machines represent the major area for growth of connections and revenue. 

So different business models are likely to emerge early in the 5G rollout. In some markets, millimeter wave spectrum will not be a factor, so use cases based on use of small cells might not emerge, either.

In a few markets, 5G in fixed mode might be quite significant; in other markets it will not be a factor.

Internet of things opportunities likewise will vary between regions; large companies versus small companies; urban areas versus rural areas; mobile and fixed use cases and between connectivity supported by 5G or specialized networks.

In some markets, 5G initially might be a way to supply "lots more bandwidth" for human users. Longer term, success is likely to depend on new services created to support sensor-based IoT apps and services.

That noted, longer term, the International Telecommunications Union has identified some frequency bands that can be globally harmonized, in the millimeter wave regions.
■ 24.25–27.5 GHz
■ 31.8–33.4 GHz
■ 37–40.5 GHz
■ 40.5–42.5 GHz
■ 45.5–50.2 GHz
■ 50.4–52.6 GHz
■ 66–76 GHz
■ 81–86 GHz

The U.S Federal Communications Commission already is moving to commercialize 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 64 GHz to 71 GHz bands for 5G and other uses. Of particular note, spectrum in the 64 GHz to 71 GHz band will be available on a license-exempt basis.

That seven gigaHertz of new unlicensed spectrum will create potential for possible new business models. What is important is the 11 GHz of new spectrum (including seven gigaHertz of unlicensed spectrum), plus another potential 18 gigaHertz of additional spectrum that might be made available in the U.S. market, dwarfing all existing spectrum previously allocated for public communications purposes.


All other things being equal, a service provider likely would prefer to use frequencies at 40 GHz or lower, as signal propagation is better within those regions, compared to all other millimeter wave frequencies. The next “window” of interest, in terms of coverage apps and use cases, is around 80 GHz. The 60-GHz band, by way of contrast, will have much worse propagation characteristics and therefore will make more sense for point-to-point apps where the signal can be highly focused, or for indoor and other settings where capacity--not coverage--is the biggest objective.
source: National Instruments

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mobile Does Not Yet Represent Most Bandwidth Consumption, But Does Drive Most Digital App Time of Use

Not that the finding is going to surprise anybody, comScore reports that in most markets, mobile devices represent the way most people use “digital” applications, from 64 percent to 91 percent of time spent with digital applications.


Some Overbuilders Reconsider Triple Play

It has never been easy to be an overbuilder (a firm that competes on a facilities basis) with both cable TV and telcos in the same territory) in the U.S. market.

Since local access is a scale business, any overbuilder has to attack a niche (such as multiple dwellings units) or overbuild an entire metro area, risking a huge amount of capital for hope for a 10-percent to 15-percent take rate.

To boost prospects, most overbuilders offer triple-play services (voice, video entertainment, internet access), which helps increase average revenue per account. But the economics of the triple play are changing. Voice take rates keep falling, and the video business case for a smaller provider always has been challenging, as programming contract discounts are based on volume, which, by definition, a small provider cannot attain.

Recently, there are possible signs of a strategy shift, in some instances. Google Fiber did not offer voice services, sticking with internet access and video. Sonic only offers gigabit internet access and voice. Ting Internet seems to be aiming at internet access only in its new builds.

The business case matters, for overbuilders or incumbents.

Incumbent provider CenturyLink is reconsidering whether linear video should be offered, as the economics of over the top video are better. Small telcos always have difficulty justifying offering video service as well.

Grande Communications, the Texas-based broadband communications company offering internet, TV and phone services, initially offered gigabit access to high-density living units, another form of picking a niche. Now Grande is providing gigabit internet service home and business subscribers in its Texas markets of Austin, San Marcos, Dallas, Midland and Odessa.

That move is made possible by introduction of DOCSIS 3.1 protocols that support gigabit access over a standard hybrid fiber coax network.

Even if the tier one cable and telco incumbents continue to focus on triple play, niche providers and new attackers might well choose not to do so.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

FCC Wants to Return Internet Access Regulation to Title I Model

Though it will be controversial in some quarters, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai suggests network neutrality should return to the light touch policies “in place for decades before 2015, we had a free and open Internet,” dating back to the Clinton administration.

Most significantly, Pai proposes to return the framework to regulation of internet access as a Title I information service, not a Title II “common carrier” service.”

Some will see greater freedom as a result, while detractors will see less. Since every public policy has corresponding private interests, some might characterize the “freedoms” as accruing to app providers (some call them edge providers) while others would say the new freedoms will accrue to access providers.

Since the “consumer” or “public” interest can be argued in any number of ways, agreement is unlikely. It is fair to note that, under common carrier regulation, U.S. residents had low cost services, but little benefit from innovation. The fear often is that Title I inevitably means higher prices.

Nothing about the development of the internet or computing suggests that is the most likely outcome. Application providers always have been free of such regulation, and it is hard to argue with the observation that quality, variety and price all have improved.

At the same time, in all years, consumer internet access prices, in real terms, have dropped, both in absolute terms, and relative terms, as speeds have been increased at the same time that retail prices have dropped.

Some fear there will be reduced competition in a Title I framework. Some may try to exercise market power. We will see. Of course, higher prices create more incentive for competitors to enter the market. Higher market share provides the same sort of incentives. The more share any market leader has, the more chances to build a business taking share from that leader.

Gigabit to Every Customer, Everywhere, is AT&T's Goal

There are continuing signs that concern about the pace of U.S. internet access upgrades and investment are likely unfounded. Nor is the pace of mobile bandwidth expansion slowing, either.

Comcast has pledged to upgrade its whole network to gigabit access, as have other bigger cable operators other than Charter Communications.

Verizon recently announced symmetrical gigabit service for eight million FiOS passings, while AT&T continues to add more metro areas for its own gigabit services.

Google Fiber, meanwhile, seems to be preparing for a big new test of its fixed wireless strategy.

If fixed wireless assaults mount, and as fiber-based gigabit offerings expand, the pace of investment pace of investment is going to remain high, for competitive reasons.

Mobile bandwidth also has grown substantially, with T-Mobile US and Dish Network gains in the 600-MHz auction, new activity to add millimeter wave spectrum on the part of AT&T and Verizon, and more coming as shared spectrum in the 3.5-GHz band becomes available, and the Federal Communications Commission moving to release huge amounts of new millimeter wave spectrum as well.

“What the return of unlimited really highlights, and that is the industry's position in terms of network capacity, because if the industry is going to stay with unlimited, we're prepared and can probably sustain it better than anyone else because of our spectrum position,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

“We now have more than 60 megahertz of fallow spectrum that we're ready to light up, and we'll be deploying all the bands simultaneously starting this fall,” said Stephenson. “Our goal is to put one gig speeds in our customers' hands no matter where they are on our network.”

Ironically, prospects for better market share gains in fixed network internet access might be more important, not less important, for the likes of Verizon and AT&T, now feeling the pressure of mobile segment losses.

“Broadband had a very strong quarter, with 115,000 subscribers added,” said AT&T CFO John Stephens. Also, “our fiber deployment is making inroads.”

That is important for a few reasons. Account gains might be easier to get in the fixed realm than the mobile segment of the business. Also, to the extent that fixed internet access is the foundation service in the consumer fixed networks business, more scale, and more market share, helps.

Lots of bandwidth also helps support video operations, the new lead application on the fixed and mobile networks.

AT&T fiber is now in 52 metro areas and marketed to 4.6 million customer locations, Stephens said. “ We expect to add two million fiber locations this year, to reach six million by the end of the year, and to meet our 12.5 million merger commitment goal by 2019.”

AT&T executives now speak of a “new world, where capacity, networks, and entertainment intersect.”

“A year from now, we may look back on the return to unlimited plans as the moment when the battle for network reach and capacity began,” said AT&T CFO John Stephens.

If Using Roads is Free, Then Your Business has to Use Roads, Not "Be the Road"

Mobile video has been a problem for operators because competitive pressure prevents them from usage pricing in a way that would realize much incremental revenue from the shift, Tom Nolle, Cimi Corp. principal, notes.  “They’re stuck with another reason for revenue per bit  to decline, sinking into the realm of dumb, cheap, plumbing,” Nolle says.

“And, of course, if the road is becoming free, then you have to make money on what’s traveling the road, which is video content,” Nolle adds. That is a fundamental insight into present and future business models for many access providers who once earned most of their revenue from voice or messaging.

Across the full range of applications and services, “telcos” (including even cable TV companies, which are a segment of the telecom industry using a different access platform), the value and revenue from traditional apps has fallen. That is starting to be true even for the “newer” legacy services, such as internet access or entertainment video.

There are clear analogies in the internet era, when virtually any app or service can be created and delivered over any public IP network, with no participation by the access provider. With the rise of substitute products, that often means severely disrupted legacy revenue streams.

Voice services on U.S. fixed networks pose a huge stranded asset problem, as fewer than half of locations reached actually generate revenue.

Also, voice is a severely-limited revenue generator. A recent survey of mobile industry executives found that half now view voice as a low value service useful mostly in a multi-product bundle.



The key strategic insight is that since access has become a function that is largely commoditized, with value having shifted higher in the stack, or elsewhere in the ecosystem, at least some service providers must recreate application roles with higher value, higher profit margins and higher revenue, as application or service providers.

In other words, “you have to own at least some of the content and apps that flow across your access network.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Verizon "Goes Gig" for 8 Million Locations

Verizon has launched “Fios Gigabit Connection,” said to be “the nation’s largest deployment of gigabit Internet connection service.” to eight million U.S. homes. Comcast has pledged to upgrade all of its customers on all its networks, to gigabit levels of service in the near future, but Verizon is the only operator that now has done so across its entire footprint of fiber-to-home connections, and has done so using a symmetrical bandwidth approach.

AT&T has been adding gigabit access across its footprint of metro areas, but on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

Fios Gigabit Connection provides downloads as fast as 940 Mbps and uploads as fast as 880 Mbps.

Priced at $69.99 a month standalone and starting at $79.99 a month for a triple play bundle when ordered online, Fios Gigabit Connection for the first time in some years allows Verizon to argue that “no cable provider comes close to offering the speeds and power of Fios Gigabit connection on this kind of scale.” In addition to scale, Verizon is offering symmetrical bandwidth, something Comcast will not be able to do.

The upgrade is important as it puts FiOS in the lead, as far as fixed network internet access provided at scale, a lead Verizon had lost as cable operators such as Comcast pushed speeds to match Verizon’s FiOS service, in the downstream direction.

Verizon had upgraded speeds 750 Mbps symmetrical service for about seven million homes in early 2017.  Standalone internet access at such speeds were priced at $150 a month.

The gigabit service is priced at $70 a month on a standalone basis, showing continued improvement not only in speed but also in price, for a leading U.S. internet service provider.

The larger point is that, despite some skepticism, U.S internet access speeds are not somehow lagging world averages, though that might once have been the case. Rather, speeds are growing--at least for some major suppliers-- at rates nearly what one would expect if Moore’s Law applied.

source: Technology Futures

Threat and Reality of Common Carrier Regulation Reduced U.S. telecom investment $150 Billion to $200 Billion

Between 2011 and 2015 (the last year data are available), the threat of reclassification reduced telecommunications investment by about 20 percent to 30 percent, or about $30 to $40 billion annually, according to George Ford, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies chief economist.

In other words, over the interval 2011 to 2015, another $150-$200 billion in additional investment would have been made “but for” Title II reclassification, he argues.

Actual investment averaged $126 billion annually. But the average investment over the five-year window would have been about $160 billion (or more) annually, in the absence of concern over the rules, Ford argues.

“Notably, I find no decline in investment following the release of the FCC’s “Four Principles” to promote an Open Internet in 2005, suggesting it is reclassification—and not neutrality principles—that is reducing investment,” says Ford.

In other words, rules that ensure that consumers have access to all lawful apps, without blocking or hinderance, did not seem to reduce investment. Common carrier regulation did, Ford argues.

Internet of Things Tops Mobile Executive LIst of "Most Important" Apps for 2017

With the caveat that we might all turn out to be very wrong, a survey of executives conducted by GSMA suggests that internet of things is, far and away, the area of greatest mobile operator interest for 2017.

Conversely, 50 percent  of respondents said that voice is a “low value, bundled service.” About  16 percent of respondents said voice “has no future and revenues will dwindle” as users turn to other communications formats.

Asked which new business areas will be the most attractive in 2017, 48 percent of respondents said internet of things would be most important, not only for access account potential, but also for additional roles in the value chain.

No other category ranks that high. The next largest opportunity, for example, was mobile payments, chosen by 14.5 percent of respondents as important in 2017.

Will Customer Service Ever Cease Being an Issue for Access Providers?

Comcast customer service scores are improving--apparently by substantial amounts-- in Oregon, where Comcast has been testing new procedures and processes to improve customer service, the company says.  Comcast says complaints have dropped 25 percent in two years.

Oddly enough, one of the changes involves a new use for an old trouble-detecting mechanism. Decades ago, a cable operator would learn it has a problem because trouble calls started to pour in. Now, in a new way, Comcast monitors one specific behavior--customers using speed test apps--as an indicator it might have a problem in a neighborhood.

It really is not easy being a network-based service provider of any type, whether the service is electricity, mobile or fixed phone service, internet access or linear subscription video.

For years, customer satisfaction scores for internet access service and linear TV have been at the bottom of industry rankings, though there are signs of improvement, recently. That seems to always be the case.

Other “recurring services,” such as electrical utilities, fixed network voice or mobile phone service, also score relatively worse than many other types of products.

It never is so clear to me why that is the case, though any number of possibilities exist. Given the number of hours a television is used (often on in the background, and perhaps not being actively and intently watched), any network outage is going to have a higher chance of being noticed than if a fixed phone line drops. People do not actively use fixed line phones that many minutes per day, and an outage can occur without user awareness that has happened.

Others might suggest the “problem” is the recurring bill, a monthly reminder that a customer is paying for a product where there is some unhappiness with the value proposition.

Poor customer service can be an issue in any business where billing errors are likely to be common, as is any communications service with usage charges. Mobile service providers a decade or two ago had somewhat more common failures in that regard, though most of us would agree that customer service has gotten quite a lot better.

Internet access provider might suffer from the instability of IP connections generally, as well as the somewhat disparate experiences across the day. Wi-Fi channel performance also tends to vary significantly, all of which can lead to a user experience that seems--and is--unstable or disparate.

That does not help.

2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
72
74
73
68
71
70
68
68
71
69
69
69
69
68
72
69
68
68
67
69
70
67
67
67
NM
NM
NM
NM
65
66
NM
NM
NM
NM
67
66
66
66
68
65
63
65
69
68
69
66
66
64
59
61
63
60
54
62
NM
NM
NM
NM
57
62
59
59
64
60
63
60
67
63
65
63
62
59
59
63
60
56
51
59
NM
NM
NM
NM
51
54
source: ACSI

U.S. Streaming Spending Flat Last 3 Years, But Change Coming?

Most would agree the subscription video business now is unstable, with major changes looming. On the other other hand, consumers tend to o...