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    December 10, 2015

    UK mobile market Q3 2015: Stuck at 1%

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    UK mobile service revenue growth remained at 0.9% in Q3, but on an underlying basis growth increased 0.1ppts to 1.4%. This continues a trend of very gradual improvement in underlying growth over the past year, while reported growth has stayed constant at around 1% due to the re-introduction of regulated MTR cuts on 1 May 2015. Within the market, performances were mixed. O2 remains a service revenue growth star performer thanks to strong sustained contract net adds and stable contract ARPU while Vodafone’s service revenue growth fell back into decline as its contract ARPU suffered due to a sharp fall in out-of-bundle revenue. EE’s contract net adds were strong, but its contract ARPU growth remains weak, partly due to its renewed contract net adds performance being supported by low ARPU data devices and B2B. Since the end of the quarter, on 28 October, the CMA provisionally approved the BT/EE acquisition without conditions, and on 30 October, the EC opened an in-depth investigation into H3G/O2. Both acquirers would be wise in our view to be wary of making any rapid changes to branding and/or channel strategy, given that EE and O2 account for nearly 60% of UK gross subscriber additions between them and disrupting these sales will have a significant impact on subscriber growth, as EE’s experience since dropping Orange and T-Mobile has shown.

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    October 14, 2015

    European mobile in Q2 2015

    European mobile service revenue growth improved to the highest in over four years driven by improvements in the three slowest growing markets of late. Out-of-bundle revenues are still declining at a rate of over 10% but data revenue growth trends point to underlying strengths in the revenue profile. Looking at the longer term picture begs the question as to whether the quarter’s improvement can be repeated over the next 18 months, transforming the industry into one with extremely healthy revenue growth of 5%-10%; on balance we are not very optimistic. Two major in-mobile transactions are yet to be approved by the EC, namely H3G/O2 in the UK and an H3G/Wind JV in Italy. The recent precedent from Denmark is somewhat discouraging, although the Danish consolidation was unusual in some respects. Nonetheless comments from the new competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager suggest that regulatory caution towards 4-to-3 mergers is still high. Progress towards convergence is continuing with few operators in a post-consolidation world being either 100% fixed or 100% mobile. Convergence has to date been discount-led and damaging to market revenues, but post-consolidation, operator rhetoric has been reassuringly more focused on intentions for increased investment in both LTE mobile networks and high speed fixed networks.

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    August 26, 2015

    UK mobile market Q2 2015: Modest growth continues

    UK mobile service revenue growth dipped a touch in Q2, falling to 0.9% from 1.0% in the previous quarter, although all of the dip and more was due to the reintroduction of mobile termination rate cuts in the quarter, with underlying growth rising to 1.3%. O2 is now the fastest growing operator in both contract net adds and service revenue growth terms, exceeding even the much smaller H3G, and its revenue growth lead over EE and Vodafone expanded during the quarter. BT’s consumer mobile launch was relatively successful from BT’s perspective, with it garnering 100k subscribers in the first three months, but this appeared to have no impact at all on the mobile operators, which had a relatively strong quarter for contract net adds in spite of this. We conclude that much of the fixed line MVNO base growth is coming from impulsively upgrading prepay users, consumers wanting a spare SIM and other MVNO customer bases – sources that do not threaten the MNOs.

  • June 25, 2015

    European mobile in Q1 2015: Another improvement, but not in Spain

    European mobile service revenue growth improved once more in Q1, rising 1.1ppts to -1.6%, continuing a trend of underlying growth improvement that started in Q3 2014. The improvement was mainly driven by easing declines in France and Italy but deteriorating performance in Spain meant that Europe-wide growth did not improve by as much as in the last two quarters. Pricing stabilisation appears again to be the main driver of recovery (in those countries that are recovering) with more rational pricing allowing operators to monetise rapid data usage growth. However, more price cut moves have been made in France since the end of the quarter, Italy remains an inherently unstable market and Spain again suffered this quarter from convergence discounts. As data usage continues to grow rapidly, customer concern for high quality data networks increases, which makes investment in superior 4G networks a clearer differentiator for operators to convey to customers. The UK market leads the EU5 in this regard, and has taken advantage through rationally priced tiered data plans, but this effect spreading to the rest of the EU5 is a source of optimism as 4G roll-outs continue across Europe.

  • June 17, 2015

    UK mobile market Q1 2015: A little growth, less convergence

    UK mobile service revenue growth continued to improve, rising to 1.2% in Q1, a modest figure but still the best of the five largest European mobile markets, albeit weaker than the UK consumer fixed line market (4%-5%). O2 continued to be the strongest grower of the ‘big 3’, and maintained over 40% share of contract net adds. Both Vodafone and EE appear to have suffered from the demise of Phones 4U, having been its biggest (and latterly its only) network operator suppliers. EE is also suffering from the gradual withdrawal of its Orange and T-Mobile brands, which is forcing it to work harder to both attract and retain customers. Vodafone launched a competitively priced consumer fixed broadband offer on 10 June. EE has shown that there is an opportunity for Vodafone to have some limited success cross-selling broadband through its shops, but O2's mobile-only success and EE's struggles in its mobile business suggest that this will not drive improved mobile performance

  • April 13, 2015

    European mobile in Q4 2014

    European mobile service revenue growth improved for a fourth consecutive quarter jumping 1.7ppts to -2.7%, the slowest rate of decline in over three years. Easing declines in France, Italy and Spain largely drove the improvement but a full recovery in these markets is still some way away given that all of their growth rates remain below -5%. The UK, and now Germany, are experiencing positive mobile service revenue growth although their improvements in the quarter were more modest. Three announced consolidation transactions have yet to be approved by the regulators although none of these deals are likely to offer much market repair, being either of the wrong kind of deal or being in markets that are growing. Consolidation targets remain in France, Italy and Spain which offer clearer routes to market recovery as seen in Germany where the consolidation of O2/E-Plus has already led to positive rhetoric on medium term market growth prospects. Network investment continues with 4G roll-outs at or over 70% population coverage in all markets and targets being accelerated, supporting long term optimism in the sector. Strong data traffic growth coupled with the growing importance of data to service revenue give a clear focus for operators on value-adding network quality investment, although the impact of pricing competition in some markets could weigh on the ability to capitalise on these trends in the medium term.

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    January 28, 2015

    UK mobile user survey: High on networks, low on convergence

    Customer movement between operators shows susceptibility to dynamism in branding; O2 are picking up the majority of EE churners as customers move to the new “cool brand” while EE pull in Vodafone churners tempted by the new “best network”. O2 have the lowest churn though the lion’s share move to Vodafone and H3G churners are more evenly picked up by the other three. Customer perceptions of own operator network quality are high among the big 3 with no less than 75% of customers reporting theirs is the best network. O2 is the best regarded while H3G is the least best regarded highlighting a stark contrast between the (prospective) merging parties. Consumers report little interest in quad play and indeed operators in the both fixed and mobile markets have publicly confirmed the same from other market research. However the arrival of converged players in the form of a merged BT/EE or Vodafone re-entering the fixed space will see operators seeking to change this.

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    January 27, 2015

    H3G and O2: Three and two makes Three

    The posited deal merging H3G and O2 would create a new largest UK mobile operator with 40% market share, with massive synergy benefits available from cutting overlapping network and operations costs. Regulatory hurdles would be very significant, and the remedies required may well counteract the benefits of reduced network operator competition, as they will be designed to do. For Vodafone and EE, the impact will be mixed; a potentially aggressive competitor is removed, but their preferred positioning as being the best mobile networks is under threat.

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    December 8, 2014

    UK mobile market Q3 2014: Growth maintained, but uncertainty ahea [...]

    UK mobile service revenue growth stayed positive in Q3 2014, albeit at a slightly lower level than last quarter, an achievement given performance in recent years, but a slight disappointment given the previous improving trend. Pricing trends were a little worrying, but data volumes continue to accelerate markedly. With Phones 4U ceasing to trade towards the end of the quarter, Q4's subscriber shares will be largely determined by where its prior customers end up. With these representing 13% of market gross adds which implies 65% of net adds, the impact is significant. Merger talks underway with the parents of O2/EE and BT, with H3G reportedly getting involved, will have an impact whether they lead to a deal or not; if either EE or O2 (or both) remain independent within the UK, they will likely need reinvigorating and re-motivating as to their raison d'etre or risk drifting without a clear direction.

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    September 25, 2014

    European mobile in Q2 2014: Underlying weakens again

    European mobile service revenue growth improved by 0.5ppts to -7.2% in Q2 2014, but all of this and more was driven by a reduced regulatory impact; underlying growth has been stuck at around 6% for the last four quarters, with progress in some areas consistently being countered by further pricing pressure. Industry consolidation has progressed to some extent, but would have had little impact in the quarter. Further in-country mobile/mobile mergers are more than likely but uncertainty driven by the changing European Commission may be delaying decisions to move forward. The UK example shows that consolidation is not necessary for market repair, but in the present environment the smaller operators in continental Europe have every incentive to be as disruptive as possible to encourage their acquisition, so further mergers cannot come soon enough.

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    September 8, 2014

    UK mobile market Q2 2014: Pricing stable, volume surges, growth r [...]

    UK mobile service revenue growth finally returned to positive territory in Q2 2014 after three years of decline, largely driven by the MTR impact dropping out, but also helped by a 0.6ppt improvement in underlying growth. Data volumes accelerated markedly during the quarter, with 4G and improved 3G speeds encouraging more video/media activity, which is far more bandwidth intensive (as well as having less of a substitution effect) than text communications activity. As consumers move to higher data bundles, smartphone usage may actually start to enhance ARPU through tariff upgrades as opposed to damage ARPUs through lower out-of-bundle voice and text usage. The outlook remains positive, with headline pricing stable, contract ARPUs stabilising and the competitive environment relatively benign.

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    July 8, 2014

    European mobile in Q1 2014: Underlying remains weak, but consolid [...]

    European mobile service revenue growth improved to -7.6% in Q1 2014 from -9.0% in the previous quarter, but most of the improvement came from a drop in the regulated MTR cut impact, with underlying growth only improving 0.2ppts. This is in spite of continued improvements in GDP growth and the highest level of consumer confidence in six years, confirming that the often-blamed economic conditions actually have been having little impact on the market, with competitive intensity the real cause. For this very reason, the approval by the EC of in-market mergers in Germany and Ireland has been warmly welcomed by the industry and investors. Our view is that market repair is dependent on a change of attitude of the incumbents towards long term investment and away from chasing short term subscriber share via price discounting; consolidation may well help with this, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient.
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    June 24, 2014

    UK mobile market Q1 2014: Heading for positivity

    UK mobile service revenue growth remained relatively healthy at -1.6% in Q1 2014, despite the absence of some favourable one-off factors in the previous quarter, consolidating the improvements seen in 2013. Underlying growth improved a touch to 0.3%, and given that the regulatory impact will drop out next quarter, reported revenue growth may well turn positive in Q2. Service revenue growth among the ‘big three' has re-converged to around -3% to -4%, with Vodafone improving due to strong recent subscriber gains, and EE worsening slightly after a strong previous quarter. H3G's growth worsened due to the previous quarter including some one-off benefits, but it remains very strong at 10%, with contract ARPU having stabilised. We expect the market environment to continue to be relatively benign, with the biggest disruptive threats Vodafone, which is currently competing on quality but may become more aggressive on price if it loses patience, and the fixed line operator MVNOs, who have significant distribution disadvantages but nonetheless can harm the market with discounted pricing.

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    March 24, 2014

    European mobile in Q4 2013: Focused on consolidation

    European mobile service revenue growth again disappointed in Q4, dropping slightly from -8.9% to -9.1%, with underlying revenue growth dropping a little further from -6.0% to -6.3%, again reaching a record low. There had been hopes that improved GDP growth would drive a volume rebound, that price declines would start to annualise out, and that declining out-of-bundle usage would wane in its impact as this usage declined. In the event, ongoing price competition from smaller operators, MVNOs and quad play offerings, combined with surging use of OTT communications platforms, have dominated trends. In the medium term, the development of 4G and Vodafone's Project Spring may bring some much needed network differentiation back to the market, allowing pricing power to return to the larger operators. However, it will be 2015-2016 before these factors come into play: in the short term, the main source of optimism is consolidation.

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    December 16, 2013

    UK mobile market Q3 2013: Flattening out

    UK mobile market service revenue growth improved on a reported basis in Q3 to -3%, but was unchanged on an underlying basis, still not a bad result after six consecutive quarters of underlying growth declining, albeit in the context of rapidly improving macroeconomic conditions. All four operators now offer 4G services, with O2 and Vodafone launching within the quarter and H3G in December. EE will nonetheless maintain its coverage and speed advantage for 2014, but others (most likely Vodafone) may challenge thereafter. H3G is offering 4G at no extra cost, reflecting its focus on unlimited data and meeting the capacity requirements for this, and O2 has recently cut its 4G tariffs to match those of 3G (but with a high minimum entry point), leaving EE the only operator with an explicit 4G premium. The overall outlook is mixed – we would expect some improvement to revenue growth into 2014 as the MTR impact wears off and the dilutive effect of unlimited tariffs wane, but this may be countered by a lack of mid-contract price increases, and while 4G is likely to benefit all as it drives data volumes and encourages package upgrades, the impact will be gradual.

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    December 3, 2013

    European mobile in Q3 2013: Improving to minus nine

    In this presentation we show our analysis of revenue growth trends for mobile operators in the top five European markets (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain). The historical analysis is based on the published results of the operators, although they include our estimates where their data is inconsistent or not complete. A copy of the underlying data in spreadsheet format is available to our subscription clients on request

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    September 19, 2013

    European mobile in Q2 2013: Still terrible; investment and consol [...]

    In this presentation we show our analysis of revenue growth trends for mobile operators in the top five European markets (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain). The historical analysis is based on the published results of the operators, although they include our estimates where their data is inconsistent or not complete. A copy of the underlying data in spreadsheet format is available to our subscription clients on request

  • August 22, 2013

    UK mobile market Q2 2013: 4G on a budget

    UK mobile market revenue growth improved in Q2, rising to -3.6% from -5.0% in the previous quarter, but we see this as driven entirely by an easing in the regulated MTR impact, with underlying growth actually dropping. O2's revenue growth has continued to improve, Vodafone and EE's revenue growth both improved roughly in line with the market, and H3G's growth declined but remained much above the other three Both Vodafone and O2 announced plans to launch 4G on 29 August but both also have modest roll-out plans, with only 13 cities due to be covered by the end of the year, leaving both with less than half the coverage of EE, and H3G is not planning to launch until Q4. There is some debate over how much consumers are likely to value 4G, with a number of consumer surveys putting interest at a low level. Our own survey is consistent with this, but reveals that interest among high-end smartphone owners – who tend to spend more on handsets and airtime – is very much higher O2 is now selling all its upper end contract plans under the ‘O2 Refresh' structure, which splits handset and airtime fees but in such a way as to allow it to make good margins on handset sales, a clever way to take advantage of smartphone popularity as opposed to working against it as many operators do. The other operators may well follow suit

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    June 4, 2013

    European mobile revenue growth and outlook Q1 2013: Hitting a nad [...]

    In this presentation we show our analysis of revenue growth trends for mobile operators in the top five European markets (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain). The historical analysis is based on the published results of the operators, although they include our estimates where their data is inconsistent or not complete. A copy of the underlying data in spreadsheet format is available to our subscription clients on request

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    June 2, 2013

    UK mobile market Q1 2013: 4G progresses but does not transform

    Overall UK mobile revenue growth slipped slightly in Q1, dropping 0.4ppts to -4.3%, although, taking into account the leap year effect, underlying growth likely improved a touch, marking the second quarter of growth being at least stable. EE announced 4G subscriber figures for the first time, reporting 318k subscribers at the end of the quarter, a very respectable figure given coverage, handset and price tier limitations. We expect this figure to grow strongly as coverage rolls out and 4G handset availability spreads, but the 4G revenue premium is still unlikely to be significant in 2013. The outlook for revenue growth in the rest of 2013 is fairly positive – the MTR impact will partly drop out from Q2 onwards, boosting reported revenue by over 2ppts, some mid-contract price increases will take effect, and pricing (so far) has remained reasonably stable.

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    June 26, 2012

    UK mobile user survey 2012: networks over handsets (apart from th [...]

    In this report we show the findings of our 2012 UK mobile user survey. The report is a wide ranging analysis of the mobile market based on our consumer research, focusing on the competitive landscape among the mobile operators and smartphone manufacturers, and the changing consumer behaviour that has and will continue to impact the market

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    June 26, 2012

    UK mobile user survey 2012: networks over handsets (apart from th [...]

    In this report we show the findings of our 2012 UK mobile user survey. The report is a wide ranging analysis of the mobile market based on our consumer research, focusing on the competitive landscape among the mobile operators and smartphone manufacturers, and the changing consumer behaviour that has and will continue to impact the market

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    H3G
    April 3, 2012

    H3G FY 2011 results: UK strengthens more, Italy weakens further

    H3G's European operations slightly improved underlying service revenue growth, and EBIT margin improved from 0% to 3%, but the latter figure was flattered by a change in handset subsidy accounting; without this change, EBIT would likely have been negative. The UK and Italian performances further diverged, with UK growth accelerating in H2 to +13%, and Italy decelerating to -14%, despite a renewed (and expensive) push for contract subscribers in Italy. The UK business has positioned itself well for the smartphone revolution, with its all-you-can-eat data plans particularly popular, although the resulting traffic surge may cause service quality problems in the future.
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    March 19, 2012

    Mobile revenue growth and outlook Q4 2011: from bad to worse

    In this presentation we show our analysis of revenue growth trends for mobile operators in the top five European markets (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain). The historical analysis is based on the published results of the operators, although they include our estimates where their data is inconsistent or not complete. A copy of the underlying data in spreadsheet format is available to our subscription clients on request.