The UK residential communications sector continues to be in rude health, with revenue growth in Q4 accelerating by 1ppt to 5.7%, the strongest it has been for years, with all of the operators enjoying an improvement. Volumes were strong, and ARPU even stronger, with the latter driving most of the revenue growth progress, driven by firm pricing and high speed broadband adoption.
Growing revenues and profits in an industry tends to encourage both investment and competition, and this is certainly the case in the fixed telecoms market, as BT announced plans for higher speed services using G.fast and Virgin Media announced a 4 million premises network expansion. The timings suggest that Virgin Media will keep its edge; given historic trends and its network capabilities we expect it to be offering superior speeds to G.fast by the time G.fast hits the mass market.
In competitive terms the biggest short term threat is EE, which is growing its broadband base at 15%, and may accelerate further in 2015. Its success appear to stem not so much from the raw appeal of ‘quad play’ bundling as improved performance in the mechanics of cross-selling from physical shops. EE itself may be less of a threat if its planned merger with BT is completed, but Vodafone is launching broadband services in the spring, and H3G/O2 may yet be encouraged into the market.