In 2013, roll-out of LTE services will have limited immediate economic impact, social media giants look set to stir up IP-based messaging services and smartphone penetration growth rates will slow considerably. Apple will continue to lose market share in the tablet space while the VoLTE investment case will come into the spotlight for operators.
Here are Analysys Mason’s top telecoms predictions for the next 12 months:
1. LTE arrives, but with limited immediate impact: In 2013 LTE will become a commercial reality in many more countries, but will have limited economic impact in the next 12 months. Some European countries and emerging markets in Latin America are set to launch the network, as well as countries in South-East Asia via the Asia–Pacific band plan. Some developed markets such as South Korea will also start to deploy LTE-A and take advantage of features such as carrier aggregation to craft larger channels for higher-speed services.
However, the immediate economic impact of LTE will be limited in countries where it has been priced as a premium product and the economy remains sluggish (e.g. Italy and Spain). The industry will also realize that consumers are unwilling to pay a premium for LTE mobile broadband, and that this service will not compete with next-generation fixed access on anything other than a complementary basis. The effect will be to push down the price of 3G/HSPA mobile broadband services.
2. The ‘big switch-off’ will accelerate: 2013 will see growing operator focus on ‘the big switch-off’ – legacy mobile infrastructure for mobile network operators, copper networks and PSTN for fixed operators. Approaches to this will be varied. One operator in South Korea, for example, has already switched off its 2G network.
3. Social media giants to further shake up IP-based messaging: In 2012, operators responded to SMS cannibalization by launching RCS-e, which was followed by a number of 'telco-OTT' services. In the next 12 months, competition will heat up further as social media giants such as Facebook move in. Analysys Mason forecasts that European operator revenue from messaging will decline by 34% in the next four years, from €28 billion ($36.6 billion) in 2011 to €18.6 billion in 2017.
4. VoLTE investment case to come into the spotlight: The first voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services came to market in 2012. Though widespread commercial deployments are still some way off, operators will need to make some tough decisions about the future of their voice services. Potential cost savings are currently driving the IMS investment case, but revenue implications are uncertain, and a clear vision for how voice services should evolve in an LTE world has yet to be articulated. HTML5/WebRTC will further stimulate the debate about whether 'voice is just an application'.