Stagnation in telecoms market set to continue in 2014
Revenues are stagnating
BuddeComm estimates that the overall telecoms services revenue passed was about $42.5 billion in 2013, slightly down on 2012 as a result of lower revenue from Vodafone and Optus. Indeed, growth has been subdued since 2011, largely due to competitive pressure on pricing among operators, as well as continuing economic uncertainty among some sectors of society which has lessened discretionary spend. This is expected to continue into 2014 and 2015, with revenue either stagnating all together or only slightly growing to about 1-1.5% annually. Most fixed-line and mobile voice services are now at levels where consumers would not tolerate price increases, so opportunities to drive increases in consumer and business expenditure in the short term are limited to mobile data services based on 4G/Long-term Evolution (LTE) technologies, fibre, and cloud-data housing.
At the same time as fixed-line telephony is declining, the mobile broadband market is growing steadily and is set to become a major income revenue stream for providers. Nevertheless, mobile broadband data revenue growth will be far short of the growth anticipated from mobile broadband data on networks. While mobile voice remains the dominant source of revenue for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), it will soon be overtaken by mobile data revenue. In time, much of the voice traffic will be data packet via technologies such as Voice over Long-term Evolution (VoLTE). Data traffic caused network constraints on 3G networks over the last couple of years, since the infrastructure was not designed for the rapid increase of traffic, and so MNOs have had to invest in network upgrades to ensure that customers receive a reliable service.
The release of 4G/LTE mobile broadband and increased uptake by consumers and businesses will certainly ease the issue in the short term, but as user uptake increases so will the amount of bandwidth consumed. Mobile data usage increased by nearly 80% year-on-year to mid-2012 with nearly seven terabytes downloaded over the air in a three-month period.
Telstra continues to dominate the overall Australian telecom market with about 60% market share of overall revenue in 2013. This market share has been falling steadily since the highs that it held in the early 2000s, of around 80%.
The 2nd tier market
Developments in this market have been dominated by industry consolidation, a process that is set to continue over coming years. Moving towards a structurally separated regulatory environment with a NBN at the horizon, size really does matter.
The other important development has been Telstra’s aggressive activities to increase its market share, particularly in the mobile and broadband sectors. This has been detrimental to a number of 2nd tier players, as has been reflected in their declining revenue in 2013. Nevertheless, there was an overall recovery in total revenue among these players in 2013, reflecting the benefits of scale brought about by market consolidation. Overall revenue for these operators, of about $3.9 billion, still accounts for less than 10% of the total telecoms market in Australia.
This report provides an overview of some of the larger 2nd-tier market players with key revenue figures for the market with brief financial and operational overview on the companies with analysis and data provided in several formats including easy-to-read charts and tables.
The NBN will become the predominant infrastructure, and as a utilities-based network it will also provide its services to other sectors, such as healthcare, education and business. With these sectors involved we will see the industry developing specific new business models around infrastructure, ICT and retail. IPTV and other media and entertainment applications will also begin to play a more important role. The question remains – how successful will the telcos be in retail space?
With the uncertainty over the NBN a key concern moving forward is how far operators should invest in DSLAM infrastructure: the National Broadband Network (NBN) structure initially would have rendered DSLAMs obsolete with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) networks in place. However, with the NBN under a strategic review, and with the Coalition government determined to promote a Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN) architecture, supplemented by copper-based VDSL technologies, the transition from DSL to fibre-based infrastructure is likely to be on a far smaller scale.
Business broadband expansion continues with many individual employees now also being connected to mobile broadband, smartphones and tablets are increasingly becoming a part of the business ICT environment. Wireless broadband uptake by business has also seen an increase of numbers into 2013, while business with fast fibre spreads greater than 24Mb/s have seen a huge uptake over the past year.
This report also provides insight into a range of topics covering the usage of internet and broadband services in the residential sector, including overall statistics of the $19 billion residential telecoms market. It also includes BuddeComm estimates of the market as well as data from a number of market surveys covering consumer usage and behavioural patterns, in addition to internet and broadband usage statistics.
Overall mobile services revenue growth by the MNOs over the last financial year has fallen year-on-year. We should expect to see slower revenue growth from Telstra and Optus into 2014, with revenue again negative for Vodafone. While the issues that saw Vodafone revenues slide are unique, the company will continue to be affected by the loss of subscribers, price competitiveness and the cost of investing in infrastructure as it struggles to compete in the LTE-arena.
The number of mobile subscribers continues to grow steadily, and by mid-2013 mobile penetration had reached more than 130% as a significant proportion of subscribers make use of multiple phones or SIM cards. While growth is likely to continue in the next few years in as subscribers take to smartphones, this will slow in line with higher penetration, being about 2% into 2014.
Telstra remains the market leader with more than 14 million subscribers, Optus has around 9.5 million subscribers, and Vodafone has seen subscriber number fall to just over three million.
In 2013 there are more than 5.5 billion mobile broadband subscribers. The release of additional 4G networks and increases in capital expenditure by the mobile network operators will see increased market penetration of the availability of these 4G/LTE networks. The MNOs will be expecting a greater return on their investments, but BuddeComm expects that uptake will slow down to an annual growth rate of around 3% with ARPU continually falling as market pricing drives uptake.
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year