This report covers the UK and Ireland, representing key and influential telecom markets. Trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, Internet, broadband, digital TV and converging media including VoIP, VoD and IPTV developments.
Market and industry analyses, trends and developments
Facts, figures and statistics
Industry and regulatory issues
Research, Marketing, Benchmarking
Major Players, Revenues, Subscribers, Prepaid
VoIP, IPTV, VoD, digital TV and DTTV
BuddeComm’s latest UK and Ireland Annual Publication, ‘2006 Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband in the UK and Ireland’, profiles two contrasting countries within Europe. Whereas Ireland has a small telecom market and has been slow to adopt broadband and digital TV, its larger neighbour has one of the largest economies in the European Union (EU) has been among the more progressive in promoting and using emerging technologies. Ireland’s incumbent, eircom, was taken over in 2006 and despite assurances to the contrary, the company faces being broken up within the next two years. By contrast, the privatisation of BT, which helped to develop the UK into one of the most competitive telecom environments in the world, has propelled the company on all fronts. Its recent operating performance has led to growth in all sectors, while it has also set the pace in its Next Generation Network (NGN) plans. The strong competitive environment in the broadband sector has been bolstered by the creation of BT’s retail division, Openreach in January 2006. These developments have pushed the UK into becoming a telecoms powerhouse in Europe, with comprehensive DSL coverage, advanced digital services and progressive convergence between all platforms.
The markets for IPTV and other IP-based triple play services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Video-on-Demand (VoD) continued to mature during 2006, while mergers and commercial deals have expanded the quad-play format by blending in mobile services to the traditional voice, Internet and TV formula. Although Ireland’s cable networks have been built out considerably during the year, particularly to the southern and western regions, both cable and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) services remain comparatively expensive and offer relatively low-bandwidth.
Digital TV is widely available in both countries, but digital terrestrial TV in Ireland still requires focus and direction while initial trials are underway at the close of the year. The UK has switched to digital signals in a number of areas, and the regulator’s plans for national switchover have been well managed. This report presents an overview of telecoms liberalisation and privatisation in the UK and Ireland, together with the prodigious product offerings for both the mobile and broadband sectors. It provides the latest essential statistics for operators in all sectors, highlighting market and technological developments and detailing the emergence of media convergence and triple and quad-play offerings in these two important markets. The report also covers the latest regulatory developments, together with an analysis of NGNs and the strategies of the main players in coming years.
2006 saw the emergence of quad-play services in the UK as a result of major deals between providers. Ntl Incorporated was the first off the block, following its purchase of Virgin Mobile. The company’s ‘4 for £40’ concept has targeted growing consumer demand for a one-stop-shop provider for services.
Numerous providers have launched 8Mb/s services, including BT which spent much of 2006 catching up with its competitors for bandwidth speed. The wider availability of ADSL2+ networks has fostered triple play services in a far larger geographic footprint. Meanwhile, ntl and Telewest have responded to DSL’s reach and higher-bandwidth development by upgrading their own national networks and trialling a 100Mb/s service, thereby adding an important competitive dimension for 2007.
Ireland’s underdeveloped broadband network showed real signs of improvement in 2006, though strong growth has been masked by its low starting point, and by customer dissatisfaction with the quality of broadband on offer outside the major towns. Nevertheless, both the government and the private sector have responded to the bad pressed resulting from the country’s lamentable position in Europe for broadband, and developments during 2006 promise rapid improvement in coming years.
The UK continues to have one of the most developed digital and pay TV markets in Europe, with diverse on-demand services. 2006 was characterised by major deals between network operators and content providers, including the BBC and most of the Hollywood studios. These now pose a more dangerous threat to BSkyB’s cable TV movie distribution business.
BT’s has seen the fruits of its structural separation, with the emergence of Openreach in early 2006 and strong growth in its broadband sector. Openreach will continue to show great promise for the UK’s competitive environment in 2007.
BT’s 21CN was close to being switched on in areas of South Wales, and the project remains the largest national NGN infrastructure undertaking in Europe. Together with BT’s structural separation, the NGN investment is an audacious signal that the company is preparing the UK for a new and rich era in digital services in coming years.
The UK’s mobile penetration broke the 100% mark in 2005, yet growth continues at one of the fastest rates in Europe. Ireland’s small mobile market has become increasingly competitive and looks set to continue its strong growth record in 2006, as services mature and competition and a determined regulator drive down prices.