What did we predict in 2016 for 2017? What happened in 2017?
Increased data usage - in part due to increased 4G coverage and a move away from legacy BlackBerry estates. Both were seen to be common trends across our customer base – there are now very few BlackBerrys but a small number still persist. 4G coverage is much more consistent but there is still work to be done by the Network Operators to keep up with the competition and/or to meet contractual or regulatory commitments.
Wi-Fi calling Whilst we saw O2 launch its native Wi-Fi calling product in mid-2017 it was Vodafone’s mid-November announcement that meant our predictions were met by the skin of our teeth. Will this now see the erosion of traditional fixed lines as the reliability of mobiles inside “Faraday Cage” workplaces is further improved?
5G and Embedded SIMs (eSIMs) to impact market in the next few years More of a slow burn for both of these but there continues to be more discussion around eSIM standards and future use, particularly in M2M and vehicles. Early 5G testing is showing that significant increases in bandwidth may be possible. In 2016 the consensus was that 5G would reach at least 1Gb speeds but now trials are indicating several Gb may be possible.
Global deals* not working for most companies (only the largest of corporations seem able to get a sufficient attention and discount to make these deals feasible) and we did not expect that to change in 2017. As expected, no change – for most companies procuring separate deals in-country will lead to better outcomes and costs than trying to put together a global deal with a single provider.
Increased uptake in wearables in the work place Fortuitously we gave ourselves the benefit of a few years on this prediction and indeed, while the consumer market has increased, TNC has yet to see many organisations deploying wearables.
Continued fierce competition TNC is still regularly seeing ‘like for like’ improvements of 30% over previous deals.
*(i.e. not roaming but the provision of services to multinational companies who are looking to tie in the procurement of services in several countries)
Substitution of fixed line
usage onto mobile

With more people working from home and/or working in a mobile fashion (hot desking, team collaboration, scrums, etc) employees are spending less time at a fixed office location. Whilst soft phones/UC may allow for the use of corporate fixed comms, the convenience of the phone in your pocket or bag is overwhelming for most users given the choice.

Furthermore, it is inevitable that one of the key past reasons to not use a mobile (i.e. call quality and coverage) will diminish as access and quality to mobile networks continues through:

  • continued coverage improvements on all networks
  • advanced voice quality via VoLTE (using the 4G networks for voice)
  • Wi-Fi calling becoming a default offering from all networks
  • device estate refreshes to newer Wi-Fi calling enabled devices

Despite this trend mobile voice usage is at best flat and perhaps even falling as users embrace IM, apps and social media to engage with customers, suppliers and colleagues. TNC therefore expects fixed voice usage to fall and in part be replaced by mobile voice, and a change to other methods of communications may leave some organisations to consider whether in a world of UC and mobile there is still a place for fixed phones on every desk. 

Increased data usage

Data usage continues to rise and packages continue to keep pace. We have already mentioned 4G availability and the move away from low data use BlackBerry devices. Whilst there is some kick back against the all-encompassing smartphone, for most employees it continues to be an essential work tool. On the consumer side the continued rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime type services has kept data usage growing but even in the corporate arena there is more and more work related video content as well as software either adapted for mobile use or with mobile use as a core consideration. With more apps, more content and more ability to access this data, usage will continue to grow. Even voice is moving onto data as Over The Top applications like Skype and WhatsApp eat into traditional voice.

Smartphone Fatigue

A phrase that has been coined this year is smartphone fatigue and certainly TNC has seen more customers considering stretching the lifecycle of their current fleets. Smartphone fatigue is the concept that due to lack of innovation in recent years there is little benefit from upgrading to the latest smartphone offering. Combine this with the significant cost of the high-end models and it is not surprising that both in the consumer market and in the enterprise sector new phone sales are down whilst SIM only deals are at a record high. It seems likely that this will continue until and unless a significant development(s) takes place in the device market (and its unlikely to be biometric screen unlocking)! In the age of ever increasing use of our devices for data access the one common complaint that technology has failed to keep up with, is battery life. A simple talk only device would last several days between charges but for most smartphone users it seems apparent that the device needs to be charged several times a day or users carry battery packs. New phones have tended to increase battery life by simply including bigger batteries but then weight and size becomes an issue. Perhaps we will see a breakthrough in battery technology in the next few years that will return us to the happy times of getting several days use out of our device rather than desperately seeking a power point wherever we go.

As mentioned above we have seen some customers coming to the end of the viability of sweating a BlackBerry estate or who perhaps choose devices or platforms that are no longer fit for purpose so of course for those organisations a fleet change will still be on the cards. For some organisations having the latest phone is both a perk of the job and a public statement, whether to prove that the firm is at the leading edge of technology or as a part of their brand image.  

Roam Like at Home

One of the darlings of 2017 has been the EU regulation leading to the abolition of roaming costs within most of Europe. Often extended to countries outside of EU jurisdiction like Switzerland and Turkey this regulation has saved both consumers and enterprise customers material sums of money. TNC has noted that whilst the majority of our customers have benefited immediately, for a few their provider has chosen not to change their tariff and indeed we have advised some customers on both their contractual position and the optimum approach to resolution. A bit like the European working time directive for employees there is still the opportunity for providers to present an opt out of this regulation should an enterprise be in agreement. TNC is always aware of this potential and expects to see this still be proffered in 2018. The assertion from the provider should be that any opt out is in return for a bespoke deal that overall offers an enhanced commercial position however the opt out is not always obvious and/or the commercials may not be better. TNC’s careful commercial analysis will either support or refute any such claim and our contract negotiation service will seek clarification if such an opt out is not transparent. Reports of the impact of Roam like at Home to operators’ revenues have been mixed but whether they are better than feared, they nevertheless have reduced mobile operators’ profits. TNC has already seen some upward pressure on ROW roaming pricing especially if left unchallenged and as operators review the impact of this regulation over a longer period we certainly expect to see operators looking to maximise revenues from other sources whether these be line rentals or ROW roaming. In an ever changing market it is essential to understand the latest offerings to ensure you are getting the most optimal deal.

EMM
Enterprise Mobility Management

Enterprise Mobility Management (sometimes referred to as MDM – Mobility Device Management)

Many organisations use some form of EMM/MDM to secure their mobile fleet but with GDPR due to come into full effect in May 2018 it is likely that more organisations will look to EMM to help show any concerned regulator or customer that they have attempted to mitigate against data loss through EMM features that include:

  • Control of Trusted Access
  • Boundary between personal and business use
  • Encryption
  • Remote Wipe ability
  • Audit Logs
  • Enforce Password Profiles
  • Control the distribution of business applications

Even if GDPR is not enough of a compelling reason many organisations are increasingly concerned by the security landscape with more and more hacks and hacking attempts many of which come not just with financial and productivity implications but can also be a PR nightmare.

Increased use of
Embedded SIMs

Embedded SIMs (eSIMs) – they have crept out slowly (as seen in the Gear 2 watch) but really eSIM technology appears at this stage to be a victim of its own success. An eSIM is part of the chipset in a mobile device and replaces the need for a separate plastic SIM card and the internal SIM card reader. So what are the benefits?

  • An embedded SIM is much smaller than a SIM Card, SIM Card Holder and SIM Card Reader – space is at a premium in mobile devices whether they need to be small as in a watch or could be better used such as the space saved being used for a bigger battery in a phone
  • More resilient to heat and vibration – such as in or near a car engine
  • Less fiddly – SIM swaps become remote and/or controlled through the phone’s menu
  • Ease of Arbitrage – the ability to swap between networks becomes simpler, which may lead to:

  1. Easier and cheaper use abroad – just download a local provider to your phone
  2. Dual SIM – swap between networks should coverage be an issue
  3. Improved commercial models with the potential for a provider to swap your phone remotely from one network to another and it is this that may be the curse delaying eSIMs’ adoption. It’s not unreasonable to believe that the network providers fear that eSIMs are like Turkeys voting for Christmas

Other Predictions

O2 IPO - Will O2 finally be put through an IPO? Telefónica the Spanish telecoms behemoth has significant debt and has been offloading assets to reduce its debt. It previously dispensed with O2 in Ireland and reduced its stake in Germany. But in the UK regulatory concerns prevented the sale and merger of O2 with Three in 2016. It is therefore expected that at some point Telefónica will try to sell at least part of its ownership of O2 through an IPO.

4.5G and 5G progress – Whilst in the UK commercial deployment of 5G networks is not expected until at least 2020, it is expected that field based trial networks may be installed in 2018. Already there are reports of test labs exceeding 2.8Gbs with very low latencies (often a concern for fibre based WAN replacement). In the meantime, launches of 4.5G (also known as 4G+ or LTE-Advanced Pro) have already seen limited locations getting up to 90Mbs on a mobile device and TNC expects this coverage to increase.

Dongles – most users now tether using their mobile device saving both on line rental charges and the hassle of carrying extra hardware. TNC is aware that some companies still have a fleet of dongles but our analysis typically shows little or no use for the majority of these devices. There are, like the continued use of faxes by a small minority, some circumstances where their use is still relevant but TNC expects a continued decline. 

Disclaimer

Other than matters relating to The Network Collective, this research is based on current public information that we consider reliable. Opinions expressed may change without notice and may differ from views set out in other documents created by The Network Collective. The above information is provided for informational purposes only and without any obligation, whether contractual or otherwise. No warranty or representation is made as to the correctness, completeness and accuracy of the information given or the assessments made.

This research does not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual clients. Clients should consider whether any advice or recommendation in this research is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if appropriate, seek professional advice.

No part of this material may be (i) copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or (ii) redistributed without the prior written consent of The Network Collective Limited © 2018

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