Publications

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Global Handset Sales

We have analysed the latest numbers from the EMC world database.  The countries covered represented 68% of year-end 2000 global subs, so are incomplete but give a fair indication of progress so far this year.  In addition to updating countries to end Q2, EMC has also made retrospective adjustments to US and China numbers (both of which make the numbers more consistent with bottom-up sources we have looked at).  The countries given partially or mostly cover Western Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, and the analysis below extrapolates the missing countries and regions.

Q1: 97m

Q2: 91m

 

Telecoms, Mobile 2 July 2001
DWDM in Europe

This report is based on more than 40 interviews with existing online advertisers, agencies and online properties. It highlights the main barriers to growth and sets a challenging agenda for industry participants.

Telecoms 1 July 2001
BT Rights Issue Pointers

This is the first of a series of notes on the outlook for the core fixed-line businesses of BT and the other European incumbent telcos. In order to prepare investors for the coming rights issue we briefly consider the issues that face BT's core operations. The follow-on note will provide a more in-depth analysis.

Our main points are as follows:

  • BT
Telecoms 21 June 2001
3G Infrastructure

Estimates of the cost of building 3G networks in large European countries have tended to cluster around $5 billion per operator. This, in addition to the embarrassing large licence fees paid to governments, is acting as a drag on stock market performance.

This figure is exactly what we would have predicted based on our modelling of 3G costs contained in our June report. Sweden is nearly twice the size of the UK, and the regulator's coverage requirements are probably the strictest in Europe - in theory the whole of population has to be covered. But costs are reduced because Europolitan will share its network with the Hutchison 3G venture in all areas of the country outside the four biggest cities.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 18 June 2001
Mobile Handsets - Sendo

Despite the bad news it offered the markets last week, Nokia still wields massive power in the handset market. Its market share goal of 40% is well within reach. This makes mobile phones a very unusual business; with the exception of handheld electronic games, we can think of no other major hardware market that is dominated by one manufacturer to the same extent. Moreover, even though mobile phone manufacture is a huge global business, only a handful of firms can actually design and build a new handset. Sendo is a new UK company trying to break into this brutal business. Its business strategy is compellingly different; it focuses entirely on own-brand manufacturing for operators. It already has impressive technical achievements. Will it succeed? Who knows. But we think its business strategy is worth exploring.

UK regional newspapers are better positioned than most media to withstand a downturn given the existence of multiple streams of revenue (advertising, circulation) and the unique nature of local franchises.

 

However, the underlying trends are poor and likely to get worse, particularly in recruitment advertising, with greater consolidation inevitable over the medium term.

Telecoms, Mobile 14 June 2001
The US/Europe Wireless Spectrum Paradox

This note examines the US 'spectrum shortage' campaign. We think that US 3G services will be forced to use existing spectrum, rather than move to greenfield frequencies. This is highly relevant to Europe because the lack of dedicated 3G spectrum in the US strongly favours CDMA2000 over Europe's preferred WCDMA. We see signs that several US operators will have CDMA2000 based 3G systems in place, with fully-functioning handsets, long before Europe. The onward march of GSM and its successors into the US may not be the foregone conclusion that some expect. Deutsche Telecom's bridgehead, VoiceStream, is not, for example, as well positioned as Sprint PCS. Furthermore, Vodafone's attempt to get Verizon Wireless to use WCDMA looks ill-conceived to us.

In our forthcoming report ‘BT Restructured Into Pieces’ we detail our views on BT's prospects as a separated entity, and consider the mooted spinning out of BT Wholesale in light of Oftel's current regulatory tone. In the report we argue that Oftel is likely to be favour the separation of Wholesale from Retail since Oftel has been disappointed with the rate at which effective competition has developed in the telecoms market, particularly in the residential market.  In no small part, one of the barriers to the development of effective competition has been the vertical integration of BT. There is no incentive for BT Wholesale to hasten the process of cutting access costs to the network, or to unbundle the local loop. Each of these activities would harm BT's retailing activities, and BT Retail generates extremely high returns on capital (184%pa).

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 5 June 2001
3G Capacity - Europe, Japan

In our recent report on 3G infrastructure, we analysed published actual contract values that demonstrated that claims that large European 3G networks would cost 5bn Euros or more each were very unlikely to be correct, at least in the next three years. We hypothesised that European operators would install a basic network which covered most of the national population, but that low needs for data transmission would mean that this network would suffice for the conceivable future. We showed that limited networks, costing no more than a few hundred million Euros, would be able to carry the fixed line voice traffic of most of the population.

In other words, in an effort to stop subscriber numbers falling, the networks have created an incentive for a user to send just one 10p SMS or make one 5p call during each six-month period. If this is the price of retaining a number, it can reasonably be expected that most inactive subscribers will fall into line; one never knows when that second phone given to you by Aunty Mabel last Christmas might come in useful. The single action of sending one SMS would enable the operator to move a subscriber back onto the 'active' list.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 1 June 2001
NTL Q1 2001 Results

NTL's quarterly results demonstrate an abrupt change of strategy. Customer acquisition has all but ceased. Increasing telecom prices is the new battle plan. This is sensible, but we question whether the potential revenue gains can do much for debt or equity holders. If UK customer numbers have peaked, even optimism about ARPU will not produce free cash flow. Our scepticism remains. NTL continues to raise money in huge volumes. But note that this quarter's capex (even after the end of the so-called network build-out) is still almost four times EBITDA because investment in providing new services has to continue (e.g. digital set-top boxes).

European handset sales have collapsed due to maturity of markets, lengthening replacement cycles and significant changes in operator marketing strategies.

Approximately 10-15% of European wireless users have multiple active SIMs; thus subscriber growth has actually been slower than reported and replacement cycles have been faster than perceived; this situation has now reversed in our opinion. The use of multiple active SIMs will diminish over time in our opinion, providing a further brake on sales.

Telecoms 19 May 2001
3G Infrastructure Sharing

The UK telecoms regulator, Oftel, has just (1st May) produced a briefing note that seems to encourage the idea of infrastructure sharing of third generation mobile networks. It defines 'infrastructure sharing' as including both physical sharing of sites, and also the sharing of capacity. The example Oftel gives is interesting. It says that two operators could divide up the country, one, say, building a network in Manchester, the other in Leeds. They could then allow free 'roaming' between the cities.

Our primary purpose is to provide revenue forecasts for the next three years. Our central forecast sees Retail revenues falling at percentage rates in the low single digits. Wholesale revenues are driven by different forces and will rise rapidly next year, and at a slower rate thereafter. The rise in Wholesale revenues will not be enough to stop a fall in overall income.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 18 May 2001
Mobile Market Trends and Forecasts for 2001/2

Our view is that mobile operator marketing strategy was the key determinant of the rate of apparent growth in mobile penetration across Europe in 2000. We use this report to show that operator 'push' was responsible for the increase in apparent subscribers. We examine the evidence on actual rates of ownership and usage in the three of the largest markets and show that underlying mobile penetration is probably around 60% of adults in these markets. Will the reduction in estimated levels of penetration, which the operators also acknowledge, mean continuing high growth rates in future? We think it unlikely. First of all, of course, operator 'push' is reducing. Second, ownership in key demographics, such as 15-24 year olds is already close to saturation. Third, those that do not own a mobile, particularly in the older age groups, appear relatively uninterested in the product.

Our pessimism derives from our view, firstly, that subscriber growth in NTL's UK cable franchises has all but ceased and, secondly, that further price rises will inevitably cause loss of subscribers as NTL's telephony and television offerings have already become uncompetitive. Broadband is important but will not generate significant amounts of extra revenue.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 18 May 2001
BSkyB Q3 2000 Results

In this report Chris Goodall carries out a brief analysis of Sky's results published today and compares them to our projections.

Our emphasis in this note is on ITV Digital. What are the options open to the two shareholders of ITV Digital, Carlton and Granada? How can they reduce the burden of supporting ITV Digital through the next few years? What is the likelihood (or otherwise) of substantial improvement in that company’s results, in particular break even in 2003?

  • Sky
Media, Telecoms 16 May 2001
Global Handset Market 2001

At the current CSFB tech conference in Barcelona Ericsson stated that the expected handset market for 2001 will now be at lower end of its previously stated range of 430-480m; both it & Nokia said the reason was cuts to handset subsidies in Europe. Whilst we are relieved that our early emphasis on the impact of changes in operator strategies on the handset market in Europe has been proved right, we are in the process of revising upwards our own forecast of 300-350 million units based on growth in China (this forecast and spreadsheet will shortly be available).

For the future, we expect data traffic to slow given strong signs of a plateau in demand among businesses and changing residential payment models. However, we forecast a gradual evolution towards profitable ISP business models based on unsubsidised pricing for all forms of access. Indeed, we expect overall pure Internet access revenues to continue to grow until the latter part of the decade. This is plainly contrary to all those who predicted access would be free for all and a loss-leader for other forms of revenue, such as online advertising, e-commerce commissions and eCRM (direct marketing).

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 11 May 2001
May 2001 Survey Results from Oftel

Mobile Phone Users

Media 11 May 2001
Digital TV Update

We have published extensively on digital TV in the past 18 months, consistently casting doubt on the potential of TV-centric interactive platforms to (a) generate enough income for operators to repay hardware subsidies and (b) compete with the PC for home shopping activity (t-commerce).

We see a clear distinction between the relative success of Sky and the continued slow growth of ITVdigital and the real difficulties being experienced by cable operators. Sky is gaining business while the other operators are struggling to retain their share. This is the first of two notes. In the first (attached), Chris Goodall examines the financial prospects of Sky in advance of its results next week. Chris looks at what would be good or bad numbers for Sky's results in all the main categories, and suggests reasons for short-term optimism. In our next note, which will be sent out on Monday, I analyse ITVdigital and question whether anything can be done to improve its prospects. The launch of ITVsport does not help, with its huge programming budget and limited opportunities.

Media 8 May 2001
Pay-TV - When Will the Corner be Turned?

Chris Goodall has dissected the economics of the major pay-TV operators. He finds that if current trends continue, BSkyB, NTL and Telewest will not generate the cash to pay back their debt in the foreseeable future. In the case of the cable companies this leaves the debt holders exposed. Equity holders should be concerned about further dilution from future debt to equity conversion.

Media 5 May 2001
ITV Licence Renewals

This note considers the so-called 'digital dividend' in light of the recent ITV licence renewals.

The UK online population reached 17 million in February 2001, up around one-quarter on the year, on the strength of rising participation of women (to 44% of users) and of young people. We expect 4 million users to be added to the online population by February 2002, to reach 21 million, with growth at a lower rate than in 2000.

  • ITV
Media 15 April 2001
European B2C E-Commerce Update

This report updates our July 2000 report on European B2C e-commerce, with a special focus on the UK market.

We estimate that global net adds were 48m in Q2, down from 58m in Q1 2001. The total net adds so far this year of 106m is 53% of our full year forecast of 201m for these territories, which supports our forecast of 375 million units shipped given that net adds will likely continue to decline in Q3 followed by the seasonally strong Q4.

Media 9 April 2001
UK ISPs

The UK online market is among the most mature in Europe: while strong growth continued during 2000 (60% increase in home users), this was less dramatic than in Germany and France.

Fixed Line 5 April 2001
Microsoft .NET - The Oil Tanker Turns

Microsoft has never made much impact on the Internet. As a result, we still have a proliferation of standards and competing suppliers of the underlying technology, of which the most obvious is Java. Almost all the new generation of Internet access devices, such as phones, PDAs and TVs, all use underlying software that does not work well with Microsoft technology. Genuine interoperability is not yet available.

The key points we make are as follows:

Media 15 March 2001
Microsoft: Will the Giant Engulf the Mobile Phone Industry?

The purpose of this report is to look in more detail at the actual capital expenditures that 3G operators can be expected to make. We show that costs will be very much lower than expected. This is because most operators will be able to offer a good service to large numbers of customers by installing relatively few base stations. This is excellent news for operators, but infrastructure vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia will see much lower volumes of equipment orders than most analysts are projecting. The evidence for our conclusions is derived both from an analysis of actual 3G infrastructure orders and from an analysis of theoretical capacity.

Media, Telecoms 15 March 2001

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