Recently, I spoke at an industry meeting looking back at 2017 and looking forward to 2018. Let me share some of that with you today. The industry has been on a wild ride for so long it’s hard to take stock of where we are today. 2017 has been quite a year in world of wireless and telecom with more to come. Some of the top stories are good, others are not so good, but they will all impact us going forward.
Wireless and telecom will look very different a few years from today, just as they look different from a decade ago. So, let’s take a look at some of the top stories that occurred during the last 12 months and what we can expect to happen next.
AT&T (T) Mobility and Verizon (VZ) Wireless are winning in wireless. AT&T had their best ever third quarter with regards to postpaid wireless phone churn with a rate of just .84 percent. Verizon was second best with a churn rate of .97 percent. The top two wireless carriers remain the top two.
Comcast (CMCSA) Xfinity Mobile entered the wireless space earlier this year and so far, it looks successful. They resell Verizon Wireless services with an MVNO. Their strategy is not to compete head to head with top wireless carriers, but to create a sticky bundle to keep their market share stable. So far, so good. This is what I expect from Charter Spectrum as well later in 2018.
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Comcast Xfinity Mobile
The DoJ is trying to stop the AT&T, Time Warner (TWX) merger because of CNN. This makes little sense, especially since the industry has already started on a convergence path years ago. You remember Comcast NBC Universal? You remember Verizon Yahoo and AOL? And there are quite a few others as we look further backwards, and more to come looking forwards.
Verizon finally closed their Yahoo acquisition in what may be considered the bumpiest merger in recent memory. Before and after the merger, there were reports that Yahoo had loads of security problems that are now Verizon problems.
T-Mobile (TMUS) and Sprint (S) tried to merger a second time and failed again. The first time the writing was on the wall that regulators wouldn’t approve it. A few months ago they tried again, but couldn’t settle on agreeable terms. Would the US Government have approved the merger this time? We will never know.
Net Neutrality was just overturned. This has been a battle that has been waged over the last decade and I don’t see it being over. The winning side seems to sway back and forth. Expect the battle to continue. This time around ISP’s like Comcast, Charter (CHTR), AT&T and Verizon are the winners. Now they can focus on rolling out Internet service faster since they can be profitable doing so.
T-Mobile just announced they will launch a pay TV offering in 2018. They acquired Layer3 TV which is an IPTV player. Their uncarrier position seems to be doing well as the company grows in wireless. Let’s see if they can make lightning strike twice with pay TV next year.
UC Providers AT&T, Cisco, Mitel, Frontier Communications, Microsoft and more
There is quite a bit more news in 2017 and going forward as well. Like how other industries are using wireless and apps to expand and grow. Like how Unified Communications is rapidly growing providing a variety of voice and data services over the wire line and wireless networks for business customers over the cloud.
UC will continue to grow in 2018 and beyond, so keep your eyes on companies like AT&T, Cisco (CSCO), Mitel (MITL), Frontier Communications (FTR), Avaya, BT, Huawei, NEC, Unify, HP (HPQ), IBM (IBM), Logitech (LOGI), Microsoft (MSFT) and many others.
Wireless will continue to grow and expand with new competitors like Xfinity Mobile, Charter Spectrum, Google (GOOGL) Project Fi and others. In fact, I expect to see companies like Facebook, Amazon with their Fire Phone and others to enter the wireless space.
Google Project Fi, Charter Spectrum, Facebook, Amazon Fire Phone
The smartphone sector will continue with the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, Google Android and Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy leading the way. I expect other smartphone makers to continue to try and carve out a meaningful slice of the pie. I also expect newcomers to the US marketplace to enter from China and other countries.
So, 2017 was one helluva year, and I expect 2018 to be just as active. This column is just a snapshot of where we are today. Things change quickly. Will industry leadership change in wireless networks, handsets, technology? It does not look like it, but then again it didn’t look like it would change ten years ago either.
It was only ten years ago that the iPhone and Android were introduced and changed everything in every sector of the wireless industry. I always expect that pace change to continue. We never know when the next big shift will occur. Pull the camera back and realize we have seen enormous change over the last ten to twenty years, and that pace of change will continue.
So, happy new year and hang on tight because the wild ride will continue in 2018!
Jeff Kagan is an Equities.com columnist. Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst, Industry Analyst, speaker and consultant. He follows wireless, wire line, telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, Mobile Pay, FinTech and communications technology. Email him at [email protected]. His web site is www.jeffKAGAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffkagan.