UK telecoms complaints at an all time low

The latest complaints data shared by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom reveals the level of moaning are at their lowest since it started collating them.

Ofcom has been logging consumer complaints about landline, broadband, mobile and pay TV services since 2010. The fact that they are at their lowest level ever would appear to indicate UK CSPs are doing a great job. Of course people could have just given up, or have become steadily more apathetic, or have found more effective ways to punish errant telcos than moaning to Ofcom, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

“Although we’re encouraged that complaints are at their lowest levels since we started shining a light on this, some telecoms and TV companies are still falling short,” said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy. “We expect those providers to up their game and deliver better service to all their customers.”

In the tables below you can see first the historical totals for the four categories of complaints and then the most recent ones for broadband, mobile and pay TV. We haven’t bothered with the landline ones because we figure nobody cares anymore. Now that Vodafone has got its act together there are no outstanding poor performers in mobile and similarly BT seems to have sorted out its pay TV operations.

Ofcom Q2 18 complaints historical

Broadband

Ofcom Q2 18 complaints broadband

Mobile

Ofcom Q2 18 complaints mobile

Pay TV

Ofcom Q2 18 complaints pay TV

BBWF 2018: Consumers don’t care about tech, just connectivity – BT

Today’s consumer is demanding but disinterested. They don’t care about mobile or broadband or wifi, just top-line connectivity. To meet these demands, BT has pointed to network convergence.

Speaking at Broadband World Forum, Howard Watson, BT’s CTIO, outlined the bigger picture. It’s all about convergence where the dividing lines between wireless and fixed or hardware and software are blurred, with connectivity is viewed as a single concept, bringing together network design, technology convergence and customer insight to create a single software-orientated network for device neutral connectivity.

“For the consumer, it’s not about their wifi, or their mobile connection, or their fixed broadband, or even their landline,” said Watson. “It’s about connectivity as a whole. And I’m pleased to say we’re already making strong progress here.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a telco conference without mentioning 5G, and this is a critical component of the BT story. Trials have already begun in East London, though over the next couple of days 10 additional nodes will be added to expand the test. Plans are already underway to launch a converged hardware portfolio, introduce IP voice for customers and create a seamless wifi experience. All of this will be built on a single core network.

But what does this mean for the consumer? Simplicity in the simplest of terms.

The overall objective is to create a seamless connectivity experience which underpins the consumer disinterest in anything but being connected. Soon enough, devices will be able to automatically detect and select the best connectivity option, whether it is wifi or cellular for example, essentially meaning consumers will not have to check anything on their devices. Gone will be the days where you have to worry about your device clinging onto weak wifi signal or being disrupted by a network reaching out to your device, according to Watson. Signing in will become a distant memory as the consumer seamlessly shift from wifi to mobile.

This is of course a grand idea, and there is still a considerable amount of work to be done. Public wifi is pretty woeful as a general rule, and mobile connectivity is patchy in some of the busiest and remotest regions in the UK, but in fairness to BT, it does look like a sensible and well thought out plan.

With telcos becoming increasingly utilitised, these organizations need to start adding value to the lives of the consumer. Connectivity is not enough anymore, as it has become a basic expectation not a luxury in today’s digitally-defined society; providing the seamless experience might just be one way BT can prove its value. Fortunately, with its broadband footprint, EE’s mobile network and 5000 public wifi spots throughout the UK, BT is in a strong position to make the converged network dream a reality.

Jio leapfrogs Idea and Vodafone for second place in India

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has unveiled the monthly growth statistics for July and India is still the market which keeps giving.

Looking at the wireless segments to start with, Jio is once again dominating. Overall, the market grew by 10.5 million subscriptions taking the total to 1.15 billion. This number is already pretty staggering, though when you consider the total population of the country is over 1.3 billion there is still room for growth. In most developed markets the mobile penetration (the total number SIM cards) exceeds 100% of the population, while there are numerous cases of this percentage going north of 110%. Looking at these statistics in the simplest of terms, there is still potential for another couple of hundred million subscriptions in the country.

Of course, Jio is capitalizing most from the insatiable appetite of the Indian digital society. When looking at the total number of subscriptions secured by the telcos, Reliance Jio captured roughly 91% of the new customers, boosting its subscription base by 11.7 million. Amazingly, the 609,000 subs captured by Vodafone or the 313,000 attributed to Bharti Airtel are nothing more than footnotes; how many markets are there were you could say that!

The end result is continued momentum for Jio. As you can see below, Jio has leapfrogged both Vodafone and Idea in the market share rankings. That said, with the much-anticipated merger on the horizon it won’t be long before the combined entity hits top spot.

Telco Net Adds Market Share
Reliance Jio 11,796,630 19.62%
Vodafone 609,974 19.3%
Bharti Airtel 313,283 29.81%
BSNL 225,962 9.8%
Idea 5,489 19.07%
MTNL -9,914 0.3%
Reliance Communications -31,814 0.004%
Tata -2,357,690 2.1%

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of these statistics is in the broadband market however. The staggering growth of the mobile segment will continue for at least the short- to mid-term future, though with a total of 22.2 million broadband subscribers there is an incredible opportunity for the right offering.

Just to put these numbers in perspective, the broadband would have to grow 50-fold to even come close to the same scale as mobile. Admittedly, it significantly more expensive to invest in infrastructure for a future-proofed broadband network in comparison to mobile, but this is an area which seems primed for the right disruption.

Of course, with disruption comes uncomfortable truths. Jio might be on an upward trend, collecting subscriptions and hiring generously, though the consequence of this disruption has been market consolidation. In the most general terms possible, consolidation is never a positive for the job market, while the Financial Express is reporting job losses of 50,000-75,000 in the Indian telco market across 2018.

Orange continues to bang convergence drum

Virgin Media might be struggling to live the convergence dream in the UK, though Orange doesn’t seem to be having any problems as it reports another positive set of results.

Total revenues for the first half came in at €20.2 billion, a year-on-year increase of 0.9%, while operating income grew much more favourable, an increase of 2.8% to €2.35 billion. While this might be the highest profit margin in the industry, Orange has continued to demonstrate it is building for the future investing another €3.36 billion in CAPEX, 16.6% of total revenues delivered over the six month period.

“The 1st half results showed accelerated growth across all the Group’s financial metrics,” said CEO Stéphane Richard. “Revenues grew in all our regions while the strong acceleration in the Group’s adjusted EBITDA, which rose 3.3% during the half, reinforced our strategy of differentiation on the basis of service quality and demonstrated our constant focus on operational efficiency.

“Our investment strategy in fibre and 4G is reflected in the sharp increase in our very high-speed broadband customer base. Orange now has 50 million 4G customers with 13 million in Africa, twice as many as a year ago. In fixed very high-speed broadband, the customer base continued to show particularly strong growth enabling us to reach 5.5 million customers, almost exclusively in fibre.”

Looking at the convergence strategy, the team reported an increase of 9% in convergent offers year-on-year, a total of 10.7 million customers, while the number of SIMs attached to these offers increased to 18 million. Orange often boasts about being the leading convergent player in Europe, and with numbers like these it is hard to argue otherwise.

Spain has continued to be a strong market for the business through this period, and following the conclusion of the spectrum auctions, it is looking to be in a solid position for the 5G race. During the auction, Orange Spain acquired 12 blocks of frequencies, paying €132 million, representing 60 MHz in the priority spectrum band to offer 5G services. Orange is now the only operator in Spain in reach a total of 100 MHz in this spectrum band, which it claims is essential for the development of the new ultra-fast mobile broadband technology.

Would you chop off a finger for your smartphone? 10% of millennials would

Seeing a millennial glued to the small screen is hardly unusual, but new research from Tappable suggests some would go to some pretty extreme lengths to keep hold of the device. Would you chop off your finger for cat videos?

The lives of younger generations are becoming increasingly defined by the small, powerful device, perhaps because the connected world is a natural part of life since they were born, or because more aspects of society are becoming digitised. Irrelevant to the reason, the outcome is the same; the smartphone is dictating our lives.

“We talk a lot about how millennials are tech dependent,” said Director of Research at The Center for Generational Kinetics, Elli Denison. “Losing a finger or one of the senses is an extreme way to frame it, but the bottom line is younger generations are completely immersed in technology, particularly mobile devices, and feel extreme dependency. There is no sign of this slowing down as younger generations are immersed in technology from birth.”

According to the research, 23% of the respondents would be happy to sacrifice one of their senses, as you can see below some do not think very highly of their sense of smell. While this might be viewed as drastic, some would go even further…

38% of millennials would give up drinking, 16% would stop travelling and 15% would give up sex. 10% of the respondents would actually consider chopping of a finger to keep their device.

What would you give up to make sure you get your daily dose of Telecoms.com?

Mobile direct traffic to media surpasses Facebook referrals for the first time

Online media traffic analyst Chartbeat has published new data that claims direct traffic from mobile devices has overtaken Facebook clicks.

This is apparently the first time this has happened and potentially marks a significant inflection point in the way journalistic content acquires its all-important traffic. Chartbeat specifically wanted to track what effect the changes to the Facebook algorithm, which claimed to give higher priority to ‘personal content’ had on media traffic originating from the social media giant.

This is especially pertinent for mobile as, apparently, people are more likely to arrive at a story via social media if they’re using a mobile device than if they’re using a desktop PC, where Google searches dominate. Firstly the Facebook changes didn’t affect total traffic to Chartbeat sites and secondly it seemed to entrench the existing trend away from Facebook referrals from mobile.

Chartbeat 1

“Mobile direct traffic surpassing Facebook traffic to publisher sites is an important milestone,” says the Chartbeat blog post. “It means consumers may be more loyal to news sites than expected, and publishers may be in a better position vis-a-vis Facebook as well.

“Could it also mean that mobile device behavior, rather than Facebook addiction, is the real driver of the macro consumption changes we’ve been experiencing? In the shadow of Facebook, mobile traffic is normally eclipsed – but with this new data, it’s clear that mobile reader behavior and mobile alternatives to Facebook like publisher apps and news sites deserve more attention.”

This seems like good news for media, which is locked in an abusive relationship with Facebook and Google, relying as it does on traffic from the very companies that have taken away its advertising revenue. It’s hard to imaging all the Cambridge Analytica stuff helped Facebook’s cause in this context either and us hacks can only hope Google hasn’t picked up too much of the slack.

Mobile ad spend finally surpasses TV

New research from the Advertising Association and WARC has revealed UK ad spend on mobile was higher than TV spend for the first time.

While this is a scenario which we have been expecting for some time, those stubborn TV guys have been holding onto the top spot for some time. According to the estimates, almost one in four pounds spent on advertising went to mobile.

“The latest data indicate that total mobile ad investment during the quarter was higher than that for TV for the first time – though the two channels serve different roles for advertisers,” said WARC’s Data Editor, James McDonald.

“While TV remains the largest display medium by some distance, mobile investment is being driven by advertisers looking to reach consumers via search results and social feeds.”

Looking specifically at the numbers, total ad market growth was recorded at £5.4 billion demonstrating a 3.5% year-on-year growth, the 17th consecutive quarter of market expansion. Spend on TV saw a slight decline, but 30.7% to £1.3 billion is an impressive gain for mobile.

In terms of where the money is actually being spent, social media is hording the lion’s share. Spend on these platforms rose 44.7% year-on-year, despite the criticism many of these platforms for exposing brands to videos and opinions which might negatively impact the brand.

These trends also demonstrate different buying behaviour. Traditional display advertising, which leans heavily on creating brand reputations, is still dominant on TV but brands are leaning more towards searching ranking optimization, for example, as advertising becomes much more scientific.

“UK advertising spend enjoyed a record high in the third quarter of 2017, with figures up again year-on-year. It is encouraging to see further predicted growth of 2.8% for 2018,” said Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association. “UK advertising is vital for the economy, generating £6 for every £1 spent.

“As we work through Brexit, we need to help Government make the best decisions to support our industry and, by extension, the wider UK economy as we target growth across the nations and regions and in an increasingly global marketplace.”

Why is data expensive? Because we’re terrible capitalists – Safaricom

Usually telcos are quite guarded with the truth. Announcements and statements are filled with PR nonsense about aiding the greater good, but Safaricom’s new Chief Innovation Officer has been surprisingly honest.

“I don’t want to sound like a terrible capitalist, but I am a terrible capitalist,” said Safaricom’s Chief Innovation Officer Kamal Bhattacharya.

Bhattacharya was talking about the price of data and connectivity in Africa. Data tariffs might not seem expensive to us in the Western markets, but remember we have considerably more disposable income. Compared to monthly wages, data is expensive in Africa, but Bhattacharya has been surprisingly honest.

“It comes down to a commercial decision; I charge what I can,” said Bhattacharya.

What might be worth noting is that Bhattacharya is new to the job. He’s been Chief Innovation Officer for six months, and this is his first post in the telco space, having worked for IBM previously. This honesty might come at a cost or it might be seen as a refreshing change.

Either, nothing will happen because people don’t pick up on it. Or there will be public backlash as Bhattacharya has effectively admitted to holding the Safaricom customers to ransom. Or the industry will respect the own-it attitude Bhattacharya is showing. Safaricom is a commercial business, and it is focused on making money.

Let’s be honest, every telco executive probably holds the same attitude as Bhattacharya, they’ve just been media trained to give off the impression of the third rising of Jesus. They all want to make money they are just afraid to admit it.

So that’s one angle. Data is expensive because telcos want to be profitable. But why else? Operational and network efficiencies is one explanation. Another could be the tendency for customers to have a preference for prepaid plans. Both of these reasons could be down to market maturity. Networks will get better, and as data consumption becomes normalized across the continent, more will move to the more cost effective postpaid contracts.

What we have here is your typical chicken/egg situation; do the telcos wait for demand to increase before decreasing prices, or do they stimulate demand by decreasing prices. It’s an interesting question.

The telco business has changed over the last couple of years. Revenues attributable to voice and SMS have been slashed by the emergence of OTTs, and making money off data is tricky. Demand is increasing meaning more will have to be spend on the network, but the price is only going to head one direction. It sounds like a lose-lose situation.

The price will probably stay as it is for the moment, until a disruptor enters the game and changes the rules; the race to the bottom we’ve seen in more mature markets. This has led to the majority of telcos heading towards the role of utility, but there are a few operators who have made it work. Take T-Mobile US for example.

Data in Africa is still expensive right now, and the operators are keeping it that way. So either they want to keep profits high, or they are afraid of failure. Greedy or cowardly? We’ll let you make up your own mind.

Microsoft finally gives up on the mobile OS game

It was certainly prolonged, sometimes awkward and completely foreseeable, but Microsoft has finally accepted it isn’t up to making its mobile operating system work.

With a series of tweets over the weekend, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Windows, Joe Belfiore has seemingly put the final full stop on the obituary for the Windows mobile OS. Windows has not been able to cultivate the same cult-like dedication of Apple, but there might be a few disappointed fans out there. We’ve never come across any of them, but there surely is at least one out there, and it certainly isn’t Belfiore himself.

As you can see from the tweets below, Microsoft was always onto a bit of a loser. Its failed attempt into mobile couldn’t attract the numbers, and its attempt to create an alternative to iOS and Android couldn’t either. Simply put, without the audience there wasn’t really a compelling business case to tempt developers to create apps for the OS.

Telecoms.com first called this back in 2014, prompting much outrage from the fanboys of the Windows community (we knew they were somewhere) in the comments section. As soon as the decision to make products platform-agnostic was made, the foot was planted on the slippery slope to irrelevance. Microsoft won’t be leaving the sulkers high and dry, but they certainly shouldn’t wait for any new bells or whistles.

All is not lost though, as while this has been an expensive mistake, attention can now be paid to the areas where Microsoft is a bit more competent.