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Telecoms in 2013: Barking Up the Right Tree
Source: totaltele.com
Source Date: Friday, December 13, 2013
Focus: E-Education
Created: Dec 17, 2013

Time once again to evaluate the accuracy of Total Telecom's annual industry forecasts; Nokia, AT&T and others did just what we predicted this year.

Predicting the future is a tricky business, but year-after-year we at Total Telecom make it look easy, by foretelling with a worrying degree of accuracy – in most cases anyway – what the upcoming 12 months has in store for the industry.

So when the end of another year beckons, we like to take some time to review exactly how precise the predictions we made this time last year were. Read on to find out.

THE GOOD...

Leap of faith

What we said would happen:
"More consolidation will take place in the U.S. The T-Mobile USA/MetroPCS and Softbank/Sprint deals will receive regulatory approval next year, leaving other players looking for acquisitions of their own. Leap Wireless will find itself the target for one of the big players."

What actually happened:
Sure enough, AT&T in July agreed to acquire Leap Wireless for roughly $1.2 billion in cash, in order to accelerate its move into the low-cost mobile market. Meanwhile, satellite TV provider Dish gave up on its attempt to snatch Sprint away from Softbank and instead turned its attention to beleaguered LTE wholesaler LightSquared in a bid to land some valuable mobile spectrum.

How accurate were we?
Pretty darn accurate, if you don't mind me saying so.

Double your Steve

What we said would happen:
"Microsoft will consider making a move for Nokia. Admittedly, while an acquisition is not out of the question, provided the price is right, there are a number of potential obstacles that could prevent it. One way or another though, hardware will be higher on the agenda for Microsoft."

What actually happened:
To the dismay of Finland, Nokia in September agreed to sell its once mighty handset business to Microsoft for just €5.44 billion, leaving it with a patent portfolio, its maps business, and its newly-named infrastructure division, Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN). After just less than three years as Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop stepped down to head back to his former employer, where he has since been linked with the CEO job after Steve Ballmer announced plans to retire.

How accurate were we?
The aforementioned obstacles, namely, Finnish national pride and the fact that Nokia has a sizeable networks division that Microsoft wasn't interested in, did not stop Microsoft getting its hands on what it wanted.

Spectrum on the cheap

What we said would happen:
"The U.K. LTE auction will raise less than the £3.5 billion the government is hoping for. Reports of a prospective new entrant, such as BT, will come to nothing and the process will be less fiercely contested than it could have been."

What actually happened:
Concluded in February, Ofcom's auction raised £2.37 billion, substantially less than the Treasury wanted. While BT did surprise us by forking out £201.5 million for 2.6-GHz spectrum, it said at the time it has no intention of becoming a fully-fledged mobile operator, and will instead use the frequencies to augment its fixed and wireless broadband offerings.

How accurate were we?
Unless new BT chief Gavin Patterson wakes up one morning with the ambition of taking on EE et al in mobile, our prediction was pretty much spot on.

Russian around

What we said would happen:
"There will be consolidation in Russia that results in the disappearance of Tele2."

What actually happened:
In March, state-run investment bank VTB acquired Tele2 Russia for $3.55 billion. In October, VTB said it planned to offload a 50% stake in the operator in a deal thought to be worth $2 billion.

How accurate were we?
Not far off. Tele2 may not have disappeared from Russia yet, but VTB's plan to sell 50% of the operator is expected to pave the way for a merger with fixed-line player Rostelecom, so it could still happen.

Nuthin' but a 3G-thang

What we said would happen:
"China Mobile will regain some lost ground in the China 3G race. The world's largest mobile operator signed up proportionately fewer 3G customers than rivals China Unicom and China Telecom in 2012, but the arrival of a TD-SCDMA iPhone in 1H 2013 will reverse that trend."

What actually happened:
By April, it became clear that China Mobile was no longer being impeded by having to use a proprietary TD-SCDMA 3G standard, and was reporting greater 3G net additions than Telecom and Unicom. Despite persistent rumours though, a TD-SCDMA iPhone has yet to emerge.

How accurate were we?
Apart from the whole iPhone bit, we were pretty accurate.

India spectrum spectacle

What we said would happen:
"India will be disappointed with its second attempt to auction off 1800-MHz spectrum. Despite the growth opportunities in the market, the newcomers who had their licences suspended at the start of 2012 had largely failed to establish themselves, leaving others wary of taking the plunge."

What actually happened:
Not a fat lot. Indian authorities, trapped between trying to attract willing participants and raising enough cash from the auction to help plug the government's yawning budget deficit, have spent 2013 trying to set a reserve price. According to local press reports, the process for selling off airwaves in the 900-MHz and 1800-MHz bands is expected to begin in January.

How accurate were we?
We were spot on, but let's face it: predicting that India's telco authorities will run behind schedule hardly represents a challenge.

THE NOT SO GOOD...

Adiós

What we said:
"We will hear more from ambitious Mexican operator America Movil as it makes its presence felt at both KPN and Telecom Austria, and considers other acquisitions outside its home region."

What actually happened:
America Movil did make its presence felt, helping to orchestrate a pan-European wholesale deal between KPN and Telekom Austria in August. It even tried to take full control of the former, but abandoned the plan in October after failing to win over a shareholder group opposed to the deal.

How accurate were we?
This one looked like it was going to be a dead cert but at the time of going to press it felt like America Movil was anything but interested in Europe.

No adiós

What we said:
"TeliaSonera will sell Spanish business Yoigo to one of Spain's other mobile network operators."

What actually happened:
By April, Sweden-based TeliaSonera had not received any satisfactory offers for its Spanish arm and opted instead to scrap the sale and pursue a controversial network-sharing pact with Telefonica.

How accurate were we?
TeliaSonera tried hard to offload Yoigo, but whichever way you slice it, Yoigo is still part of TeliaSonera.

Patently un-true

What we said:
"Google will seek to acquire more patents."

What actually happened:
The Internet giant bought some patents relating to its Google Glass project from Foxconn in August, but it was hardly as high-profile as deals that had gone before.

How accurate were we?
Not completely off the map, but fairly close to the edge.

AND FINALLY...

Y viva Espa?a

What we said:
"Attendees at Mobile World Congress in February will complain bitterly about the new Barcelona venue, but that won't stop the vast majority booking their accommodation for the 2014 show 11 months in advance."

What actually happened:
The Fira Gran Via was easy to navigate and large enough to accommodate some huge stands, plus the media village was a marked improvement upon the old Fira. However, rose-tinted spectacles seemed to be a must-have accessory among the assembled press, myself included, who pined for the old-world charm and easy-to-reach-by-metro location of the Fira de Montjuic. Some of the really old telco hacks still haven't shut-up about Cannes.

How accurate were we?
Not far off, but we were fools to think we could be organised enough to book our accommodation for next year's Mobile World Congress 11 months in advance.

That's it for this week, stay tuned though because next week our last Total Telecom+ of the year comes out, which will reveal our 2014 telecoms predictions. If this year's performance is anything to go by, you can be confident enough to bet the farm on them. Not a real farm of course. A toy one. That you never really liked anyway.
 
(By Nick Wood)

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