'Tis the season for predictions for the year ahead, so the team has picked through the multitude of forecasts that have come into European Communications and chosen some of the most pertinent.

Customer experience

Net promoter scores and personalisation are not new topics, but two executives think they will grow in significance this year.

Jennifer Kyriakakis, Founder and VP of Marketing at MATRIXX, says: “Net Promoter Scores will start to appear in CSP quarterly financial reports, as the metric becomes the leading litmus test of customer experience and therefore loyalty and long-term shareholder value.”

As operators’ 2016 annual reports are released over the coming weeks, we will be able to check on this prediction sooner than any other.

When it comes to personalisation, Alan Coleman, Chief Executive of Brite:Bill, says: “2017 will see a growing maturity in the personalisation activities of businesses as they draw on past experiences, not all of which were positive, and new technologies to segment their marketing and customer communications down to a market of one.

“The personalisation game has moved on, customers no longer accept being a number. They want to be addressed in the manner they have chosen and to have offers made to them that are attractive to them alone.”
 
Digital content

As the line between telecoms and media becomes ever more blurred – SFR’s acquisition of TV, radio and publishing businesses last year was perhaps the best European example – digital content will play an ever more important role in 2017.

“Subscribers will start selecting operators based on the content that they provide (for example, choosing sports, TV or film packages),” says Chris Haddock, Head of Marketing at OpenCloud.

“This will help to attract and retain customers, and provide an additional revenue source for multi-play operators.”

He adds: “Operators will not create their own content, but through strategic partnerships and acquisitions they can acquire a range of exclusive content, offering it to subscribers as a way to differentiate their propositions.”

Cam Cullen, VP Global Marketing at Procera Networks, warns that operators need to be selective.

“Operators also need to understand what applications would deliver the greatest perceived value to their subscribers and how their network would cope with increased volume for zero-rated applications and content.”

Fibre broadband

Upgrading fixed broadband networks will continue apace this year; that is a certainty. But questions remain over the choice of technology.

Ronan Kelly, Chief Technology Officer, EMEA & APAC, at ADTRAN thinks 2017 will be the year that G.Fast “comes of age”.

He says: “I’m confident we’ll start to see real large-scale commercial performance begin to ramp up.

“In turn I think this will have a significant impact on the rest of the industry, who will have to react to these broadband offerings, in excess of 100MBps, becoming increasingly available in various countries across Europe.”

BT and Swisscom are two notable proponents of the technology, but there is a vociferous group of other providers who spent a large part of 2016 lambasting those who have chosen to go down the G.Fast route.

“We’re going to continue to see more and more Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) rollouts across Europe,” predicts Kelly.

Due to a “a copper access stalemate” and a lack of other options, Italy will step up to become one of the next big fibre markets, the exec says, while Germany will “eventually" have to consider an FTTH strategy.

IoT

Analysys Mason is the latest industry watcher to step into the debate over what revenues operators can reasonably expect from the IoT.

At the European Communications/Mobile Europe IoT event in November, the figure of five percent of total revenues was thought to be the best they could hope for.

Analysys Mason would appear to agree.

“Currently, revenue from IoT accounts for less than one percent of most operators’ total revenue,” it says.

“It will take until 2025 for IoT to exceed five percent of operators’ total revenue.

“Senior management may view this as too long a timescale and some operators may explore acquisitions or investments as a result.”

Security of IoT devices is another hot topic.

Cam Cullen, VP Global Marketing at Procera Networks, warns: “It’s going to become essential for operators to mitigate with fine-grained filtering and rate limiting of attack traffic in order to differentiate their service offerings and keep subscribers happy.”

Service providers need to implement “a modern security strategy which involves stress testing networks using the emulation of malware threats to identify weaknesses which would be targeted by cyber hackers”, adds Cobham Wireless’ VP and GM, Ian Langley.
 
Vendors

Infrastructure vendors had a tough 2016. Ericsson in particular had a year to forget, with profit warnings, job cuts and the departure of CEO Hans Vestberg among the headlines.

John Strand, CEO of Strand Consult, does not see it getting any better over the next 12 months.

“Ericsson's crisis is greater, deeper, and more extensive than that experienced by Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent, he says.

“It’s possible that 2017 will bring the worst news in Ericsson's 140-year history.”

Bengt Nordström, CEO of Northstream, strikes a more upbeat tone: “Operators are keen to maintain the balance of power between the top three global vendors.

“This will lead to a stabilisation in market share and ease the price pressure for infrastructure vendors.”

Happy New Year!

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