Widgets will drive the mobile web, but LTE launches could slip

26 Nov 2009

The year 2010 will be a year of slow recovery across the world but the march of technology will continue unabated, says Informa Telecoms & Media.

In 2010, Informa Telecoms & Media predicts the big winner will be the mobile web, which will be driven by widgets, as well as Google’s Android, which will be a worthy competitor to iPhone.

“We selected the most compelling and critical predictions from across all our research areas and these emerging trends indicate that priorities, markets, competitive landscapes and technologies are all rapidly changing,” said Mark Newman, Informa Telecoms & Media’s chief research officer.

“We are beginning to see signs of economic recovery and predict that telecoms and media players can look forward to sustained, slow revenue growth in 2010.

“However, the dominance of the internet and the transition from hardware to software and services means that the landscape is becoming increasingly competitive and companies will need to shift their strategies and implement cost-cutting measures to survive these new market dynamics,” he added.

Informa’s Top 10 predictions for 2010 are:

1.         “Widgets” will become the key to harnessing power of the mobile web.

All device vendors now see potential opportunities in offering widgets, since these applications enable them to enhance the value of their devices and complement revenues from handset sales. It is becoming clear that, in developed markets, handset vendors can no longer rely on mobile phone sales to sustain growth. They will have to look at other opportunities, such as playing a role in enabling content creation and offering services through application stores, the internet, and “widgetisation”.

2.         Fixed-broadband operators will experiment with new business models in a bid to end the “arms race” of increasing speeds and declining prices.

The recent history of broadband in mature markets has been characterised by a sort of broadband “arms race” of increasing speeds and declining prices. Operators must now face up to the need to grow revenues in saturated markets. The major effect of declining prices and increasing bandwidth has been the emergence of mass markets for the consumption of online video and music, which other players are now better placed to profit from.

3.         North American pay TV revenues will peak in 2010.

Global pay-TV subscription revenues will start to decline from 2012 as operators convert subscribers to triple-play bundles. North American revenues will peak in 2010 and Western Europe’s will do likewise in 2011.

4.         Mobile operators will make small steps towards a de facto functional separation in order to position themselves to address the demand for third-party connected devices and applications.

Unless operators give full autonomy to wholesale units, we believe they will be too slow to succeed in shifting internal mindsets. We believe retail businesses need to be seen as just another customer of the network operations, albeit a so-called “friend with privileges”. Only in that way do we think operators will be able to fully address the undeniable and sizeable opportunities that exist on a wholesale level. 

5.         Mobile LTE commercial launches will slip to 2013/2014 but LTE’s role as a provider of rural broadband connectivity will gain momentum.

2010 will be a year of further LTE trials and progress towards commercial services is likely to be slow. Informa expect only a handful of cautious early forays from the likes of Verizon and NTT DoCoMo towards the end of the year. Mobile LTE commercial launches in GSM-only markets will slip back to 2013-2014 as HSPA+ comes into the market. 

6.         IPTV operators will embrace “over-the-top” TV and open internet apps.

Following years of promise but little activity, there are now an increasing number of ways that content providers will be able to reach the TV. These include open specifications such as Canvas and HBBTV, via connected devices such as the Xbox 360 and via initiatives within the consumer electronics industry, such as Yahoo’s Connected TV initiative. Many of these initiatives should be commercially launched by 2011, if not 2010.

7.         Operator app stores will struggle to compete with handset-manufacturer initiatives; Android will emerge as a worthy competitor to the iPhone.

Operators will be the ones that most struggle to make a success of their application stores, unable in most cases to compete with Apple and other vendors in global reach, brand coolness and agility. Their biggest chance of retaining a significant role in the mobile applications value chain will be as billing enablers, since most handset/OS vendors realise they need carrier billing to get downloads going on their app stores. Beyond Apple, Google will be the vendor to make the greatest headway with its Android Market, possibly matching or even exceeding the App Store’s success.

8.         Network sharing and outsourcing will gain in popularity as the drive towards cost-control intensifies but the network itself will remain a key point of differentiation for operators.

Expect further infrastructure sharing announcements during 2010 as operators attempt to extend coverage and reduce costs. Both network sharing and outsourcing will continue to gain momentum as mobile operators seek to reduce their capex and opex burden. Each of these individually is already an established trend but we can also expect to see more variations on a theme where the two approaches are combined.

9.         Enhanced address books will become a focus for mobile operators and handset manufacturers.

Mobile operators and handset vendors are poised to follow Vodafone, T-Mobile and Motorola in enabling enhanced-address-book services for mobile subscribers. These will be made available by the mobile operators as an application that is pre-loaded onto the device or downloaded over the air, and by the handset vendors as a native feature (typically as part of the Rich Communications Suite project). Mobile operators will launch enhanced address books as a focal point around which to aggregate a range of community, messaging and content services and seize back the initiative from online brands.

10.        HDTV will reach tipping point but platforms still need to increase channels to win over subscribers.

HDTV is finally taking off, but platforms need to ensure they have a critical mass of channels to guarantee success. For example, BSkyB offers 35 HD channels, and the service has enjoyed successful take-up. Other countries are increasing their HD channel choice, but still need to win over subscribers. Providing only a handful of HD channels is not enough to make for a successful package.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Google will be the vendor to make the greatest headway with its Android Market, possibly matching or even exceeding the App Store’s success, Informa Telecoms & Media has predicted.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years