Last week, we had the pleasure of attending Connected Britain 2023 at the London Excel. Here, hundreds of industry experts came together to share valuable insights into the current challenges, sentiments, and the path ahead for the UK telecom industry.
We observed several main themes raised during the two-day conference.
Market pressure on investors
A central, recurring theme amongst multiple talk tracks is the current economic instability. This has put subsequent pressure on investors to respond and consolidate.
Notably, there’s currently £82 billion invested in the UK fibre and wireless market. Investors are beginning to feel they’ve fulfilled their obligations. As a result, interest in supporting alt-nets is waning.
Call for regulatory intervention to reshape market
Alt-nets are increasingly calling for regulators to redirect attention on shaping the market for long-term consumers, considering the dominance of a few major providers as a structural issue rather than a pricing or productive imbalance.
Addressing these concerns around competition and access to market, it was noted, “You can’t have 60% of the market locked behind one [operator]… It’s not a level playing field and it should be up to consumers to make their own choices.”
Key principles included using AI and data science to enhance the customer experience and ensure the success of network projects.
The inevitability of consolidation
With this economic instability in mind, the word “consolidation” was on many lips, particularly around whether we’re currently witnessing “distressed acquisitions”. For example, most recently, we’ve seen Sky acquire TalkTalk and Vodafone acquire Three.
This suggests the next phase the market will experience is mergers and acquisitions for asset growth (as opposed to organic growth) and rationalisation of OpEx. before seeing market stabilisation when new, larger owners move to asset ownership and broaden their portfolios.
Clarity on homes passed and premise-ready for service
A significant point of discussion revolved around the clarity in defining “homes passed” and “premise-ready for service”.
While there are different definitions in use, speakers highlighted the importance of considering the financial and legal implications of these definitions. It was especially noted that the focus should shift towards the customer’s journey and the ease of connectivity.
The challenge of “urban deserts”
Changing socioeconomic considerations and urbanisation are throwing up new challenges in urban areas.
Factors such as multi-dweller units (particularly within traditional Victorian-built homes), permits, and the absence of existing infrastructure like ducts and poles were highlighted. The role of government in facilitating infrastructure readiness was emphasised.
Increasing innovation in network deployments and planning
The conference concluded with a focus on innovation in network deployments. Key principles included better data capture, automation, and real-time insights, particularly around using AI and data science to enhance the customer experience and ensure the success of network projects.
This article offers just a glimpse into the wealth of knowledge shared at the conference, highlighting the complexities and intricacies of the UK telecommunications market.
The road ahead will be shaped by strategic decisions, regulatory actions, and the industry’s ability to provide reliable and accessible fibre connectivity to consumers and businesses across the nation.
Key players will emerge based on not only the quality of their service and pricing strategies, but also their ability to leverage existing and new data in order to meet SLAs and best identify new opportunities for fibre, wireless, and hybrid network build.
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